Updates


Daily musings and writings from the Alchemist

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Venezuelan Criollo

Edit:  In addition to the Patanemo I put up yesterday, the 2nd Criollo, Mantuano, is also now available.  Enjoy my friends. Also, as you know, I don't traditionally push any products here.  And really this is no exception, as really I'm just passing along a product that I love.  Whole cocoa beans wrapped in three layers of chocolate - Dark, milk and white.  It is so much more than the whole.  If you are looking for something really special for the holidays, you have just enough time to get some ordered I think.  Cocoa Puro Kakawa chocolate covered Cocoa beans. ___________ I have a beautiful Patanemo (I love how that rolls off the tongue) Criollo in from Venezuela.  Delicate hints of gardenia and apple.  I only have a single bag, so check it out and don't let it pass you by if you want to try it.

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Technical difficulties

We are having some computer difficulties the day or so and orders are being slightly delayed.  Hopefully all should be cleared up in another day.  If you have not seen your order confirmations or shipping notifications come through, this is why.  No orders or emails  have been lost - just delayed.

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New Melanger warranty policy

New Melanger Policy This is for the Santha Melanger, that I modified for use some 7 years ago, and carried no warranty at that time.  A couple years ago, a limited short warranty was added.  This is now a pretty standard 1 year warranty for the contiguous 48 USA states.  The others and international are warrantied for DOA defects and of course shipping damage.   I'm quite pleased to see the change and trust in the product.

There will be a couple new Venezuelan beans arriving in a couple weeks.  A smooth, mildly spicy, delicate Patenamo and a buttery Mantuano - and both Criollo stock.

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Ocumare pre-orders

I am putting together part of a container of Ocumare.  If you have a need of wholesale quantities, anywhere from one bag to...as much as you want, email me.  I will be offering a 10% discount for pre-orders for anything over a bag.In addition, there is the option of adding in some other Venezuelan beans (Carenero for instance) that if you would like to pre-order some, those could come along for the same discount. Just email me at Alchemist at Chocolate Alchemy dot com.    No spaces...you know the routine.

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Nazario Risek

**Note**  For the last week, the wrong review has been up for Nazario Risek - An older Carenero Superior review got put in and I discovered it morning.  So, if you looked before, please have another look.  It is not too unlike Carenero in many ways, but it is not the same bean.....wondering that no one mentioned it....The new cocoa bean from the Dominican Republic is in.  It is from Nazario Risek and is Fair Trade and Organic.  It's a bit more evenly prepped than Conacado and likewise a little less acidic and more earthy.

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Odds and ends

The drawings of the newest (and hopefully final) version of the deluxe cracker have been sent to the shop for quoting and production.  Maybe I'll get some quick photos up to show it off. There is a new bean from the Dominican Republic in.  It will be up and available over the weekend.  It has a richness, and umami not unlike Carenero Superior, and quite a bit different than Conacado.

And just something to consider - Unsweetened Milk chocolate.  I made some the other day as a special request (yes I do take and fulfill some special requests) and it was surprisingly good.  The lactose from the milk powder is quite a bit of sugar actually and it was interesting.

On the other side of that, I am always getting questions about chocolate made from cocoa powder and cocoa butter.  Is it possible?  Of course.  Do I recommend?  Of course not.  Why?  Well, I tried a batch from the best cocoa powder I could find (a couple really, one being Dagoba) and the final chocolate left a lot to be desired.  Cooked (like boiled milk) was the main impression I was left with.  The cocoa powder was just to processed.  The other was a 'raw' cocoa powder (although it was roasted - don't ask me why it was labeled raw) and it was just down right disgusting.

Look for the new Dominican in a day or so.

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Winnower update

Yes, it's been a long time coming, but it is coming along.  I've made a few discoveries (both good and less than good) along the way. 1)  The new Deluxe cracker (not yet available) that I designed to give a more even crack for the winnower works great.

2)  With the new cracker, due to the extreme evenness of the nibs and husk, I was able to reduce my air flow over 50%.  This amazed me.

3)  The new cracker is quite a bit more expensive than I had planned (high $100's).  I am working on scaling it down to the bare necessities to do the job, and am re-working the assembly technique in order to bring it back to the 'approachable' price level.

