I have been waiting for this moment for almost two years now. For those of you who have been following the progress here, or have tried to make chocolate at home, you will know that so far, the granules in sugar have left a gritty texture to homemade chocolate. I have been working to find a solution. Well, I have found it. It is not all the way there yet, but it is by far the best yet. And I think it is not all the way there yet, simply because I have not run it long enough. On my first test I ran it a little over 3 hours and there was a marked improvement in the chocolate texture and particle size reduction. Based on the continuous changes it was making, I figure about 5 hours to refine. Oh, you want to know what it is? Well, the good news is that it is not an R&D product and so it is available.
The bad news is that it is not an R&D product and it is a little expensive - about what a Champion runs - around $265.
It is a Santha tabletop Wet grinder. It has a heavy motor that rotates a granite slab and two large heavy granite rollers at about 150 rpm. The whole thing is just under 50lbs! Oh, and I just saw they say it is "light weight" - don't you believe them - this thing is a heavy duty monster - and that is great! Just have a look.
If you notice, it looks a whole lot like a commercial Melangeur.
I had something exactly like this on the drawing board and here it is - very cool. Right now, I am confident that it will run an hour at a time with no fear of overheating, but more than that and the motor needs a fan on it to keep it cool. Not too tough actually. On the other side, the chocolate benefits from some gentle heating. I just pointed a hair dryer at it for 2-3 minutes. After the first hour though, the chocolate becomes more liquid like and the whole thing generates enough heat by friction that additional heat is not really needed.
Here is a sampling of the chocolate over the refining time, roughly at half hour increments. The lighting was really not good enough for you to see the textural changes, but what is obvious is how much better the viscosity is. As the refining progresses (left to right, then down), it definitely becomes more "chocolate like".
Finally, I can tell you it will not grind the nibs into liqueur. It starts to and then effectively locks up from lack of heat. I even tried heating the nibs and it just didn't work. So to make chocolate at home, you will still need the Champion Juicer (with a fine juice screen, someone called my attention to the fact that I only mention this in passing). But this finally gives us the ability to start REALLY producing some chocolate!
Stay turned - I will update the Refining area in the next week or so. Actually, go check it out now - I did some major updates just the other day.
Now the real fun begins - discovering the techniques to make really great chocolate now that we have the tools we need!