The Aether “Sprite” Winnower

Sometimes I just can’t help myself.  I don’t have the full size Aether readily available (although, it’s marching quickly closer), but I had to see if I could put together what I’ve wanted for years – a table top winnower.

And I did.  May I present the Aether “Sprite”  –                                    aether-logo-sprite-small.JPG



All the same basic features of the full size model, just smaller.  The only major difference is there is no cracker or feeder.  But this is intended to couple with the other table top equipment and it’s no problem with you cracking in the Champion or Crankandstein and hand feeding.  5-10 lbs is a breeze.  And it works with virtually any size shop vac.  The one attached is a tiny 1 gallon one.
More details later, both plans and pricing.

18 Responses to “The Aether “Sprite” Winnower”

  1. Another great design. I just completed the full size winnower you posted the specs for. I did not choose to have a sliding blast gate but instead added a ported down spout with a reducer to create a “spiral” fluffing action. cant wait to build this one as well!

  2. Have you been able to test it and see how much product loss you have? I am new to the smaller equipment but I was wondering is there no blower just a shop vac?

  3. @Adam – ‘sliding blast gate’ – interesting name 🙂 Why did you modify it? How does it work?

    @Daniel, Yes, just a shop vac like the larger model. I have tested it and it is fully compatible to the larger one – just more tedious to use as you have to hand feed cracked beans. But I am finding 79-81% recovery of nib, meaning nearly perfect. 80% nib, 20% husk, and virtually none of either where they should not be.

  4. I like this. A little more than the larger model.
    I would love to see a commercial model.
    Could Adam post a picture of his design ??

  5. That has got to be better than my blender and blowdrier technique. Just made real chocolate for the first time, from our home grown beans, using a friend’s new Champion and concher . I had previously just made my morning cocoa drink, brownies or truffles with the nibs. The chocolates came out fantastic. Thanks for your helpful site.

  6. I am extremely interested in how this is made! I can’t wait to learn more about it.

  7. I’m interested in being a beta tester. Please contact me!

  8. The side airflow valve looks to be 2+ inches below the cracked bean feeder “wye”. Is there a limit as to how far below the “wye” this valve tube can be located?

    Looking forward to giving this a try!

  9. Off hand, just about that distance. Much more than that and the husk starts picking up too much velocity and you then require a drop tube to decelerate the husk before it turns around – which sort of defeats the purpose of the compact design. Why would you want it longer?

  10. I am trying to build the table top winnower unfortunately I am not the most mechanical person. Is there an exploded kind view that I missed. I am having trouble picturing in my head some of the fittings that I can’t see in the pictures.

  11. I’d like to build the Aether Sprite winnower, but can’t quite determine everything from the photo (which is very helpful). Is the wye with the deflector basically the same for the Sprite as for the DIY winnower? Or, are the diameters smaller to make a compact tabletop design? Does the second wye on the Sprite (located on the pipe that rises to the wooden slider above the nib bowl) replace the gate valve near the deflector on the DIY winnower? I guess that the simpler question is: Are there no gate valves on the Sprite design? This is a great website!

  12. Susan, the principle in the Sprite is the same as in the Aether. Both have the same deflector. The diameters on the Sprite are 2″ and 1.5″ instead of 3″ and 2″ as on the Aether.

    As for the gate valve, do you mean the discriminator valve to the left? If so, it is still there. In both models, I have replaced the PVC valve with a less expensive, easier to build slide valve.

  13. John, thanks for the description. You’re right, I meant the discriminator valve. I think that I have a pretty good idea how to build this and look forward to getting it done.

  14. So I have been comparing this table top version with the DIY Winnower diagram and have a few questions. So starting with the input and working my way around (table top version) let me see if I have it right.

    1) 3″ to 1.5″ – reducer
    2) 1.5″ – 45 degree coupling
    3) 2″, 2″, 1.5″ Wye

    Now this is the first part of confusion. On the DIY diagram, you show a hole being cut with hole saw and that plug being used as a deflector inside the Wye. The first value (left side) you added to the hole is used to control additional inbound airflow to help with the husk remove stream. This makes perfect sense. However, in this smaller table top version, you add another Wye and a path up to the support board to replace the left value in the DIY version. So my questions are: did you still drill the whole in the Wye? If yes, what did you plug it up with since you have the other air vent down below?

    Going Up
    4) 2″ – 90 degree coupling
    5) 2″ – 90 degree coupling to make it a full 180 degrees

    On the DIY you show a length of tube going back in to the bucket, but this is missing from the table top version. Or is it just hidden inside the table top bucket? Did that length of tube add significant velocity to the downward momentum of the husk? Or is it just not needed?