4)  Material introduction (cracked nibs and husk) are critical for through put and keeping a non-turbulent flow inside the winnowing chamber.  After 3 attempts, I have a new feeder (less expensive and simpler than before - round of applause) that delivers the material in a steady, evenly distributed  stream.

5)  I am looking into some alternative materials for the cracker.  It must be food safe, durable and hopefully affordable.  Stainless steel is 'easy' from a choice stand point, but it is expensive.  Down the road, it WILL be an option, but I'm looking into using some new hard food safe plastics.  Beta testers will be just that - testers to determine if the material(s) will hold up.  A clear, thick, hard food safe acrylic was suggested by my machinist.  It would certainly have a wow factor.  We will see.

6)  I've decided that when the winnower is offered, there will be two models.  One with just a feeder, where you must crack the beans however you wish.  One with the deluxe cracker.  Why?  Price really.  With just the feeder, you will loose efficiency and have to screen the nibs (what I do now) and sometimes (depending on the bean) run the leavings through a second time.  Basically you put in sweat equity instead of hard cash.  With the cracker you will gain through put, (no screening, no second pass) but will have to pay for it.

That's it for now.  It's coming together.

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A chocolate lover's cocoa. Venezuelan - Sur del Lago

Sur del Lago I was blown away by the complexity of luscious nature of this cocoa.  Balance, soft fruit, toffee and just plain (if you can call it plain) chocolate!  I only have  a few bags of this, but am thrilled I get to share it with you.  That puts the Venezuelan offerings back up to four (and they are all diverse but great in their own way).  With this one, I am making the Venezuelan Sampler pack  available again, and for those who are keeping track, yes, that means the Rio Caribe F1 is also available again.

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A Year and a Day

It's been a year and a day since Penelope died.  It's been kind of a rough ride.  I want to thank everyone for their understanding and support.  Chocolate Alchemy would not be where it is if not for her and her support.  There were many times, especially during the last year before she died that I thought of giving it up...but she would not let me. With that, it's my plan to get Chocolate Alchemy back to where it was in regards to shipping, order turnaround, etc. that is used to be.  It may never be exact there as it's just me and my daughter, but shipping will be moving to more than once a week.  That's for sure.

And I will ask (and have something a little more formal in the works), what do you my devoted (and new) customers want that I am not providing?  What can I do to make this mystical alchemical chocolate journey more approachable?  That's what I want - to make it easy (or at least not daunting) for you.  And it does not have to be just that.  What suggestions do you have for the site and stores and products that would make it better for you?

That's it for now.  I'm off to the shop to finish an enclosure that will allow me to treat and store a pallet of beans at a time with CO2.  Just in time for the 1.5 tons of beans coming in...

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Cocoa bean stock update

As you may have seen, most of the Venezuelan varieties have been moving very quickly.  We are out of Rio Caribe F1 and Carenero Superior.  Wholesale stock of Ocumare is gone (along with the F1 and Carenero).  The good news is that more of the Rio Caribe F1 is on it's way, along with a wonderfully luscious Sur de Lago.  More Ocumare will be in around the middle of October.  If you want or need any larger (thinking full bags) let me know and I will make sure it is there for you. That's it for now.

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Dry ice for storage of cocoa beans

dry-ice.JPG   dry-ice-2.JPG Well, not a single person posted a guess what those previous photos were.  That's ok.  I would have been surprised if many worked it out.  It's something I get to see quite a bit.  It was the carbon dioxide wafting off the dry ice I use to blanket the cocoa bean stock here.  Why?  I'm glad you asked.  The number one reason is to keep cocoa moths from hatching.  It's one of the unexpected pitfalls of keeping organic stock - hatching moths.  It can really ruin stock.

Some years ago before I knew this could be a problem we had quite a hatch out and I lost quite a bit of cocoa - it technically was still good, but I just would not sell it.  I was not about to use anything toxic to keep them under control and could not reasonably keep all the stock refrigerated (the solution organic warehouses use) so I had to come up with another way to 'fumigate' the cocoa beans.  I found some references to using dry ice for grain storage, tried it out, and it worked perfect.  It pushes oxygen out of the way (notice how it flows down) and suffocates anything before it can mature and hatch.  So now, every month or so, I go out, get a block of dry ice, crack it up, and put a little in each container.  24 hours later, it's finished and the stock is safe.

