May I present the new leaner, meaner Aether Winnower.
This product of seven years observation, three years prototype work, thousands of pounds of cracked and winnowed test beans, and not a small amount of alchemical inspiration, is 100% hand built in stainless steel (the 50 lb capacity hopper), aluminum (the frame and sheet metal sides), food grade PVC (the air flow/bean/nib path) and clear polycarbonate (so you can see the husk accumulating). It uses a Champion juicer (minus any screens) to feed and crack roasted cocoa beans. It requires the use of a 6.5 hp Shop Vac, but others (with a 2.0" vacuum hose and about 200 CFM) may well work as it has a vacuum flow controller built in. International users who need a 220V model could well use this one.
With the standard Champion Juicer, it will crack and winnow over 70-80 lbs. of ROASTED cocoa beans an hour, generally yielding 55-65 lbs. of nibs. Small perks are a discriminator slider valve to fine tune your nib/husk separation, an easy latch and bin for emptying your waste husk, and a slide door on the hopper drop chute should you need to pause your winnowing.
You also have the option of adding the Deluxe Cracker for higher throughput (about 120-140 lbs of beans per hour) and greater longevity. See below for details.
In both cases, and with the disclaimer that it depends on the preparation of your beans, you can expect to see no more than 0.5% of nib in the husk bin, and 0.5% husk in the nib in a single pass. For more difficult beans, it is still possible to have nearly husk free nibs, but it may require a few percent of nib in the husk or a 2nd pass.
Note: The Aether will crack and winnower raw nibs, but depending upon the moisture content and preparation of the bean, the feed rate may may drop significantly (even to the point that they will not feed). If you insist on raw nibs, you may have to hand push them through the Champion. And likewise, expect the separation may not be as good since the raw husk is much closer to the density of the nibs. Generally I find if raw nibs are produced the final product needs to sieved through a 1/4" mesh. The Deluxe Cracker handles raw beans very well and does not require hand pushing.
Currently the price is $2250 without the Champion and Shop-Vac vacuum included. Shipping in the 48 lower states will be $250-400 (depending upon location from Oregon) for the winnower. More of course for the Champion and/or Shop Vac. International shipping varies from $500-800 depending on location.
How it works
A 50 lb capacity hopper feeds into the top of a Champion Juicer. The rate of winnowing is controlled by the rate at which the Champion cracks the beans. Harder or raw beans will crack slower than roasted beans. Once cracked, the nib and husk mixture exits the Champion (where the juicer screen has been removed) and enters a small 45 degree feeder tube. Upon arriving at the junction of the separation chamber, husk is drawn upwards and into the vacuum chamber, and into that, the husk bin. Nibs drop from the separation chamber into a container of your choosing (It was designed to accept a 5 gallon bucket).
There are two valves on the Aether. One is on the vacuum chamber and allows you to control how much suction your vacuum pulls. If you use the 6.5 hp Shop Vac recommended, it will be approximately half open. Other brands and sizes are acceptable as long as it has a standard 2.5" hose. The other valve allow you to more finely tune the air flow in the separation chamber allowing better 'discrimination' of nib and husk.
What has changed?
Actually, not a lot was adjusted between the Beta unit and this unit. Basically, some of the waste has been winnowed away.
The vacuum and husk bin are a little smaller. Why? Because we heard back that people tended to wait until the husk bin was completely full and at that point it was too heavy for some. It's about 20% narrower.
Not including the hopper (which rises about 36" above the table top) the Aether is 36" x 24" x 24".
Also, nearly all the dimensions have been reduced slightly to optimize the number of panels we can get out of a single piece of sheet metal. Why? So raw material waste goes down, and consequently your cost goes down.
Finally, the Discriminator valve was enlarged and moved to a more aesthetically pleasing (to me) and efficient location. Why? The joint was a little fussy previously for this and now it is simpler and the greater air flow allows more and better control and discrimination in some instances.
Time-line, ordering and details for delivery:
Time-line - The units are assembled as needed. From order to shipping is usually around 2-3 weeks.
Ordering - I require a 50% deposit to start your winnower, with the balance due at completion before shipping. The payment and order is NCNR (non-cancel-able, non-refundable) (unless I fail to supply it for some very odd reason). You are welcome to pay the entire amount up front.
Delivery - This will ship via UPS or DHL (USA and internationally respectively) in 2 boxes, 24" and 30" cubic, 45 lb each (more if the Champion and/or the Shop-vac are added). Some assembly will be required, but only a wrench and screwdriver will be needed. Directions will of course be included and as much phone and/or e-mail support as required for no extra fee. Feedback on the manual and directions is HIGHLY requested.
A few other details.
The Aether is supplied without Champion Juicer and without the Shop Vac, although the option exists to purchase them.
I recommend you find the 6.5 hp Shop Vac locally. In general it will be much cheaper than me supplying it. If nothing else you will save on shipping.
Many people already have a Champion juicer and it can do double duty - hence the decision not to include it. You can order an extra if you like of course.
If you are cracking raw beans, you will find that the blades on the Champion juicer cutter wheel will wear away. Usually about 5-10 times faster than if the beans are roasted. Checking the sharpness of the cutter blade routinely is recommended. A heavily used (used every day, for many hours) Aether may require a cutter blade every week. Moderate use with roasted beans may only require a change every couple months. The same goes for the housing on the Champion. After a couple months of use with raw beans, it has been found to crack and need to be replaced. This was not found with roasted beans.
In response to the last item (wear of the Champion cutter blades and the housing cracking) we have a Deluxe Cracker attachment for the Champion Juicer.
It is machined out of Stainless steel and Brass, with cold rolled tool steel blades that are replaceable (1/8" thick as opposed to 1/32") that are four way reversible (double sided and double edged).
Sets of 6 blades are $60. Each side will allow cracking of 1500-2500 lbs of beans depending on whether they are raw or roasted and how clean they are.
The cost of this pair (and it must be purchased as a pair) is $1850 - yes, rather expensive, and basically the cost of another winnower. But, if you find you are replacing your Champion cutter blade weekly, and the housing monthly, you will recover your costs within a year and find that the cracking and winnowing rate increases 60-100% (depending on your beans).
Finally, the fine print:
By placing this order, you are acknowledging and accepting the following:
This order is NCNR (non-cancel-able, non-refundable).
Due to limitations in the UPS interface calculator, you may see a lower than actual shipping price. It should be around $300 for the USA or $800-1000 internationally depending upon your location. You will be charged actual shipping costs if more or less than that shown upon checkout.
If you choose the 50% deposit, you are authorizing Chocolate Alchemy to charge your credit card for the remaining balance, including actual shipping charges (see above).
Please let me know if you have any questions.