Thanks for your post! I would love to respond in detail about the Perfect Enrober. As chocolatiers, we often have to purchase expensive equipment without having had the opportunity to take it for a test drive. What is great about this forum is that we can share what are experiences with equipment have been.
If you can afford a Selmi, it sounds like a great investment. Everyone I know who has one loves it. I would love to have one, but it probably does not qualify as my dream machine. I have seen the enrobing attachment in use on the "Futura" machine at the Barry Callebaut Chocolate Academy. At the end of the enrobing session there was a lot of chocolate build up on the belt because there was nothing keeping the belt warm. I would love to hear from other selmi owners if they have had this problem. I also saw the Savy Goiseau enrober in use and it did not have this problem.
To answer your question... I highly recommend a Perfect Compact Coater as an entry level enrober. Comparing the Perfect enrober to the Selmi is like comparing a Honda Civic to a brand new Range Rover. One will have a lot more luxuries and even be able to haul more stuff, but they will both get you where you want to go. Both enrobers will bring your daily production of chocolate from the hundreds to the thousands. During an enrobing session on the Perfect enrober, I get around 3500 centers coated with a thin chocolate coating and no feet. When I was looking for an enrober, I wanted a machine that could achieve a thin coating and the Perfect machine is the cheapest machine (and the only one I could afford) that could make this happen. Although the Perfect enrober operates through manual tempering versus automatic, it does have a blower and a detailer rod which are fundamental to creating a chocolate coating that is thin and polished looking. Now that I have owned the machine for 2 years, I get very good results. At first I did not get good results because I bought my machine used and it took me several months to realize I was missing a detailer rod. My machine did not come with a manual and I finally hired someone to take a look at the machine and give it a tune up.
Let me tell a little about using the machine... The night before I enrobe, I fill the machine with chocolate callets and let them melt overnight. At this point, only the wheel is on the machine and the enrobing attachment is not attached yet. When I come in the morning, I temper the chocolate directly in the machine through the seeding method. It takes me about 30 minutes or so. If you can temper chocolate in a bowl with spatula, you can temper chocolate in a big tank with a wheel. My tank holds around 40 pounds of chocolate. When the chocolate is tempered, I attach the 2 belts (one belt sends the chocolate through, the other is the exit belt with the paper take off). Attaching the belt, the blower, and the spout takes about 5-7 minutes. Then we do a couple of test runs to make sure that the chocolate curtains are flowing well and that the chocolates exit the belt without any feet. We also adjust the vibration of the belt to allow for the best coating.
I know that many people are concerned about having a wheel machine. I certainly was at first. I thought that I would be spending a lot of time fixing over crystallized chocolate with a heat gun. I don't. My enrobing sessions usually last around 8-12 hours and I usually am able to manage the chocolate without any big problems or using the heat gun much. I keep the chocolate at the best temperature and viscosity by adjusting the blower temperature. When the temperature begins to drop, I simply turn the dial on the blower to blow warm air. When the chocolate gets on the warm side, I turn the blower down to a cooler temperature. I use a heat gun about once every 2 hours just to keep everything in check and I usually use it only just for a minute or two. What is key is to make sure the room you are enrobing in is not too cool. 70 degrees farenhite is a good temperature. Last winter when it was 5 below outside, the chocolate got thick because the door was being open too often and our production room got really cold. I remedied the problem by adding warm chocolate so it is a good idea to keep a melter on hand with warm chocolate. I have a 6kg Mol d'Art melter. As for keeping a good temper, it is not a big issue so long as you have a good understanding of how chocolate works and what it needs.
When enrobing is done, I take off the belt and all the other parts. I rent space from a large wholesale bakery where there is a large dishwasher. I put the wheel and the chocolate covered belt in there and the parts come out as clean as a whistle. The pan that holds the chocolate is extremely easy to clean and I scrape the remaing chocolate into a bowl. The pan to the tempering unit (which is like a deep hotel pan) goes right in the dishwasher. The smaller parts I wash by hand. When I am able to get my own facility, I will definitely invest in a dishwasher!
Prior to buying the enrober, I was hand dipping and it was very time consuming. Although the machine I own is the most basic enrober, it has greatly increased what I can produce and using the enrober has become my favorite part of the chocolate making process. I certainly dream of getting an enrober with continuous tempering and a larger belt. When that day comes, I will still use the Perfect enrober as a secondary machine -- probably for enrobing in milk chocolate. The machine is pretty basic and the people that run the company in Quebec are very accomodating should you have any problems or need any parts. Considering that this machine costs around $11,000 brand new and that the enrobers with continuous tempering start at $30k, you get a lot of bang for your buck. Good luck with making your decision. Please feel free to ask me any further questions.