Updates


Daily musings and writings from the Alchemist

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Happy Holidays

I want to wish everyone a great holiday.  I am going to be taking a little time off and for family, so I may be a bit scarce around until the turn of the year. On that note, all orders received by Thursday evening will go out Friday.  After that, it will be a couple days after Christmas before we ship again.  Also, any Cocoa mills purchased in the last couple weeks are running a bit behind due to a parts shortage due to the holiday rush.  Please be patient - you will get your mill.

Also on the "scarce" note, we have been having some trouble responding to some e-mail domains, namely Yahoo and Comcast.  If you have one of those email addresses and have not received a reply from me, that may be why.  They have marked us as spam.  We are working on fixing that.

Finally, look for 2 or maybe even 3 new cocoa beans in January.  We have the new crop of Panama coming in (a very delicately flavored bean) and possibly some FT Ghana.  A little more Conacado may also show up.  Keep your fingers crossed.

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Melangers available - new molds also

We are taking orders for the last 10 melangers that will be available to ship out next week.  After those are gone, the next shipment will not be until the end of January. I have been picking up a few different molds lately - check them out in the new Chocolate Molds (chocolate frogs you Potter fans) section of the Retail store.  Oh and noting "Retail store", the Wholesale side is also now open.

That's all for now - I hope you all have a great holiday season!

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Behmor 1600 now in stock

Our stock of Behmor 1600's are now in stock and all pre-orders have been shipped out.  I opened up and tested a couple units and there were as expected.  They now have a new clasp on the drum that I like quite a bit.  Much more secure.  I will get a photo up this weekend. You will see two options.  A non-labeled USA model and a Canada model.  The ONLY difference is that I have included and defrayed  a little of the Canadian shipping costs for our friends up north.

A few notes and reminders.

  • 2 lbs is my recommended minimum.  Less than that and you run the risk of over roasting.
  • Don't forget to register your Behmor online with Behmor.com.  It's is how warranty information is tracked.
  • Don't forget to read your manual.  A lot of it is geared for coffee, but it has applicable information.  In particular, don't fail to do an initial "dry burn" before roasting for the first time and while you are not forgetting things, check the underside of the chaff tray for residual sealing plastic.  The factory sometimes leaves a bit and it smokes if you roast it.
  • Finally, there are a number of "warning" labels on the roaster that are meant to be removed before roasting.  The glue used sometimes is a little too good.  If it is still tacky after you take it off, a little nail polish remover does a good job of cleaning it up.

And as always, if you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask.

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Behmor 1600 almost here

We have word that the newest (and ONLY) cocoa roaster has landed. We should have our stock tomorrow and all pre-orders will go out a day after that. I want to open a couple up, try them out, kick the tires and make sure everything is just like the pre-production models I tested. Once I am happy I will take them off pre-order, and they will be fully available. In the mean time, we needed some more space, so this weekend was spent rearranging and building new shelves for the roasters and some other new upcoming products. shop2.jpg

By the way, that "thing" on top of the filing cabinet to the left is a Behmor in full "test" mode. I seem to have this thing about tearing equipment apart to know how it works. It's how to keep "on top" of things.

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Oh, and yes, that is a Champion to the right. I use them too!

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Happy Halloween

That's all. Believe it or not, the Alchemist does more than just chocolate. The family did pumpkin carving last night. Here's my contribution.skull2.jpg                  skull1.jpg

Oh, and if you have never seen the Alchemist, well, I can't exactly say this is a representative  image.

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Also, we finally have our Server set back up.  Corrections to broken links and photos have started.  If you find one, you are more than welcome to let me know, but give me though the weekend to get to the bulk of them.

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Behmor 1600 Gourmet Coffee AND COCOA Roaster

We have finally received word that the first production run Behmor 1600 has been completed and the first container is on the way. As a Distributor, we have been given permission to begin accepting pre-orders. If you wish to place the order, please do so only for only the Behmor or only for items you want to ship with the Behmor. The reason is that we will NOT charge your credit card until they arrive sometime in November, and double charging leaves too many places for error, and none of us want that. So anything you order with the Behmor will be placed on hold until they arrive.behmor5a.jpg

And now, a little background.... The Behmor is the brain and love child of Joe Behm. Some 8 years ago he had some fresh roasted coffee, was blown away and found that few good roasters were on the market. What do to? Build your own. So he did and what we have here is the result. A 1 lb coffee drum roaster. Now, coincidentally, I had been working on nearly the same thing, just many years later, i.e. I was attempting to put together a rotisserie convection oven that would roast cocoa. I was just coming to the conclusion that there was not a convection oven on the market that would do the job when I had the opportunity to test out a pre-production model of the Behmor 1600, with Joe Behm there.

