Ball Mill Refiner #2

I purchased two rock tumblers a couple of months ago. Within a day the larger one had stopped working so I was left to experiment with the smaller one. Well, it did the job somewhat, but not fully. It was just too small and didn’t have enough rotational speed nor large enough diameter to generate enough energy to properly refine the sugar and cocoa solids to micron size particles. The chocolate was smoother, but not smooth enough. You could tell it was still homemade.

The new replacement tumbler showed up earlier this week so I set it up to refine some sugar. I put the about three cups of sugar and three cups of SS shot in a 2 quart glass jar. I had to put some larger diameter tubing on the rollers so the glass container would rise above the sides of the tumbler and not scrape the sides, but this had the added benefit of increasing the rotational speed of the drum. You can really see the sugar and shot moving well.

Oh, and someone asked about the glass. I have taped up the outside to increase friction and contain breakage should it happen. And no, I am not terribly worried about “grinding” the inside of the glass surface. Both the sugar and chocolate seem to create there own protective coating pretty quickly, so no glass bit show up in either.

I will report back how this new set up works.

5 Responses to “Ball Mill Refiner #2”

  1. I have some friends who are mechanical engineers and may be up to the challenge to put together a home conching machine. If you could design anything, how would you like to see it work? I imagine something like a Kitchen-aid mixer with a paddle attachment (aerate and mix), a heat source in the bowl, and a motor that can go slow and steady for days. The bowl would need to be 5-6 cups or so. What do you think?

  2. I have two refiner/conches in the works, but another mind and perspective would be good. I will email you directly and we can get this going.

    BTW, folks, the above tumbler froze up later in the day – the sugar was well on the way to powder, but it just didn’t have enough time. I don’t think the ball mill idea is dead, but this particular tumbler is history. I need to find one that is more robust and reliable.

  3. The key to getting a functional ball mill will be to have the fat content high enough. If you’re finished fat target is 34%, for example, you’re going to need to ball mill at perhaps 45-50% fat to keep it fluid enough and to maximize particle size reduction. If you attempt to ball mill at your finished 34% fat, you’re likely not to get the particles small enough, as well as experience the siezing that you’re seeing. It’ll start out very fluid, and as you reduce particles and increase surface area, you’re viscosity will decrease. If you’re very low in fat to begin with, the decrease in viscosity will result in the siezing you’re seeing.

  4. Scott, it is the mill motor that siezed up, not the chocolate. Thanks for the other information and input though.

  5. John, I’ve been making my own chocolate now for a few months. I haven’t had good success in the conching area either so I decided to grind my sugar extremely fine and then mix it with the liquor. I did this by putting a few cups of sugar in a blender and running it for several minutes on high. This made extremely fine sugar without the added cornstarch found in cornstarch.

    The result was a pretty smooth chocolate. Not as smooth as a well conched batch but better than any I had produced before.

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