Updates


Daily musings and writings from the Alchemist

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Holiday wishes from Chocolate Alchemy

It’s been a busy and enjoyable year here at Chocolate Alchemy and it seemed to fly right by. There have been a lot of ups and downs, and I appreciated everyone's patience and understanding when the ride got a little bumpy.I really and truly appreciate that so many of you stop by every day.  2008 was a  good year and I believe 2009 will be even better. When the economy is changing as it is now and so many news stories sound gloomy, all I see is tremendous opportunity and I’m looking forward to it and I hope you are, too.

Especially during these holidays, show some extra appreciation to those around you, relax a little, smile a lot and offer encouragement wherever it’s needed. I wish all of you the absolute best holiday season possible no matter how you choose to celebrate. Life is good, enjoy it!

Thanks Your Humble Servent

Alchemist John

Chocolate Alchemy

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Elections are over, but life goes on

Why do I write titles to these things?  Not really sure, except it is a field to fill in.  Oy, slave to the machine. But, the elections are indeed over, and regardless of who you voted for, we have a new President (elect).  I actually don't keep abreast of politics all that much.  Maybe a sin, maybe not.  I have heard all about the financial crisis we are in, and you know what?  In many ways, I can't say I notice it.  Business is a little slow, but by not listening about it every day (just don't have time for news news news) it seems to me I don't get sucked into thinking about it, don't feed it, and it just isn't that bad.

What in the world does that have to do with chocolate?  Business more like it and doing things we enjoy.  I want you to enjoy life.  I want you to do something you enjoy.  I want to help you do it.  In many places, you might be expecting me to 'spin' something really big about now.  Well, it isn't that big.  But it is something.

I am hoping to entice you just a little bit into getting into chocolate making.  I have looked over the books, and dropped a few prices here and there (I will tell you which ones later, right now you just have to look around).  I have also dropped the our overhead rate on shipping (the handling part), so for anything you buy, shipping will be less ($1-2 on average).  Over the next month I am going to look at a few other items and see what I can shave some off of (5-10%).  I am doing this mostly to convince you it isn't all doom and gloom and it is only as bad as you make it out to be.  You know me by now.  I do what feels right, and not always was is considered orthodox.  Oh well.

The biggest drop I have made is the one item I have the most sweat equity invested in, and so have to most wiggle room.  If you have been thinking about the Behmor, now is a good time.  My hands are tied on the new ones, but the refurbished ones I have dropped to $199 (OOHHHH, notice the subtle marketing, under $200, AAHHHH - sorry, couldn't resist) and reduced the shipping weight in half, so that is another $10-20 right there.

Oh, and for the holidays, we have added Gift Certificates.

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The Ultra Melanger

Update: After a few final tests this weekend, I have finished up the review and photos. Pluses and minuses, but overall a good product.

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So what is the same?

They have 110 V, 1/4 hp motors They refine in about the same time. They look a lot a like. The bowl is not dishwasher safe.

What is better?

Steel parts. Lighter wheels. Easier handling. 1 year warranty. In limited tests it seems to grinds nibs into liqueur a little better and faster. A little quieter

What is worse?

It is a little more expensive. The shaft has a small gap at the bottom that can trap unrefined chocolate (but scraps out ok). The half cover is a little awkward. You can’t taste the chocolate easily with it running. It flings chocolate a bit due to the cant of the wheels.

Do I like the Santha or Ultra better? You tell me. I am still undecided.

_________________

I want to give people a first look at the Ultra Melanger.  I will have more detailed pictures up over the weekend and will address any questions people have.  Right now, the biggest question I am getting is "Do you recommend the Ultra over the Santha?"  In a nutshell, no, I am not 'recommending' either above the other.  Both do the the job - both have their quirks.  I leave it to you to decide which is right for you.

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Back, open and caught up

That about says it all.  I am back from my trip.  It went well.  I am a bit jet lagged, but orders are all caught up and out.  Likewise, I think I have answered all emails.  If you did not recieve an answer to one, plus nudge me as I somehow overlooked it. That's it for now.  Something of a little more substance later in the week.

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Closing for a trip

We will be closed from October 16 - October 24.  I will be traveling in China during that time.  I will not be checking email, orders, correspondence, etc during that time.  I will be leaving the shopping cart and store on, but obviously, shipping will not resume until the week of the 27 th. On a different front, Penelope (my partner) had a follow up MRI for her cancer and there are no new problems.  Healing is underway and the tumors are shrinking well, although medication side effects are 'fun'.

