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.