Ask the Alchemist #93


Why not add the cocoa butter toward the end of the process, after you have conched the chocolate to thin it down instead of at the beginning?

It will probably have a little “wang” from the added cocoa butter, but I have conched bad cocoa butter with some sugar for a few days by itself to tone down the flavor and it worked out for me. Extra work to conch and reconch the stuff(and extra math to get the right amount of sugar in your final product) but it does tame the bad flavors from poor cocoa butter.

So in the end I would try to cook your cocoa at 160 without cocoa butter(if your refiner can handle that) and then add preconched cocoa butter/sugar at the end and see how that comes out.

That is a very common scheme of things when using a separate refiner and conche. Many milk chocolates especially are refined with a 3 or 5 roller mill as a crumb (cocoa, sugar, milk powder) and only then is cocoa butter added and the temperature raised.

You ask why? The main reason is small scale chocolate makers don’t have access to the two separate machines. There is only the Melanger that refines and conches at the same time. And in order to do that you need a specific fluidity to the mixture. That is the reason to add it first. So you can have a working fluid. Also, if you happen to be grinding nibs in the Melanger, the extra fluid of adding the cocoa butter first makes that job much faster and more efficient.

The current melangers also have a 150 F temperature limit. That is the other practical reason.

Back at you. Why in all that is great about making chocolate would you purposely and knowingly add inferior or bad ingredients???? I can’t wrap my head around that. I shudder at the thought.

Even if you can make the resulting chocolate good, I have very little belief it will be exceptional, and if you are going to the time, expense and trouble to make chocolate at home or from scratch, why would you aim for only good or acceptable. I’ve seen many of the beans and butter that numerous ‘large’ companies use to make their chocolate….and there is a reason I don’t eat their chocolate and why I started down this path to making superior chocolate at home.

So many of the published procedures for industrial chocolate I have seen are like you have up there. Ways to make mediocre (or bad!) ingredients into something that is OK. I guess if you want to do that, it is of course, your prerogative, but with so many great beans available, and really great cocoa butter out there, why settle for less, let alone bad?

So, why don’t I try it?

  • I don’t have bad cocoa butter (please do NOT send me any)
  • The Melanger can only handle 150 F
  • I don’t actually see the advantage with only a Melanger.

That said, maybe I will give it a try with good cocoa butter, add 10% at the end, and compare it to a batch where I add the 10% at the beginning. I honestly don’t expect a lot of difference if any. But I’ve been wrong before and will certainly be wrong again. In this case though I just don’t expect it. If you want to do it though, feel free. I certainly don’t see any harm at all.

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