Chocolate Refining at Home Breakthrough

Some time ago, Frederick Schilling of Dagoba suggested I add some stainless steel balls to my ice cream maker “conch” in an effort to refine the chocolate a little. Well, that did not work really great. Some, but not a lot. It did get me thinking, and looking and wondering what I was actually trying to do and why it was not working. I realized I needed to get the whole thing rotating on it’s side, but to do that, the container would have to be sealed like a jar.
It turns out, what I was trying to “invent” was a ball mill or jar mill. Well, there are no inexpensive ball mills out there that fit our needs, but what there is out there are rock tumblers. I pick one up, put a plastic “jar” in it (the one it comes with is NOT food grade plastic), added a handful of 1/4″ SS balls and some granulated sugar and started it tumbling. A day later, I have a wonderful powdered sugar ready to add to my cocoa liqueur.

A little more research into ball mills lead me to a number of pyrotechnic sites, as they grind their own chemicals. References seem to indicate ball mills can easily reduce particles to 10-20 micron, which is exactly where refined chocolate needs to be. I even found a few references that chocolate can be refined this way. Go figure.

The next test will be to add the sugar to some cocoa liqueur and see how the resulting chocolate is. I will also be trying to grind the cocoa nibs directly this way (maybe no need of the Champion?) and various combinations of nibs and sugar, pre-ground and not.

I will keep you all up to date with this “new” refining technique.

4 Responses to “Chocolate Refining at Home Breakthrough”

  1. Hi John

    I’ve been using the tumbler for a few test runs now and using the conched sugar makes a reasonably big difference to the grittiness of the end chocolate. The tumbler does get reasonably warm with the friction, but not enough to warm up the whole chocolate mix – so it’s only realy useful with the sugar at this stage. My next step with this method would be to try it out on a heating pad to see if it’s possible to heat the chocolate liquor with the sugar mix and conche the whole thing.

  2. Once you mentioned the ball bearings a guy at work suggested a rock tumbler so I already have one. Will be using a metal drum instead of the stinky rubber one it came with. What I need are the ss ball bearings. Found a company in India that makes them for the polishing industry, but where do you obtain in the US in small quantities and for less then the $18.50 I found at a rock polishing site?

    As for the heating issue I’ll be experimenting with a heat lamp but using a wall of reflective insulation between the motor housing and drum so I don’t heat up the motor any more. Excessive heat is not good for electric motors.

  3. Just so we have some consistant terms, this drum and ss shot is a refiner, not a conch. This setup will give some conching action, but not being exposed to the air, it is not really conching. Just refining. Conching requires air to oxidize and release volatiles.

    I have a source for the ss shot at about $12.00/lb and less in bulk. I don’t have the link right now, but will put it in the conching/refining area. Or just email me.

    I am using a glass jar right now instead of the stinky black plastic. The jar is inside the plastic. Padding this way. It is showing no wear so far. Stainless steel will be a lot better.

    It is good to know it will not melt the chocolate. I will try a dry refining and see how that goes. Particle size is particle size. I don’t see where it has to be in a liquid form to refine. We will see.

  4. General, Thank you we are in need of GOOD chocolate here in Ukiah CA..Mendo Co. I am a personal Chef, for Alzheimer Care givers… end of life Illnesses…. and will be ordering soon….

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