Updates


Daily musings and writings from the Alchemist

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Moving and subsequent closing dates

Dec 23 update - All orders that have come in have now been packed and are ready to shipped.  I am going to go ahead and close up shop until the new year.  Drop ships (champions, Melangers, cocoa mills) and gift certificates can still go out.  Everything else, unless I just happen to have it out still, will wait until the turn of the year.  E-mail is still up, so if you need help or a question answered, I am still here. I wish everyone a great and prosperous holiday and new year.  And thank you for all you have done to help and support me in this very trying year.

Alchemist John ------------- I and my daughter are moving 'into town'.  What that means is that Chocolate Alchemy is moving also.

What does this mean for you, my customers?  As I always do, I will be leaving the shopping cart turned on, but after Dec 23 will be the last day I will be shipping before then turn of the year.  Everything has to be packed up, broken down, moved 60 miles, put back up in good order, internet connections made, etc, etc etc.  I figure it will take about a week.  Maybe shorter, maybe longer.  It will take how ever long it takes in other words.

Keep the emails and questions coming.  I will try to keep down time to a minimum as well as turn around times, but delays are bound to happen.

So, official dates for closing are December 24 - January 3, with the 4-11th to catch back up.

Happy holidays everyone.

Alchemist John

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On the way back up

OK, I have a working system again, but don't have access to a number of files and e-mails I use.  But orders are going out, I am catching up on e-mails and e-mails are coming in. In the event you have written to me in the last week, give me a week or so to respond.  After that, if you have not heard back from me, please write again.

In the mean time, the new crop of Papua New Guinea is in.  Still smokey, but a little more mellow this year.

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If it is not one thing, it is another

I woke up  this morning to a blue screen of death.  To those that don't instantly get the meaning of that, some 'part' of my primary computer died overnight.  I am posting this on an emergency back up computer at an offsite system.  I don't have ANY email access, and the ability to process or ship any orders for the time being is uncertain.  You are welcome to place orders though.   

I will be attempting to get the orders out that came in last week, but I can't promise anything at the moment.  As you have SOOOO many times before, please bare with me.

Again, I have no email, so can't update anyone on anything except through this medium.

Thanks.

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New items

Due to some prompting from, Santha is now making a Stainless Still hub for the Alchemist's Stone Melanger.  I have 9 available.  Caps will be available after the turn of the year. Also, the friuty  Madagascar is back in stock.  And I finally have in 100% Organic whole milk powder.  Look for it over the weekend.  I will put up the link then.

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Nibs now available

OK, you say that they have always been available.  Well, true and not true.  I have always offered them up to 5 lbs and never as wholesale.  That now changes.  There are Wholesale Nibs now available.  Consider it a test run.  Partly, do they sell, or inversely, if they do, can I keep up. Why am I offering them now?  Well, I have the feeder on my prototype winnower (don't worry beta testers, i have not forgotten you - life just because .....challenging) and I it is currently doing over 2 kg/min.  The best run today (out of 180 lbs of beans in two hours) was 13 lbs of beans in 4.5 mins at a recovery of 80.7%.  Damn fine.

Also, please do read about the pricing.  At first glance they look a bit more expensive than you might expect.  Remember the work involved and that 20% husk is being removed.  Read it over.

And some stock updates.  Sadly, the Carenero Superior fell though.  Sorry all who were as excited as I.  Someone got to it before i could and took the lot.  The new crop of Papua New Guinea should be in this week, and it is a kinder, gentler (for hickory smoked bacon cocoa) cocoa.  A little more depth of flavor than last year.  Also, the Don Homero from Ecuador is also gone.  I hope those that wanted to try it, did try it.  It was unique.  Hopefully it comes around again.  And finally, I just want to pitch the Tanzanian.  I know it doesn't winnow well (even with the new winnower and feeder) but it is really worth the trouble of roasting it yourself.  Check the review out.  There are no signs of the webs mentioned, that I might just take that out of the review.

That's it for now.

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Server issues and something novel

Hey folks.  Hang tight.  Many of you have noticed and let me know the site has been down off and on the last few days.  It may continue to happen for a few more days while we work it out.  Actually, we run off two servers - one for content and one for the store and inventory.  The store is, has been and will continue to be up.  The direct link should you want it is http://shop.chocolatealchemy.com/. Also, a couple things to look forward to in the near future.  I will be offering Roasted cocoa (in moderate amounts, less than wholesale) and possibly, if I can work out, a roasted bean of the week where you can just get a couple pounds.  Let me know what you think about these ideas.

