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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: 9797

Replies to This Discussion

I've been looking to building a ball mill for producing cocoa liquor. From the research I've done, to mill 1 liter of liquor you need 1 liter of balls. This is where building a mill gets pricey. Media runs from about $12.90/kg for chrome steel to $30.62/kg for stainless steel. So, if you would like to mill 5kg of cocoa your going to need approximately 24kg of media. That comes to $310 just for grinding media.

Does this rule out building a ball mill? I don't think so. Ball mills have some great benefits for particle reduction. And, I don't think it would be hard to build a very reliable ball mill of that size or even somewhat larger.

On the other hand, I don't think building a reliable stone melangeur like the Santha would be that difficult either. The biggest question I have would be where to get the stones.

for a  ball mill it is better to use ceramic balls instead of steel balls.

Question for all who are reading this thread.....why must the volume of milling media (steel balls) equal the volume of material being milled? Is not time a factor here? Could we not substitute longer milling time for the quantity of media?

I have not used a ball mill before. Why not use half or one third the volume of media and lengthen the milling time appropriately? Am I missing something?
The reasoning is to ensure that all material is exposed to the balls. It is possible to use less media and a smaller ball mill if the cocoa mass is circulated through the the balls. I've considered this. But, I haven't found an affordable method of pumping cocoa.
I think the advantages of ceramic balls is their light weight and lower level of friction - useful in a bearing but probably less so here?
How do you clean out a ball mill? Would you do it thoroughly after every batch, when you change bean types or when?
In the mean-time I shall call a machinist friend and see about getting granite rollers made. I know he could do it but the question is whether we could get the granite and how expensive it would be. At least you could control the dimensions and get the central holes very accurate, making bearing replacement a cinch.
I'm not sure how the cleaning process is normally handled. I'd think the ball mill would mainly be cleaned when changing types of chocolate.

if you use small ratio of milling  meadia it takes longer time but not too small quantity one third will do.  instead of simple ball mill a forced meadia mill like atrition mill gives better result, and it is not that complicated.

I'm back to considering a ball mill. I've found a source for 52100 Chrome Steel grinding media for only $2.89/lb - 2.13/lb.

This means that to grind 10lb of cocoa liquor, the cost is only $139. Or, to step up to 25lb, the cost would be about $345. This is a lot more reasonable than the prices I've had before.

The one concern I have with going to a ball mill is conching. From what I understand, a bill mill will not perform the conching. Any suggestion on conching?
CocoaT basic and Deluxe Melangers can be used to grind cocoa nibs for 24 hours (basic) and 48 hours or more (for Deluxe) are the modified Ultra grinders to handle the cocoa nibs for extended time. You can find more details at

Our Grindeurs (grinder+ melangeur bombination) are for grinding 30 lbs to 65 lbs of cocoa nibs at a time. Grindeurs have a gear motor to reduce the wear on the belts and also to extend the life of the machine as a whole.
Does anybody have advice about using a lid while conching with the Spectra 10? I'd like to use the lid as a way of bottling up the heat but I'd also like the "volatiles" and acid to evaporate. Will the lid interfere with acid evaporation? It's currently -7F where I live so the indoor temperature isn't getting much above 65F. Suggestions? Unnecessary worry? Thanks
Hello Robbie,
Did you see my post at this Group on a cheap conching booth made of "blue board" for an unheated workshop?

As to your question of keeping the lid on your Spectra 10, it seems as though the volatiles and acid will evaporate regardless of conching with or without the lid. Do you have condensation on the lid when it is used? If not, that would tell me that anything released from the cocoa mass during conching is leaving the bowl and going into the atmosphere. Just my opinion. I never leave the lid off my Ultra when using it.

Also, if your Spectra 10 vents heat out the bottom, you might place it on a cotton T shirt or towel, kind of as a mat so as to retain some heat in the bowl and raise the mass temperature in cold weather. You should be able to get the mass temp up to 100 degrees F and keep it there or higher during the entire process with a "booth" and small space heater as pictured on this site.

All the best in your efforts.
PS Where do you get your beans? What country of origin?
Thanks for the advice Frank,
I saw your booth a while back. I was mid conch and it was kind of late at night so I was lacking the energy to be handy. I ended up just leaving the lid on and everything seemed to be fine. The only time I ran into an issue is when I set up a small fan to blow on the motor. Due to the round shape of the motor casing, the airflow was wrapping all the way around and hitting the conching bowl. Decidedly, I turned off the fan and kept the lid on.

I'm about to temper the chocolate before I head off to work. So far it tastes ok. It was a pretty bitter bean to begin with. I got this small amount from a guy in Florida that is importing Haitian criollo. I'll let you know if the chocolate tastes any good.


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