And on the chocolate front, when I get back, I will be offering up a new Melanger for sale.  Ultra has noted what Santha has been doing and offered to send me a modified one for evaluation.  It has a few quirks and differences, but nothing that would keep me from offering it.  It will retail or $399 but will come with a 1 year warranty and a metal center hub.  Not to be out done (not that they knew), Santha will be offering metal hubs on the next shipment of Melangers (plus a higher price tag, about to the $399 range).

That's all for now.  Catch you on the flip side of my trip.

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Returning to normal

Well, that may be a little exaggeration, but maybe not.  It isn't normal yet, but we are getting there.  I want to thank everyone who has written, called, and sent their good wishes and blessings.  Penelope is do well so far.  Orders are now caught up.  Many people said they would withhold orders until we were better set.  We are pretty much there.  I expect turn-around times to remain just a little long, but nothing like they were the past month. On the cocoa front, I have added a few beans onto the Wholesale  side, will be adding the FT Ghana very soon, and the larger Melangers are in and available.  There is will a hiatus on these and the Alchemist Stone Melangers starting the week of September 8 and lasting about a month.  If you want one, now is the time to get it.  Santha will be closed during that time and no shipping will occur for these, and knowing Santha, I would not be surprised if it is November before they ship again.

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Gamma Knife

I want to thank everyone for all the emails, comments, notes of support and complete understanding of our situation here.  It is appreciated more than words can say.  Penelope is doing well.We have been away for 2+ days now at the Gamma knife Center for treatment.  The actual treatment was very short and all went according to plan, so we are very positive and happy about that.  The treatment with the Gamma Knife was amazing.  Alchemy in it's own way.  The people there were even more amazing with their care and real caring.

I don't see myself getting to any orders until this weekend.  I need to tie up loose ends, get everything in order, etc.  If all goes right everything should be shipped Monday.  Right now I know a few of you have UPS notifications but  that is all.  All this means is that I was able to process the order, create the label, and get it on the packing bench.  Normally that all happens in one day, but in this case, you can see it didn't and they remain on the bench.

Again, thank you for your understanding.  Hopefully something resembling normalcy will return soon.

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I beg your patience and understanding

I realize this almost starts to sound like variations of a theme, and I HATE making excuse, but here it is anyway. Shipping of orders are backlogged about a week, and in all likelihood, turn around time will suffer in the immediate future for an undetermined amount of time. We'll fit in packing where we can. If you find errors in your order or shipment, please let me know and we'll fix them as quickly as we can.

Why? No computer problems, too many irons in the fire or anything like that. This time, life/fate/ill luck/whatever through my family a MAJOR curve ball last week.

Without going into huge amounts of history, the situation is this. My partner/wife/lifemate (Penelope) has had a re-occurance of the Melanoma (cancer) that she battled three years ago. It has metastasized to her brain as tumors, is affecting her motor skills, which has stopped her from driving, and we are hip deep in diagnosis, treatment options etc. Doctors have put her "on the fast track" for treatment.

My family is my first priority. We are keeping our routines and daily rhythm as much the same as possible for our seven year old daughter, who knows little about this so far, but is also very worried. I hope you understand, and if you do not, I am sorry. I contemplated simply closing up shop for a few weeks, but she has urged me not to do that. So I am doing this instead. Asking your support, patience and understanding.

Feel free to write, order, ask questions, etc, just like normal. I WILL answer and do my best but it will be slow.

Thank you.

John

A very stressed, scared, worried husband, papa and alchemist.

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All good

Ok, it appears the store, email, computer and other items of the modern age are back working ok (for the moment). E-mail seems a little slow, but there are no indications that anything was lost. Then again, how would I know I guess. If you have written over the weekend and not heard back, then most likely it was lost to the ether - drop me a line here to let me know and/or try again. And we received in the 1 oz bar molds, and sold out almost immediately. More should be in a couple weeks from now.

On a different note, we have begun to implement Shipping Notifications.  I am still getting used to the software interface.  Here are a few 'rules' to note.

1)  Tracking numbers will be supplied when UPS and UPS only is chosen.