And I have a very nice sample of Venezuelan Carenero Superior.  Quite rummy and deep chocolate flavors.   Good clean and even prep.   I am going to be trying something just a little new on this for a short time.  Pre-orders.  Both large and small - and the incentive will be price.  So, make me interested in putting this together and let me know if you like the idea and would pre-order for something like a 25% discount off the list price once it arrives.  This includes full bags.  It's a really great bean and I want people to get it and love it.  Drop me an e-mail or a note here if you might be interested.  An e-mail if you might like a bag and want more details.  And don't worry - there will be more details.  I am just testing the waters at the moment.  Let me know if they are cold or warm.

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Inventory updates

Well, the Peru sold out the same day I said it was in short supply.  I was just about to put up the same 'low stock' warning about the Papua New Guinea, but alas, it is actually all gone.I have a sample of  Papua New Guinea in from the current crop that I like a lot.  Look for it in a few weeks I suspect.  A touch less smokey and a little more balanced and with more depth of flavor.  More later on that.

We have also run out of deodorized cocoa butter.  At this moment, I don't know when I will get more in.  I have to find a better supplier.  The one for the last batch kept playing price and money games and I don't have time or patience to play games.Oh, and some/most of the individual post links and possible the comments here are not currently working.  I know about it.  Just have to work out some server issues. That goes for some of the other other main header links (FAQ, Contact, etc).  Have to work out where the file path is wrong on the new server.  Thanks for you patience.

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Stock changes

We are just about out of the delicate and soft Peru.  No, I don't know if any more will be coming in any time soon.  So, if you have not tried it and have been thinking about it, now is the time.  It probably will not be around next week. The same is true with the Deodorized Cocoa butter.  There are a few pounds left and I am not sure when or if more will be back.  The last supplier was not true to his word and I just won't be getting more there, regardless of how nice it was.  Oh, and the Natural cocoa butter is currently back ordered about a week.  It is on the way, but my little Internet outage a couple weeks ago disrupted that supply train and so it's running behind.  The site shows it in stock - just be aware it isn't but will be next week. Roasted Beans: This area has been empty quite a while.  Look for it getting filled this week.  There will be 10 lb and 25 lb amounts of most of beans we carry (no Peru of course).  These are roasted in a large drum roaster, and 5 lbs may be problematical as I don't want roasted beans setting around getting stale, but nor do I want to just toss them.  Proverbial rock and a hard place.  What do people think of a "Roasted bean of the week" on a set schedule so you can plan ahead?  If that were to work out, I could even offer 1 lb and up.  I may try that.  Give me input.

For the last 5 years I have tried to ship out in a fast and timely manner.   Generally 2-3 days, many orders went out the next day.  That record has mostly gone away with the death of Penelope, my wife.  Although the Order confirmations don't reflect this (yet - but soon), right now I am packing and shipping orders once a week, on the weekends.  It is simply all I can do.  Hopefully you understand.  Regardless, it is how it is.  In a few months, it may change - or not.  Only time will tell.

Finally, the Winnower.  It is mostly at a standstill development wise, although it is getting good use and I am collecting lots of data as to what works and what does not.  I am not advertising, except  this little note for the moment, but I am willing to accept larger orders of nibs (over the 5 lb maximum) currently.  Turn around time is 7-14 days (noting I am only shipping once a week) but I am here to meet your needs and if you need 10 or 20 or 30 lbs of raw (sorry, not roast yet) nibs, drop me an email and we can set up the specifics.  The only catch is that for that amount I will be charging a winnowing fee.  Generally $1-1.5/lb.  Under 5 lbs is still free.

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Back up

That says it.  We are back in the game.  Parts arrived, systems are restored, and orders and e-mails are being caught up on. If you emailed and don't get a reply by Tuesday, please e-mail again.

Also, if you find any oddities on the site (new ones) please let me know.

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'Don Homero' from Ecuador

There is a new bean available from an origin I have not had in a while.  Ecuador.  It is processed in quite a novel and good way.  Sort of semi-washed.  Check out the review and all about it. 'Don Homero' Ecuador

Other than that, as to be expected, things are quite rough around here currently.  I will update the official times soon (in my spare time - inside joke there) but right now I am only packing and shipping on the weekends.  I hope everyone understands.