    6) 2″ to 1.5″ – Reducer.

    I take it this is connected to the lid of the bucket with Silcon or something?

    7) 1.5″ – 45 degree coupling

    Now there are at least two of these 1.5″ – 45 degree coupling in the lid. And I am guessing they are angled at 0 degrees from each other so as to form a vortex in the bucket? Or are they at 180 degrees? Now a follow on question, does the air intake, on the top of the bucket also have a 1.5″ – 45 degree coupling on the inside of the lid? If so, is it also angled to support the vortex and to conserve internal angular momentum?

    Would it be possible to see a picture of the inside of the lid? You have a great picture of the top of the lid, but a picture of the inside of the lid would be very helpful.


  15. Bret,
    Did you manage to figure the answer to your questions? I have some of the same questions before I get to it, specially those from inside the lid.

    The only one I would assume is for the wye’s lateral hole (which is now replaced with the wye) where I guess you could just get another wye or tape the hole.

    I’m looking forward to trying this out.

  16. Hi Bret and everyone else.

    You are very close and I can see I didn’t get a good shot to show you the sizes of the parts. Working down as you did

    1) 3″ to 2″ reducer
    2) 2″ 45″ coupling
    2a) 2″ to 1.5″ reducer
    3) 2″2″ 1.5″ Wye

    To answer the ‘hole’ question. I did not drill a hole in the wye – instead the sprite has a 2nd wye (and why you may ask…because the OD of 1.5″ pipe is not a standard size and there is not a hole saw for it – so I modified the design)
    So, in this case I had to drill a 1.75″ disk from a 2″ pipe so I had a deflection disk in the nib/husk entry.

    4) 2″ degree coupling up
    5) 2″ degree coupling down

    The tube going down isn’t so much missing as VERY short – as in connection length – 2″ long. Just long enough to go through the platform, and into the coupler that is between the platform and lid (you can see one of three of them in the photo). And to answer your question, it did/does not add velocity to the husk – the vacuum does that just fine so it’s not needed.

    6) 2″ to 1″ reducer

    Yes, it’s connected. You can choose whatever you like. Rivets, screws, silicone or good old PVC glue. And that goes for all the connectors to the bucket. The others really need rivets or screws since the alignment has to be right on and glues are either too fast or too slow.

    7) 2″ 45 degree coupling
    7a) 2″ 90 degree coupling

    Unless I am missing which part you mean here, these directional couplings in the bucket are 2″, not 1.5″ But you do have the arrangement correct. The one coming from the 90 degree down (back left in the photo) is a 45 aimed away from the vacuum on the right. The coupling on the right that the vacuum connects to is a 90 and it is aimed to the left at the 45 base. And no, there is no 45 or 90 on the air intake – it’s just a straight coupling (so you have something to attach everything to). And yes, the arrangement is set up to create a vortex. I’ll see about getting a photo up.

    Is that better? More questions?

  17. John,
    Thank you for following up on this.

    I built the winnower and used it today for the first time. It is just incredible. I urge you to update your main Winnowing page with links to the winnowing blog posts as it would save a lot of people from weeks of hairdrying pain.

    A few questions:

    1. How do you tell how which of the two escape valves to use? I did adjustments equally to the entry escape and the bucket escape but I wondered if there was some advanced logic to take into account.

    2. I couldn’t find a 1.5′ to 2′ wye for the bean entry point and settled with a 2′ all the way. Is there a specific reason to use 1.5′? is it too bad to use a 2′ or should I look into adjusting it somehow?

    The deflector seems to be working great even though I didn’t understand its use in the beginning and from the diagrams.

    Thanks again for this great piece of work it is hugely appreciated.


  18. To All: I will be updating the winnower pages in short order I hope. In the mean time, here is the tuning of the Aether Winnower, whichever you have.

    Yes, a bit long, but really not all that hard. Just methodical.