2)  There will be no tracking numbers for USPS (part of the reason USPS is cheaper - less 'extras'), even International. 3)  Tracking numbers for drop shipped items will not be given in the Shipping notification.  Only that they order has been placed with the drop ship supplier (Melanger, Champion Juicer and Cocoa mill).

Enjoy.

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Computers - Updated

Hi all. Through a number of really annoying coincidences, we are having computer "issues" all over the place. My apologies in advance if orders are a few days late. We have having intermittent computer interface connection problems, a computer power supply trying to die, an email system with download difficulties and them all occurring together. It's making the routine job of answering email (don't worry, none is being lost) and processing orders very trying and taking way longer than it should. Aside from that, due to popular request, we again have Deodorized cocoa butter available (at a raise price due to transport and fuel costs - it's everywhere isn't it). And yes, we are out of quite a few molds. Those will all be back in stock in a week or so.

UPDATE:

E-mail is back up, but UHG, it looks like both the retail and wholesale store is down.  Yet again, Believe it or Not, totally unrelated to the above issues.  No ETA at the moment for time back up.

Sorry folks - working on it.

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Away for the weekend

Hi folks.  I will be away for the weekend, out of town, and Chocolate Alchemy, that really doesn't have set hours, will be closed.  I will leave email and the shopping cart turned on, but unlike the standard sub 24 hour response you usually get for email, and 2-3 day turnaround for orders, both are on hold until I return on Tuesday.  Then it will be catch up time, so you may see up to a week delay in the next week.  All orders currently in will go out today.  All e-mails currently in have been answered. And that price increase I mentioned in the previous entry - turns out it will happen, but not so bad.  The company started listing prices per their minimum groupings.  So the $3 mold with a minimum of 5 was listed as $15.

Until next week....

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New arrivals and other musings

The new cocoa beans from Madagascar and Ghana from Kuapa Kokoo have arrived and are available. At nearly the same time we have run out of the two lots of Conacado. I hope if you wanted to try the difference in each lot you got your chance and that it was illuminating how fermentation can affect the flavor profile. I have also decided to (temporarily) discontinue carrying the deodorized cocoa butter. The prices have just gone through the roof. If you or need a source, please let me know and I will be happy to offer it again, but over all, it simply did hold a candle to the Natural cocoa butter sales (like 20:1). Similarly, the next set of 2 oz bar molds will be a small test. Their price is about to go radically up. I am not sure why the supplier decide this mold would TRIPLE in price, but it has. They will be about $10 for the hobby grade and nearly $20 for the Professional grade. They are one of my favorite molds, but I will let sales dictate if they are kept around.

As for musing, I have a batch of Conacado (yes, I kept the last few pounds) milk chocolate going. I have been experimenting with using the Melanger to do all the grinding work. What I have found is if you melt the cocoa butter for your recipe (about 20% in this case) and start it in the Melanger, you can add all the well winnowed nibs (about, about 2 pounds) with nary a problem. They all went in within one minute are were all ground within about 20 minutes (not smooth, just flowing). A far cry from direct grinding them in small handfuls over the space of an hour. The flow was so vigorous that I went ahead and added the milk powder in immediately to keep the butter/nib mixture from spinning right out of the bowl! And here is something I want to look into some more. I happen to taste the sugarless mixture while scraping down the sides of the melanger. I was pleasantly surprised about how good it tasted. I know there is natural sugar in milk (lactose at about 42% dry weight), but even so. I can see now my next batch will be a sugarless milk chocolate experiment.

Finally, were have DVD's by the Chocolate Doctor back in stock.  We were out of stock of volumes 2 & 3 for a while.

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Hickory Smoked Bacon Chocolate

Did I get your attention? Ok, the new Papua New Guinea isn't quite like that, but it is the first thing I thought of when smelling the freshly roasted nibs after winnowing. Go check out the full review.We are also taking orders for the Spectra 20 and Spectra 40 Grinders. Please read about the Warranty before ordering. They should be in early next month. Your order will reserve you one but we will not charge your credit card until they ship. And please note, the Spectra 40 is 250 lbs and takes a freight deliverable address.