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Important Update

John asked me to post a quick note that he's suffered some major power damage to his modem and is offline for up to the next week with no way to respond to orders or update the site. please sit tight. nothing will be lost or overlooked but he cannot currently get access to the internet.

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Penelope Jacob - 10/12/67 - 09/03/09

I and my family are going to something that many have gone through, and make it through, but we have not.  It will undoubtedly affect Chocolate Alchemy.  To what degree, I have no idea.  I am not closing like when Penelope (my partner) had melanoma treatments, but I will say I will most likely be less responsive than I have been.  And I am not yet sure how long it will last.  Some length of time.  I hope of the shorter scale, but longer than I want. Penelope died yesterday, September 3, 2009 of  respiratory failure due to complications of open brain surgery (performed a month ago that I never mentioned, to remove melanoma tumors) and the result of untreated  melanoma tumors still in her brain.

I've lost my wife, am a single parent now of a beautiful 8 (very soon to be 9) year old daughter, run Chocolate Alchemy, a small farm, work 40 hours outside of here 60 miles away.

Things will be changing.  The farm will be sold.  We will be moving closer to the day job and where my daughter goes to school.  I have to get a grip on not having half of myself.  And I want and I think  need to keep running Chocolate Alchemy.

If you are wondering if you should hold off orders (to save me work, or because you don't like the potential for delays), all I can say is I love Chocolate Alchemy.  Orders may well get behind.  They might not.  I personally would prefer you order, ask me questions and just keep life moving forward, because it is going to regardless, and if it is what I recognize, or am at least familiar with, all the better.

I know there is more I want to write here, but that is it for now.  If you want or need to know something, please ask.

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New arrivals & Chocolate Formulator

Madagascar will be back in stock early next week.  I also have a brand new semi-washed (more on that later) Ecuador that is full of clean graham cracker and malt flavors.  A couple weeks after that I am going to be offering up four of the current stock as roasted (with small minimums) and see how that goes. And finally the stock of refurbished Behmors is quickly dwindling but also I am not able to repair them at the speed I want (Penelope is p. rehab after another surgery, so spare time is a myth) but I getting a couple here and there.

The winnower?  Not much with that spare time myth, but I do have a new cracker/mill in mind that I hope to couple with the winnower.

But in a spat of free time, I finished up a Chocolate Formulator in Excel I have used for some time now.  You can down load it and them discuss it over in the Forum or down load it directly below.

Chocolate Alchemy Formulator 

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220-240 V Behmors now available

We have set up an arrangement with the UK distributor of the Behmor to drop ship 220-240 V models for us.  More details are on the Behmor page.  I am now about 2/3 of the way through my refurbished unit waiting list and expect to have them generally available in about a month.  Unfortunately we are now out of the small grid cylinders.

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Winnower progress

I did  a bit more fine tuning  today, plus a whole bunch of observations.   I found for the current design, nib introduction, speed, quantity, angle of attack to the air stream and dispersion all have a significant affects on the maximum rate that material can be fed and possibly more importantly, how well separation is achieved.  Also, origin, cracking and type of cocoa all affect the final yield and separation.  137 lbs of beans (100 lbs of nibs) and  3 hours later I can make these observations. Panama is a dream to winnow.  It cracks very evenly.  The husk is small and I was able to introduce the nib/husk mixture at a rate of nearly 2 lbs/min with 75.6% yield and virtually no visable husk in the nibs.

Ghana is pretty good, but the heavier husk of the Forastero like to stay in larger pieces.  Separation was still high at 75.5%, but I could see about 0.5 to 1% husk in the nibs.

Madagascar was difficult.  It is a drier than average bean, so powdered a little more than I expected.  Consequently, the separation was ok with very little visible husk in the nibs, but yield was down to 69%.

Next on the drawing board is the feed mechanism.  It's technically drawn up, but I need to build it next.  After that, I want to experiment a little with the primary chamber design shape.  I was noticing the beginning of some nice circular flow patterns and I am curious is modifying the chamber shape to encourage these might allow me to further increase my feed rate while maintaining a high yield.

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Back to what passes for normal

I am back in town, catching up on orders, e-mails, repairs and prototype winnower building, plus all the other day to day stuff. I have quite the back log of people on a waiting list for refurbished Behmors, so for the moment, I will no longer be adding people to the waiting list.  I need to dig out instead of just making a longer list, because at the rate requests are coming in I will never catch up.  So, again, no more waiting list for Behmors.  I will catch up and fulfill everyone that is one it, and then make them available in general.

