When I was in Italy, I saw the following in a chocolate-maker's workshop:
It's a motorized grape crusher. The chocolate maker puts his beans warm from the roaster into the hopper and presses a button. The crushed beans are collected in a tub below.
One very important aspect of this crusher is that the gap between the rollers is adjustable.
Manual versions of these are available for under $300 with motorized versions going for under $7-800.
Very interesting. Were you able to get an idea of how well it worked compared to the various other options out there?
He is using it in production and it's better than any other alternative he's found at this scale. He also cracks while the beans are still warm and pliable - finds that it works better for him.
Thanks Clay. That's very interesting--especially the part about cracking the beans while still warm. It's one of those things that I've always meant to test, but have never gotten around to it. If it works better, it would probably make loading the melanger go more quickly.
I finally got around to testing this. I'm using the champion to crack the beans and it doesn't work well at all with warm beans. A lot of beans came out just squished (not cracked) with most of the shell still attached.
I've tried to crack warm beans in a Crankandstein and it did not work very well as they were still comparatively pliable. I don't know what it is about the geometry of the cracking gears on this one that makes it work.