Finally, we now are offering a complete list of Spare Parts for the Alchemist's Stone Melanger. And we have had machined a set of metal hub and cap for the Melanger for those that want one that can handle heat and more pressure.

metalcenter1_medium.jpg      metalcenter_medium.jpg

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New Label and New Products

The first thing is that we are transitioning into some new labels. Will it affect the flavor of the product? Nope. Why do it? Well, it's been 5 years with basic labels, we finished our taxes (yeah, wild round of applause for all of you who did also), have decided will stay in business (like there was really any question) and simply wanted a new and sharper look. For a while you will see both labels as we work out logistics. For now, they will be on the new products.sugar10.jpg With that in mind, we have 3 new products. Two types of milk powder (Goat and Soy) and an Organic/Fair Trade Cane sugar. The Goat Milk Powder is a whole milk powder and from Meyenburg. The Soy Milk Powder is "Better than Milk". The Cane Sugar is from Wholesome Sweeteners. It is considered unrefined because refined and organic don't seem to play well together, but it has a very neutral flavor. new3.jpg I also have a very limited supply (about 20) of some very heavy duty commercial molds. They are what I am calling "Aztec" molds. 72 cavity 0.2 oz trapezoidal shapes. When they are gone, they are gone.

Finally, look for a couple new beans next month. A piquant and smoky Papua New Guinea and some Fair Trade Ghana again. And maybe (don't hold your breath, but do cross your fingers) some more Ocumare from Venezuela.

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Chocolate Making 101

My dear partner Penelope put this together, noting that so far there is not one single page outlining the entire chocolate making procedure start to finish.  Well, now there is. Chocolate Making at Home 101

It won't give you everything you need in detail (hence the '101') but gives a great overview.  For all the detailed information follow the links under Alchemist's Notebook to the right.

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New Origin and Water FAQ

Every week I field questions about the necessity of the Melanger and whether the sugar can dissolved in "just a little" water to eliminate a step. Basically, you can't do that. Or more to the point, if you do, what you will end up with is not classic chocolate. This Water and Chocolate FAQ gives a bit more detail. Also, we have a new cocoa bean in and with it comes a new origin. We now have a full bodied, peppery, Fair trade certified bean (very important here) from the Ivory Coast. That's right - the infamous Ivory Coast. I refused to even taste Ivory Coast samples without a guarantee of the conditions of the harvest (meaning the workers). Being Fair Trade takes care of that. With that in place, this is a great time to taste a new origin and some different flavors. Go check out the Review.

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Melangers and Shipping

The new Melangers are in and all back orders have been filled. Also, all the larger units (Spectra 20 and 40) have been sold. There will be more in around May. If you would like to reserve a unit (or more), please contact me via email. The Spectra 20 is $1000 and the Spectra 40 is $1600. Both prices include s/h for the 48 USA states. As for shipping, rates may look a little confusing for a bit. We are in the middle of implementing live UPS and USPS rates, so the choices may look odd until we fully implement. For instance you may have the following as a set of options: UPS Ground $7.85

USPS Flat rate $9.00

4-5 lbs $8.45

UPS 3 day Select $17.56

That  third one is our current system but would still ship UPS (unless you have a PO Box of course).  The others are real live rates.  Choose whatever you want (who am I to say you can't pay more in shipping if you want ).  One caveat and sincere request.  Please make sure your shipping address is correct.  We (the developer and I)  have found a bug that if you have a typo in your address (Cresthill vs Crest hill for instance) the software will return a lower than actual value (not sure why, that is why it is a bug).  If that happens you will see a double charge on your credit card when your order is shipped as the shipping amount is adjusted.

Also, on other caveat, I am leaving the various Rush shipping options available, but PLEASE contact me know if you need something fast.  Right now if you were to choose Next Day Air, I  would ship it Next Day Air BUT can NOT guarantee  it would go out the same or next business day - the 48-72 hour shipping rule of thumb still applies.  I will bend over backwards to TRY and get it out the next day (we never ship same day without notice - orders from the previous day are packed the day after they come in at the earliest) but communication is the key.  We don't get that many rush orders, but I thought you should be informed.

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Melangers are in

The newest shipment of Melangers have arrived in port. They are available and we are taking orders but they won't ship until next week sometime due to back logs. And for those paying attention, Santha has requested that they be referred to as Spectra now. It's the same item. And look for more information about the Spectra 20's and 40's this weekend.

Update:

Both lots (2033 and 2404) of Dominican Republic Conacado are now available also, plus a small special where you can order a 1lb of each at a discount.

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