    Tuning the Aether Winnower

    The Aether Winnower is designed to crack and winnow roasted cocoa beans. It has two adjustment valves to allow you to ‘tune’ it to your particular cocoa bean and vacuum. All cocoa beans are not alike. You know this as they all have different flavors. Likewise, they require slightly different settings on the Aether and these settings MAY CHANGE over time.* Also, the Aether, regardless of its magical name, is not magic. The quality of the nibs you get out is only going to be as good as the quality of beans you put in. This means if you have flat, under-fermented and/or mucilage covered beans then you will most likely get flats and other pieces of ‘non-nib’ in with your nibs. This is a consequence of what you put in, not a matter of the Aether not functioning properly.**

    First off, no winnower is perfect. A small amount of nib in your husk (as powder) and/or a small amount of husk in your nibs can be expected. Industry standard is less than 1.5% husk in nib (that would be nearly 2.5 oz of husk in 10 lbs) If you were to weigh it out and look at it, it looks like a LOT of husk, so when you see a little, don’t panic. On average, with well prepared, properly roasted beans, you can expect less than 0.5% husk in your nibs and virtually no nib in your waste husk bin.

    Tuning the Aether occurs in two steps: setting the Vacuum Adjustment Valve and then setting the Discriminator Valve. Think of them as coarse and fine adjustments respectively. Please do not change both valves at one time as you can then not tell which valve affected your results.

    Test with fully cooled roasted beans.

    Open the Discriminator Valve 1/2 way (the valve on the Support Platform)
    Open the Vacuum Adjustment Valve 1/2 open (the valve on the Vacuum Chamber).

    Setting the Vacuum Adjustment Valve

    Process 10 oz of roasted beans (see operations manual for step by step instructions) and
    calculate your recovery: Weight of nibs / Weight of beans (10 oz).

    · 0.80 or 80% is great. If the nibs look good and there is virtually no nib in the husk, you are done. Go forth and winnow.

    · 82% is either perfect or you have husk in the nibs. If it is the later, increase the vacuum a little (close the valve) and test again with another 10 oz.

    · Less than 80% – generally there is nib in the husk waste. Decrease the vacuum a little.

    Continue adjusting the Vacuum Adjustment Valve and testing until you hit a maximum recovery of nibs with minimal husk content. At this point there will still be some nibs in your husk waste or husk in your nibs.

    Note: ‘Flats’ do not count as husk if you see them in your nibs. You can’t ‘adjust’ these out – they have to be screened out.

    Continue with setting the Discriminator Valve.

    Setting the Discriminator Valve

    At this point, you have adjusted your Vacuum Adjustment Valve to the point where there is either husk in your nibs or nibs in your husk. Adjust the Discriminator Valve depending which is the case.

    Husk in your nibs – Close the Discriminator Valve 1/4-1/2”
    Nibs in your husk – Open the Discriminator Valve 1/4-1/2”

    Process another 10 oz of roasted beans and calculate your recovery: Weight of nibs / Weight of beans (10 oz).

    Compare this recovery to your last recovery.

    If there was husk previously in your nibs, you want your recovery to go down as that shows more husk is being removed. If there is still too much husk in your nibs, close the Discriminator Valve another 1/4 – 1/2 ” and test again with another 10 oz of roasted beans.

    If there was nib previously in your husk, you want your recovery to go up, giving you more nibs. If there is still too much nib in your husk, open Discriminator Valve another 1/4”-1/2” and test again with another 10 oz of roasted beans.

    Through all of this, keep in mind to LOOK at the nibs and husk and if they look good, you are done.

    Troubleshooting tuning:

    If you are at 80% recovery or above, stop adjusting and proceed to winnowing.

    If you are way above 80 % recovery and a lot of husk is in the nibs, adjust your Vacuum Adjustment Valve closed (although this should not be the case as you should have closed it enough to have no husk in your nibs).

    If you are way below 80% recovery, examine your husk waste. If there is nib present, there are three possible reasons:

    1) You cracked while the beans were warm and they powdered too much –
    re-test and calibrate with cold roasted beans.
    2) You need to open the Discriminator Valve more.
    3) If the Discriminator Valve is already fully open, you need to close it to 1/3 open,
    open your Vacuum Adjustment Valve a little, and test again.

    And of course, at any point you are happy with the distribution, stop. I like to process 10 oz each time because the math is easy, the amount is representative, and you can see very quickly whether the tuning change you made had a positive or negative effect.

    After a while, you should be able to ‘eyeball’ your tuning without all of the math, but it’s rather helpful at the beginning while you are learning.

    * Over time, the dust filter on your vacuum will accumulate dust and the vacuum pressure will drop. As this happens you will start to get husk in your nibs. The solution is to simply close the Vacuum Adjustment Valve a little to increase the vacuum pressure until you clean the dust filter out. Don’t touch the Discriminator Valve!

    ** If you find you are using a bean with a lot of flats, (and there are some great tasting beans out there with flats so I do understand) you can screen your final nibs to remove these as they are generally much larger than the nibs. A ¼” hardware screen tacked onto a frame works very well for this.

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