I can't say enough good things about my Premier grinder, I am a huge fan of its durability in particular. As someone who is hard on equipment, the fact that it can run for days without issue is a big plus for me. However, I'm getting to the point where I need additional capacity. I'd be interested to hear how other folks have handled scaling. Do you buy additional Premier grinders, or a grinder that can handle larger capacity. For those going with greater capacity, what kind of grinder do you recommend?
I've gone both routes, although they were pre-Premier grinders. I started with one of the older models of the small Cocoatown grinder and eventually worked my way up to three of them. At that point, I upgraded to a 40 lb grinder. My recommendation is to upgrade to the larger one vs. scaling horizontally with more Premiers. There are some pretty huge economies of scale to be had by using a larger machine. You also have more control due to the speed controller.
As far as which machine, I don't have any particular recommendations. I used a Santha 40 lb grinder for a while and then upgraded to the 65 lb. I've been mostly happy with both (although at this point, I'd love to get away from a stone grinder altogether...). Tons of people use Cocoatowns, of course, and I've heard good things about the grinders (and customer service) from indi chocolate.
Another thing I'd recommend is to go as large as possible. I have a '65 lb' machine, but really wish I had gotten the '100 lb' version. As has been discussed elsewhere, once you get up over the axles of these machines the efficiency goes way way down. This is certainly true of refining, but even more so for conching. As such, I'd argue that the '65 lb' machines are really more capable at 30-40 lbs, and the '100 lb' machines are probably best up to 50-60 lbs.
Ben, thanks for your opinion on scaling up from small grinders. I have been looking into the Diamond Custom Machine grinders from Indi. I have heard they have a rapid refiner attachment that heats the stones/nibs to speed up the start of the process, and also serves as a conche once the chocolate is finished. Have you heard anything about the rapid refiner? any opinions on it?
Hi Mark. I haven't tried the Diamond machines, but have heard great things about them. The rapid refiner seems like a great idea to get the process started faster, and I'm sure helps out the conching effect at the end, although grinders/melangers in general are not very good at conching, as there is very little shear stress and the chocolate is all in one big mass with very little surface area.
Yes, I sell the Premier Wonder Grinders, the upgraded Premier Chocolate Refiners and the Commercial Refiners from Diamond Custom Machines.
It was because of John Nanci's conflict of interest that I started working directly with Diamond Custom Machines.
We have such a wonderful resource in what John has put together here and I'm really thankful to be part of this great community. This is where I've learned so much about making chocolate and being in the chocolate business. Through Chocolate Alchemy, I've gotten to know some amazing people making chocolate at home for fun and in the chocolate industry.
The Premier Grinders are still available but no longer have a warranty for chocolate making. Instead, we've taken a lot of feedback from chocolate makers (including from this Forum), looked at what was breaking and wearing when making chocolate (including what people were buying as replacement parts and how often) and have now upgraded the machines to Chocolate Refiners that are better for chocolate making. The Chocolate Refiners are always being evaluated to see where else we can make improvements. They come with a one year manufacturers defect warranty (international shipping of parts not included.)
As of this writing, the latest upgrades to the Chocolate Refiner includes fully sealed ball bearings (better when you're dealing with cocoa butter), better materials to make the stone holders and gears more robust and long wearing, Kevlar belts (these are the best belts I've ever used), an excessive heat shut off switch (we've not had problems with Premiers but I almost had a chocolate factory burn down in Belize from a different melanger company) and a new reddish orange color. You can check on my website (http://indichocolate.com) for additional upgrades as we make them to the Chocolate Refiners.
As for the Commercial Refiners made by Diamond Custom Machines, we currently have a 35 lb., 70 lb., 100 lb.and 150 lb. batch capacity Commercial Refiners. They are all made in the USA with high quality US components. The Commercial Refiners are all direct drive, on lockable casters (I've always had a small shop so this is really important to me and it makes it easier to clean) and have all the controls on the machine so they are plug and play.
I would agree with Ben that buying the biggest machine makes it easier on yourself and pays for itself very quickly. (Because we are always upgrading and customizing machines, I ask that people contact me directly for prices.) You can always make less chocolate than a machine's full capacity but I would never recommend going over a machine's full capacity. Because of this, a bigger machine gives you the flexibility to grow through time.
The Rapid Refiner helps warm up the stones before making the chocolate and helps with flavor development as you are making chocolate. We've had some award winners tell us that the Rapid Refiner is what made the difference for them.
If you're in Seattle in June or afterwards, please come by my shop in Pike Place Market to see these machines in action. We'll be building our factory where everyone can watch the bean to bar process.
If you're coming out for the NW Chocolate Festival I'll try to arrange something for chocolate makers, so let me know.
Here is a great video of the equipment we have used to grow my business.
Choklat is the North American Dealer for this equipment and one of the most experience bean to bear artisans in North America (we started back in 2005). The video will answer a lot of questions about what processes you may consider as you build your business. The video's a bit long (20 min) but full of information on different processes and the costs of those processes and definitely worth the watch. Here at Choklat we started with a small table top grinder many years ago like many others and now operate equipment worth over $1 Million. We have a wealth of information to share and are happy to do so!
I will jazz up the page later this evening, but for now at least the video is up.
Just to give an update from my last post. indi chocolate's factory is open and visible for everyone to see how we make chocolate.
We've got a lot of table Chocolate Refiners (https://indichocolate.com/collections/chocolate-making-machines) going as well as the larger Commercial Refiners (https://indichocolate.com/pages/commercial-machines) as well.
If you're coming to Seattle, come on by and see for yourself.