Much to his horror (at the time), I loaded the drum nearly to capacity with cocoa beans, let it to the first of five settings (more on this below) and hit start. 20 minutes (and a crowd of people smell chocolate) later there were a few snaps and pops indicating the cocoa was done. I stopped the roast, pulled the beans and was very pleased with the results. Soon after I left with a Behmor 1600 to start testing extensively.

First off, as this is Chocolate Alchemy, I will be focusing on how the Behmor behaves for cocoa roasting, not coffee. For a ton on information on coffee roasting, and some different perspectives on how to use the Behmor, I would suggest this Wiki page. So, without further ado, go to Cocoa Roasting in the Behmor 1600.

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New Cocoa available

The new Mexican Cocoa from Tabasco is in. It has a really wonder Umami character and exemplifies savory. New in is also a very mellow one from Ghana. That's about it for now. The new Behmor 1600 gourmet coffee and Cocoa roaster is due in about a month. I am working on the review, but we are having some picture uploading issues. I will let everyone know when that is up. Overall, I am really please how well it is working. Drop me a line if you want to be on a waiting list.

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Updates, the good, the bad and the ugly

I have a little good news, although it may almost feel like a bait and switch to those of you who heeded my warning and purchased a Melanger.  There has been a slight reprieve in regards to  the  availability of the Melangers.  Santha has found someone to continue to ship them until they run out.  On that note, there are around 15 left, and more won't be in until December.  I don't see a reprieve on that. Also, it has come to my attention that some photos and images did not make it to the new server.  So, I am aware that some of the images in the Grinding  section are not there, nor some of the headers in the Forum, but rest assured they will be back.

Finally, the new crop of Ghana 07 is in.  And the new Tabasco will arrive this week.  Reviews and a small newsletter will go out when those are available.

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Thought for the day

It has been some time since I have done one of these, but it oddly enough struck a note. "Oh how sweet it is to hear one's own convictions from another's lips." - Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

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Updates

I have been busy the last few weeks testing out some different equipment and hope to have the reviews up soon.  On is the "olde tyme peanut grinder".  I have often said that anything that can grind nuts into nut butters will work for grinding cocoa nibs into liqueur. peanut.JPG

I am not advocating this for everyone, and probably won't even carry them for sale, but so far, it does a great job.  It grinds at about 3 lbs/min.

The other big item that is taking my time up is the Behmor 1600 roaster.  I have started a horizontal testing of each of the profiles.  I am roasting up the last of the Ecuador  cocoa we had and will make 5 identical batches of chocolate, with the only variable being the roast profile.  With solid, definable, consistent temperature profiles, we will see just how much affect it has on the finished chocolate.  Oh, as many people keep asking, there is no solid ETA for the roaster, but "by Christmas" is that latest word.  If you want to read up on it (before I get my review up) head over to The Coffee Project  where there is a wiki of the Behmor 1600 (with a cocoa roasting section at the end by yours truly).  Oh, and the Links page has been updated with some interesting stuff.

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Behmor 1600 for roasting cocoa

I have now been testing out the Behmor 1600 coffee roaster for about 3 weeks now. I tried out both coffee & cocoa and it is doing a good job. When it becomes available (end of August?) we should have units for sale. But before we get too far into how it performs, I should give you the basics. The Behmor 1600 is a screen drum based convection roaster for coffee. It has 5 preset temperature/time profiles depending on your own style and tastes. For coffee it can roast up to 1 lb of green coffee. And if that was all it could do (for $300) in cocoa, I probably would not be talking about it here. But since cocoa roasts so much lower than coffee, you can actually roast 2.5 lbs of cocoa (I think I will probably offer this increment) leaving you with about 2 lbs of nibs. The interior is nicely illuminated. You can easily see as the beans (cocoa) start to round and smooth out (an "end of roast" indicator). There is also an afterburner built into the system. You won't be needing it for cocoa, but it does an admirable (albeit not total) job of removing smoke when roasting coffee.

The five profiles that come pre-programmed are as follows. Keep in mind those temperatures are based on a pound of coffee. 2.5 lbs of cocoa keep those temperatures nearly 100-150 F lower - just right for cocoa roasting.

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P1 is a just straight heat. It does get up to 350 (ambient) F, a little warm for some beans, but fine for more robust beans.

P2 I like the best so far. That high initial heat (good for bacteria kill) followed by a nice low heat to delicately roast the beans.

P3-5 work just fine in general. I will have to test them more before I can make any definitive statements.

And with all the profiles, you can of course stop and cool the roast at any point. You don't have to wait for the end of the profile. On a similar note, all the profiles have a maximum time limit (20-23 minutes I believe) which is more than adequate for any bean I have tested without the danger of burning or massively over roasting them.

