Ask the Alchemist #24

My process is a bit different so I wonder if you could comment on the adjustments I've made and whether you would expect poor/different results than your normal process. Others may also find some value in the alternate process.

First, I'm using a Whirly Pop popcorn maker on the stove top for the roasting. I drilled a hole in the top so I could insert a thermometer to monitor air temp to control the roast. I previously used this for a coffee roasting project as well with decent results. I got one Whirly Pop in a thrift store for $5 or buy new for $20.

If you can keep the heat low enough, a Whirly pop is great. The main issue is just getting the roast long enough without scorching the outside and having the interior underdone. I've used one myself and liked it - after I knew how to roast. The main reason I don't mention it is that actually describing to someone how to use it is pretty difficult.  You knew how to roast coffee.  Coffee has good clues - cocoa not so many. I find a tendency to over roast with a surface cooking method like this.  But it is possible to get it right.  As you did.

Second, I remove the husks by hand one by one. As time consuming as this sounds I find it easy to do while watching TV and can do about 2 pounds per hour. With practice The husk can be removed without the whole, roasted bean fragmenting and slowing you down.

If you like doing it this way, it is hands down the best way to get the most out of your beans with the least waste....but again, I don't advocate it that much because it is SO time intensive. 2 lbs takes me about 1.5 minutes.  But never let it be said I would suggest anyone stop anything they enjoy. And I am also not a TV watcher.

Third, once the beans are all de-husked (no need for winnowing by the way) I put them in the stock Cuisinart we had in the kitchen. I found that with the standard blade the beans will grind into a powder very quickly but will start to look damp from released cocoa butter in 2-3 minutes and get fully liquid in 5-8 minutes with about 12-16 ounces at a time in the Cuisanart. So, no need for a Champion juicer in this method. Oh, and I add the sugar in at this stage too so it gets mixed in well and chopped a bit.

I've found that it is possible to burn beans this way if you are not careful. There is a lot of friction produced, and you can get spot burning.  And again, very time intensive.  The Champion does 5 lbs in the same time with little chance of burning.   But if that is what you have around, and you like the flavor, then by all means, there is no reason not to use it.   And the Cuisinart DOES have the advantage of not wasting 6 oz like the Champion does.  As a minor alternative, you can using it 2-3 minutes, where the cocoa just starts to look damp, and then add it to the Melanger.  That is the main change I would actually recommend.

From here I go straight into an Ultra Wet grinder ($80 used on Craigslist - it helps to be near a large Indian community) and let it go for many many hours, tasting periodically.

The Ultra Wet grinder was the starting point of the ECGC line - I liked it a bit. Not a huge fan of the conical wheels (they spray chocolate) but it refines just fine.

The product seems OK though as a novice it is hard to tell. Ive over roasted a couple of pounds but other than that so far so good. Ive stuck with a simple 70% dark chocolate by the way so far.

That is a great place to start. 95% of my chocolate is 75% - basically your recipe plus 5% cocoa butter.

What do you think?

I think you have been very industrious, used what you had on hand, and with very good results. From experience, it's way more work than many people want to put in, but that does not make it right or wrong nor better or worse. It's also very similar to where I started so many years ago. My first attempts were roasting with an air popper (3-4 oz at a time), peeling by hand, and using only the Champion (this was before I discovered Wet Grinders, hacked one, and had Santha start making them for me [yes, for those that don't know, Wet Grinders as small scale Melangers actually started with Chocolate Alchemy - I didn't jump on the proverbial band wagon - I built the band wagon that others jumped onto]). My goal has been approachability and consistency. But there are tons of ways to make chocolate, and you have a very good method there....especially, and most importantly, if you like the result.

That's what I think.