The Chocolate Life

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My nearly new Ultra Grind + (wet grinder) like the Santha , is just about worn out after 8 months of abuse. When I started this hobby "from the bean" I really didn't know about keeping the cocoa mass warm, pre-ginding sugar in a food processor, adding a little extra cocoa butter to make the conching process easier on the machine. My bad.

Worst of all, I let friends talk me into making milk chocolate and just dumped the dry milk in the chocolate all at once.

Now I need to buy a new machine and like the Ultra Grind + pretty well. Does anyone have any other suggestions on preference of machines like this? Is there anything just a little bigger or more powerful? Any machine with extra options that might make it last longer? without getting over $1000 in cost?

I'm using 110 volt. I do batch sizes of 5 to ten lbs of beans. I'd like to use more organic, and unrefined cane sugar but I know that may be harder on the machine than refined white table sugar.
I've got to buy an new machine pretty quick as I'm in the middle of a batch.



Tags: conching?, equipment, machines, table, top

Views: 8020

Replies to This Discussion


I also have been abusing the Ultra for about 8 months. Saturday (in the middle of a batch of milk) it started making an awful creaking noise and upon opening revealed all motor mounts broken or ready to go. A day later, using some JB-Weld and heat shrink tubing to rebuild the mounts, I put the unit back together and it's working better that it ever did before. I also took advantage of the machine being open to replace and re-tension the belt. Feels like a new machine now!

Another modification I performed on the grinder was to replace the bumpy, fragile plastic bushings in the rollers with Teflon bushings machined from a single chunk. Several advantages to this, primarily a much higher resistance to heat & breakage, and reduced rolling friction. Also replaced the small bushing at the base of the roller holder with Teflon.

So before you toss your Ultra, take some time to open it up and replace the worn/broken parts.

What I do with milk chocolate is gradually add the milk and part of the cocoa butter BEFORE the sugar. This helps to not bog down the grinder. I also use powdered sugar purchased from a local chocolate factory.

Hope this helps.

Great reply. Do you by any chance happen to have any pictures of the machine taken apart and showing some of the modifications you've made? I think that this would be of general interest (not to mention a great addition to the Handbook).

:: Clay
Here are the pictures of the mods that can be seen, for both the Santha and Ultra. I will post the pics of the repaired mounts and new metal bracket once that is completed.

First the broken motor mounts

Next the Teflon bushings in the rollers

And the reverse side

The Teflon bushing at the base of the roller holder.

Stainless steel paddle

Santha mods, which include SS paddle, SS block and cap, Teflon bushings. Not shown is the ceramic bearing in the hub.

Hey Cheebs, these photos are great.

On the teflon roller bushings and the bushing at the base of the roller holder, on the Ultra Grind, were these difficult to insert? Was it hard to remove the old bushings?

I did tighten the belt on my Ultra Grind by shoving the motor mount further to the outboard side of the unit and that helped, I'll be able to finish the batch that I'm working on now. But, the rollers are hardly turning, the drum spins well. I think I'm going to need to do a few modifications like you did to get it back up to speed. The motor seems to be in good shape.

Did you find a machinist to make the bushings out of teflon or do it yourself? Where did you get the teflon? I think an aftermarket "mod kit" for this machine is in order.
The stock bushings were just drilled out, no problem. The toughest part was re-balancing the rollers as the holes are very uneven. We used some high-strength, high-temp epoxy glue to fix the new bushings to the stones. They were inserted with the aid of a hydraulic press.

I always lubricate the axles with some melted cocoa butter prior to assembly, this has prevented the rollers from bogging down, even with the set I have that still has stock bushings. Another thing that helps is to smooth out the inside of the stock bushings with some 400 and then 600-grit sandpaper.

I am fortunate enough to know an excellent machinist locally, who has built all these neat parts for me. He sources the materials and does the work, always for a fair price.

Hey I have been trying to find a conching machine to make chocolate but have not had any luck. I would love it if you (or anyone else) would help me out and tell me where you got yours and how much it cost. Thanks! --Paige


These small tabletop machines are available through TheChocolateLife and members get a small discount. Hover over "Shop" in the top navigation and then click on CocoaTown TCL Specials.

:: Clay

Thanks so much!!

Could be the belt is worn, Cheebs. Thanks for the note. I get no bad sounds out of the unit. Problem is simply this: it runs very slow (spins few rpm's) ; even when the chocolate mass is quite warm and nearly soup. I know it will quit when I add sugar.

Will check it out tonight after work.

I see a lot of other wet grinders out there but they seem to go up to $1000 and over as the next step up. Not ready for that yet. The Ultra + has been good to me but not the reverse. I'm suprised we're still on speaking terms.
The belt might not even need replacing, just tightening. The first time I opened up the Ultra, the belt was very loose and the motor's pulley would spin when any resistance was applied to the bowl pulley.

Clay: Since I was in the middle of a batch I only photographed the open machine but not the finished mounts. As soon as this batch is done I'll open the machine up again to take pics of the innards and of the roller mods. Even though the repair worked quite well, the Ultra's motor mounts are ridiculously flimsy, so I'm having a proper metal mounting bracket made to replace those cheapo post-type plastic mounts.
PS. I did have to replace the white paddle, started cracking. I ordered the replacement from But I don't see the drive belt listed on their replacement parts web site. Is that some standard rubber type belt, maybe I could get at the auto parts store or a vacuum parts dealer?
There are only a couple of parts of a wet mill like this that are hard to make: the grinding stones themselves, the stone base of the bowl (with the drive shaft), the side of the bowl and attaching the side to the bottom.

So it really shouldn't be all that difficult to build something slightly larger for not that much money. What is really needed is some place to fabricate the mill stones. Any ideas on that?

On the other hand, I have a design for a ball mill that works from liquor (not nibs) and made with spare parts that can be purchased on eBay, plus a small motor. The bowl of the ball mill is made from a used Hobart mixing bowl that you weld a drive shaft to - and you can get used 40 qt bowls for well under $100. You do need a magnet to attract any stray ball bearing shavings out of the finished chocolate but otherwise it works surprisingly well. It's an adaptation of something Richardson Research came up with. I saw a small one in a class at CIA Hyde Park back in 2003 or so and one built using a Hobard bowl in Ecuador in 2005. I have pictures and a video somewhere if there's interest in pursuing this.

One nice bonus of this approach is that you can configure another bowl using the same drive mechanism as a bean roaster.


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