Ask the Alchemist #67

Hey I am interested in the chocolate winnower. I saw that it didn’t include a shop vacuum, and wondered what kind of shop vacuum you recommend/used for testing? Also how did you arrive at your pipe diameters? I would like to know in case we decide to increase the total output.

The answers to these questions in some ways may be disappointing. Mostly because they are true answers , but not helpful answers. But I’ll answer them and then move onto what I hope and think you want to know.

And first off, I tell you right on the pages with the winnower what I recommend.

“ It was designed around a Shop-Vac brand wet/dry Hang-up Mini with a 1.25″ vacuum hose” and

” It requires the use of a 6.5 hp Shop Vac, with a 2.5″ vacuum hose”.

What kind of shop vacuum did I use? What I had in the shop. I had four different ones around from the smallest 1hp all the way up to the largest 6.5 hp I could find. And I used the one that worked best (i.e. gave the best result of winnowing) for the size winnower (I have two and tested others) I was working on.

How did I arrive at your pipe diameters? Trial and error. And also there are only so many options. And if you want to get picky, I took the cross section area of the rectangular prototype winnower I had built (and worked out from 5 years of observation, trial and error) and worked out what the equivalent circular cross section area would be, and went with the closest size. But again, after that, it was a matter of what was available, and it had to fit into the space constraints of a viable design.

Right now there are two designs. One with 2” and 3” pipe and one with 1.5” and 2” pipe. I’m looking/thinking about both a larger one and a smaller one, but both present non-straight forward issues that have to be overcome.

Next, you are making a HUGE assumption that the pipe size is related intimately to the output.

It is related, but not as simple as your question seems to make it out to be. If you move to a 4” pipe (the next size up) you have suddenly increased your cross sectional area 78%. The result of that is that you will most likely need to increase your vacuum somewhat. The good news is that rarely do you need the full 6.5 hp of the vacuum, so you have room to play (there is a vacuum control valve that is rarely more than 2/3 closed, and when running well, it is 2/3 open), but then again, you may need a larger one. You won’t know until you try it. And 6.5 hp is the largest they go on a 15 amp circuit. But really, we are getting away from another major issue. How are you going to feed the beans in? The assumption you made is that the pipe size is the limiting factor…except the two winnowers can have nearly the same output but one is 1/2 the size of the other.

The limiting factor turns out to be feed rate. In the small winnower you hand feed (and I’ve seen some people use the Champion with good results). In the larger one you use the Champion juicer to crack and feed the beans in…..and it has one speed. About 1.5 lbs/min….the quoted output of the winnower. See the dilemma?

In short, I’ve yet to find any good way to increase that feed rate that does not cost more than a second winnower. Or take twice as long to use. Or jam. Or break. Or give you a poorer cracking. Or less efficiency.

If your goal is to increase output, increasing the pipe size is not the way to go. Using another winnower is really the easiest and most cost effective way to go. At least as far as I have found.

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