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Ocumare 2007

The new crop of Ocumare (a delicate Criollo from Venezuela) is in and available. If a few of you want to jump on it, there is a small window of opportunity to taste and compare both crops. There are a few pounds of the Ocumare 2006 left. I have set the limit to 1 pound so a number of people have the chance to compare them. I would expect the supply to be out in a day or so. On the other hand, I do still have some of the 2006 available as Roasted if you want to go that route. In general, the 2007 crop is a little fuller in flavor and in particular has a bit more of a chocolate profile than last years crop but not quite as bright.While I am listing some different beans don't forget about the Ecuador "Nacional". I just roasted some up this weekend and it has maintained a very nice balance of flavors. If anything it may well have improved.

And one other bean that seems to get ignored in light of some of the other really excellent beans is the Papua New Guinea. I know the review reads a little odd, and I really don't mean to drive people away from it. I just don't want people to be surprise by it. But hands down, every response I have received back from it have been positive if not glowing. Please give it a try before it runs out.

And I know there are a lot of people out there eating raw cocoa beans for their health effects.  I don't and won't claim particular health effect one way or the other (I really prefer the taste of roasted beans) but I did want to pass on this bit of information that I received  about the organic Madagascar we have.  It was lightly fermented about 5 days at temperatures not exceeding 120 F.   I have found this has been found to be quite acceptable to many people who follow a raw food diet/way of eating. Finally, I have what I consider some exciting news. There is soon to be (August?) a new drum coffee roaster on the market. How in the world does that affect us roasting cocoa? Well, I have been testing it (the Behmor 1600) for the last couple of weeks and it is doing a GREAT turnkey job roasting 2.5 lbs of cocoa in about 15-20 minutes. It has 5 different temperature profiles and just happens to work great on cocoa. I will be talking a lot more about this, but wanted to give everyone a first glimpse.

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And of course, if you want to get into homemade chocolate and roasting your own coffee, it will be a perfect machine for that.

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New cocoa beans and molds in

We have a new organic 2007 Trinatario from the Dominican Republic in. In many ways it is like the Conacado in that they are from the same origin, but the flavor is a bit richer and the prep is a little cleaner. Check out the full review of the "Hispanola". I also found a new 2 oz bar mold that I decided to offer. A picture is worth a thousand words. (BTW, if you didn't know, clicking on the picture will give you a full size version). smallbar.JPG

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Credit Cards now accepted!

What you say, I didn't accept them before? No we didn't. Don't all business's accept credit cards? Most "normal" ones do, but are we normal?Believe it or not, no, we didn't. But we have jumped through the appropriate hoops, filled out the appropriate forms and listened to your requests to accept credit cards some way other than Paypal (we will still accept Paypal). Will now be accepting them via Authorize.net.

authorize.bmp I FULLY expect there to be some problems. Aren't there always with these things that are supposed to make our life easier? Rest assured, there is and always will be a live person behind everything that goes on here. If you find a problem, can't get your card to go through or anything else unexpected happens, please let me (Alchemist John) know as soon as you can.

On a final practical note, your card will not be charged until we ship your order.

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New Flat Rate Shipping Worldwide

The US postal service has changed (and simplified they say) the international shipping rates.  Surface rates have not been eliminated, but in their place, they have added a Flat Rate box option.  In general, we can fit 8 lbs of cocoa beans into a Flat rate box, but a few other items.  We have eliminated the "cocoa beans only" restriction and will see how it works.  If you know the size of the flat rate box and know a product will not fit, please be considerate and don't choose that option.  Our software is not fool proof.  Rates: USA:  $ 8.80

Canada:  $24.00

International: $38.00

Believe it or not, that really is a savings (8 lbs to the UK for instance would be almost $50.00).  The draw back is that there is no insurance or tracking available, so there is a trade off.

In other news, we have a great new Dominican Republic cocoa bean on the way, and one from Tabasco in a month or so.  I am REALLY looking forward to the one from Tabasco (not that I am not looking forward to the DR).  It has the most delicate husk, and you can actually peel it by hand. Just paper thin.  And the flavor is like nothing I have offered before.  Notes of cedar, nuts and some savoriness that is best described as the  Umami.  That may not sound like it would taste right in chocolate, but it does.

Finally, within the next week or so, once we have tested it of course, we will be officially be accepting credit cards.  Right now it is only through Paypal.  The Paypal option will remain, but we determined it was time (way past time) to make the jump.

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Just in time for Mother's day

skull21.jpg Ok, not exactly the perfect Mother's Day mold.  They were meant to be, but the mold company forgot a zero (hey, what's a zero anyway - it's nothing), so we have a limited supply (5 actually) of these.  Not normally what I would offer, cut upon seeing them, they do have a nice bit of detail. On another note, we have sold out of the timer model of the Melanger very quickly.  I hope everyone got one that wanted one.  We still have plenty of the on/off switch models.

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