That's it for now.

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Winnower update and closing dates

Winnower:  The winnower is apart, modified, and on the way back to being put back together.  Winnower V.1.2.  It has a more optimized flow path for both the beans and nibs and the introduction point is now optimized.  The plan for V.1.3 is the automated feed mechanism and closed catch basic for the nibs.  After that,  V.2.1 gets built out of metal, and I start working out manufacturing possibilities for the beta units. Closing:  I will be out of town from June 22 to July 9.  E-mail will be very limited.  I will be in Florida dealing with my mother's estate.  As always, I will leave the store open but no orders will ship until the week after July 9.  I will have all orders complete that are currently in house.

Refurbished Behmors:  I am about 3/4 through the waiting list.  Everyone who has asked to be put on or before May 30 has been notified of available units.  Check your email dates.  If you wrote me before May 30, but did not get a notice, please write me as you should have.  A number of people have not responded, so I moved on down the list.

Cocoa butter:  Deodorized Cocoa butter is available.  Unfortunately the supplier and Chocolate Alchemy are not working out, so this is only temporary.

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Winnower prototype finished and working

So, how many of you have been hoping for an announcement like this?  I know I certainly have been.  It's all 2x4's, plywood, plexiglass and dryer duct, but it works, and is letting me play around with subtle variations to optimize it.  The plexiglass is a must for seeing what is going on - plus it's just plain cool.  Here's a number of photos that really don't tell you a whole lot.  I am keeping a few details under wraps until I decide the direction I am going to take this.  Be it general plans, paid plans, custom built winnowers or some combination of the above. So, the cracked beans go in  entrance.jpg     "winnowing happens".  Nibs come out.  nib-exit-2.jpg like this nib-exit.jpg

Husk gets captured   husktrap.jpg This is the husk from 40 lbs of test nibs.  I am particularly happy with this husk trap system.  Worked exactly as i wanted.  No husk into the blower wheel at all.  A touch of dust dust.jpg but again, that is all the dust associated with 40 lbs of nibs. What is left is husk husk.jpg and nibs nib.jpg.  In a nice close up, you can see virtually no husk in the nibs. nib-closeup.jpg

I am getting anywhere from 72 - 80 % recovery, depending on the bean variety.  That translates to nearly perfect winnowing at about 1 lb/min.  And there appears to be no nibs at all making it into the husk trap.  Currently I am hand feeding the nibs, but I will be adding a Crankandstein to the top and hooking it to a variable speed dril.

What's next?  Refine the design.  Make it in metal.  Probably offer up prototypes for sale to beta testers.  Drop me a line if you are interested.  I don't have an ETA for that.  A few months at least.  In the short term I am going to hammer out the details of a Winnowing Service for Wholesale orders.  Under 5 lbs retail will still be free, but over that I will charge a nominal fee to produce the nibs (which I don't even do right now).

On a slightly different, but related note, the Tanzanian cocoa  is in.  And in some tests yesterday I found out the raw nibs do not crack and winnow well.  Something about just a touch higher moisture causing the husks not to crack off well.  I am seeing about 50% waste from winnowing.  With that in mind, I will not be offering this bean as a raw nib.  It roasts up and winnows just fine that way, but not the other way around.

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Roasting

While roasting up my samples of the up coming Tanzanian cocoa (it's in - look for it over the weekend), I noticed how picture perfect it roasted up.  They went from a slightly rough surface to a nice smooth surface.  Just what you want to aim for.  Also, unlike coffee, note there is not really any color change.  It is virtually all texture. roasted-vs-unroasted.jpg

If it isn't obvious, the roasted is on the left.

And, just to see the more in context, here they are just out of the Behmor.

unroasted.jpg  roasted.jpg This time the roasted is on the right.  And for those that want to know, this was done on P1, 1 lb setting, 16:15 minutes on the Behmor.  2.25 lb roast size.

Oh, and to comment about the Behmor, the refurbished units, the waiting list, etc.  I have a stock of roasters in.  I am about 1/2 way through the waiting list.  I have plenty of parts.  Due to increased shipping costs, I am only offering for free either beans (coffee and cocoa) or a small grid drum.  Not both.

Related to when Behmors will be available again to everyone who wants one, I will be out of town from the 22nd to July 10 to handle my mom's estate.   No shipping or repairs during that time.  Limited email.  Very similar to when she actually died and I had to shut down.  Behmors should be available mid July.

Take care folks.

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