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Did anyone ever use a ball mill to grind chocolate and has any experience with that?

They seem much cheaper then a roller stone grinder even though they do more of less the same?!?

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Hey Ramya, i have used a stone grinder so far and i was wondering, wouldn't a ball mill conch just as well?

I was thinking the same thing. You would think the friction between all those balls, and the tumbling involved would both heat and aerate the chocolate.

Harald, Mark,

ball mills can't conche chocolate unless  you have special attachments  for conching

In order to conche in a ball mill, the mill needs to specially designed to work as a conche.

In a conventional ball mill (e.g., metal pot filled with grinding media and a central stirring rod inserted into the mass from the top) there is not enough surface area, air movement, or circulation of the chocolate to effectively conche the chocolate.

One reason is that ball mills are effective at refining chocolate - it may take only a couple of hours. That's not enough time to conche, again unless the mill is specifically designed to conche. If you keep the chocolate in the mill much longer you run the risk of over-refining and creating a chocolate that has a gummy/pasty texture as well as running the risk that it may not temper properly if the proportion of small particles is high enough.

Clay, for a wet grinder, does the fill level affect the efficiency of conche?

Do you notice a significant difference between a day of grinding/conching, and three days?

Much appreciated.

Mark:

Yes. Fill level affects the efficiency of the wet grinder. The fuller it is the less efficient it is.

It also can have a serious affect on the longevity of the grinder as the larger mass of chocolate weighs more and exerts more friction and forces the motor work harder to overcome the friction and inertia (especially when starting up).

Yes, there is a huge difference between one day and three days in a wet grinder, and a lot depends on the beans ... post-harvest processing and roasting especially.

One thing to consider with shorter conching times (and temperature control, i.e., in the Kleego) is that you have, in engineering parlance, a lot more headroom. This gives you the option to experiment a lot more with how changing conching parameters affects the finished product. What happens when you run at 60C for two hours instead of one, and then run at 45 for two hours? 70C?

These are experiments that would be nearly impossible to do efficiently in an unmodified wet grinder.

One more thing. I have seen the video a couple times on the Kleego, and read about it.

What might cause a "sour" taste? That is the comment I get right now. Is it acid? At the same time it is sour, it is also fruity. I know you cannot taste, so just your best guess would do.

Mark:

The sour taste is the acid. It needs to be conched off. Yes, that's where most of the fruity flavors come from, so it's a compromise of time/temp to find the right balance of residual acidity/sourness and fruitiness.

Some beans also have lactic acid in them and the flavor is of sour milk. This is much harder to conche out. The only things I've seen work in removing distinct lactic acid flavor are:

1) Add a complementary flavor.

2) Patience. As in aging, not time in the conche. I've seen it take over a year to dissipate to undetectable levels.

Hope I'm not pestering too much.

Can you please clarify, when you say patience, possibly over a year, are you talking about aging the chocolate that long? Or were you talking about trying to figure out how to get rid of the flavor.

I will say that sometimes we mold chocolate, it tastes sour, and week or so later it's not so harsh.

Regardless, I'm going to try conching with a lower fill level as you suggested before.

Mark:

I am talking about a specific instance of a specific chocolate that was very highly lactic. It took over a year of aging for that specific taste to age out. We tried conching some of the finished chocolate in a small wet grinder and it did not help discernibly.

Thanks alot Clay, this turned out a lot more helpful then i thought.

From what i understand, it seems that a ball mill combined with a Kleego seems a good solution for a tight budget.

You will probably need a pre-grinder before the ball mill as most ball mills do not work from nib, they work from liquor.

You can use a wet grinder as a grinder/refiner before the Kleego just as easily as a ball mill.

The wet grinder route is probably going to be cheaper than the combination of pre-grinder/ball mill. However, if you can refine in the ball mill in under 4 hours then you can do a full batch (up to 35-50kg, the capacity of the Kleego) in one 8-hour day. If you use a wet grinder figure overnight to get the particle size you want and 2-5 hours in the Kleego.

One advantage of using the Kleego with a wet grinder is that your duty cycles go way down. Instead of running 48-72 hours per batch, it's about 24. So you could run 3 batches in 3 days rather than 2 batches in 6 days. This significantly reduces wear and tear on the motor, drive belt, and other components of the wet grinder, increasing the useful lifespan of the grinder.

There's no right/wrong way to do this - just what works for the kind of chocolate you want to make.

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