Do you need to worry about doing this?  No, not really.  At least not if you are just buying a few pounds.  I've done it already.  It's something you may want to consider if you are getting full bags, just to be sure.

Very Alchemical isn't it.

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Triple header Macro

OK, this one may or may not be fair, but I swear it is cocoa bean and homemade chocolate related.  And something I've been meaning to address for some time.  So, give it a go, and I'll use it a spring board a little later. macro4.JPG

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Non-macro photo and home made Praline

Well, that was indeed the wheels of the Santha with product on them.  The 'trick' if there was one was that it was not chocolate.  It was praline.  Some time ago I read in The Cake Bible that it just was not possible to make Praline at home - that it was not possible to get it smooth enough.  Sound at all familiar?  Well, I just had to try it, and to my mind, it IS fully possible to make home made praline. Here is the whole batch.

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One of the references I found to praline was that it used caramelized sugar.  I was going to use this as a Macro guessing photo, but I felt it was too obscure, so here is just a shot of the caramelized sugar, after it was cooled, and I broke it.

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I also tried a batch with just straight granulated sugar and to my tastes, found out I liked it better.  I'll be putting the whole recipe and procedure together, but if you can make chocolate, this is child's play.  Roast, no cracking or winnowing, grind and refine and Bob's your uncle.  Home made praline.

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Yet, another Macro

Brad and  Chad had it right.  It is indeed the teeth on the cutter wheel on the Champion.  On that note, have a look at what a few hundred pounds of chocolate will do. macro1-full.JPG

If your cutter wheel is looking like the one of the left, you might want to pick up a new one.  Yes, I have them over with the Champion Juicer.

Good luck on the next photo.  It just has character.  To me it is obvious, but you have to tell me if it is or not. macro21.JPG

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New Macro photo

Well, Mike had the exact right answer.  It is the hinge to the Behmor roasting basket .macro0full.JPG macro0.JPG

Try this one on for size.

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Yep, part of something used here for making chocolate.

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What is this?

I mentioned a  little bit ago I wanted to put up something a little fun.  It's a game a photographer friend of mine suggested that I have had a lot of fun with.  It's basically to identify the item in the photo.  The trick?  It's an extreme close up or a 'Macro'.  In this case it will always have to do with cocoa, chocolate making, etc.  Here is the first one. macro0.JPG

So, what is it?  Post your reply.  Recognition to the first right answer.  I will post the full size picture next Monday along with a new Macro.

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New Products

I am still working my way through the cocoa beans and determining how I want to offer them.  In the mean time, I have a new Extra deodorized cocoa butter.  Why another one?  This batch was washed an extra time or two and is about as pure as you can it - it is Organic as a bonus.  Have a look at them side by side. cocoa-butters.JPG

And you may have noticed, scales have been out of stock for some time.   Escali is no longer carrying them.  This is the next one up.  I've been using it some time, and like it quite a bit.  A touch more, but much more rugged I have found.  It has a larger base, good back light, nice accuracy and just generally a good tool.  Check it out here. 

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Finally, during some R&D work on the winnower, I determined I needed a better cracker.  That is now in the works.  One quick outcome of that is a longer handler for the Crankandstein Cocoa mill.  It really makes the most of leverage and is a blessing to use.

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And keep an eye out.  I have something a little fun planned and I want you to participate.

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New Cocoa beans and butter

I have some interesting offerings coming up.  A selection of various Ghana and Indonesian cocoa that I had the opportunity to share with you.  I am still working out how I am going to offer it.  Maybe as micro lots.  Maybe some as blends.  Stay tuned. And as far as opportunities go, the same thing happened with 3 lots of cocoa butter.  Look for the standard Cocoa butter, plus two new deodorized ones.  The first deodorized one is similar to what I currently have, and has a touch of color and aroma (just a little mind you).  The new one is much paler and odorless.  Perfect for those that want just oil added to their chocolate without ANYTHING to change the flavor.  Both are organic.  I've wondered for some time what the deodorization process is - it is washing with hot water.  No chemicals, charcoal, solvents or the like.  Just water.  Nice.  Look for those by Monday. The winnower continues to proceed.  I found that my cracking (and lack of near perfect consistency) was inhibiting the consistency I wanted in the winnower.  So I've been working on a new deluxe Cracker.  Versions 1 and 2 are past and the beta cracker is being machine as we speak.  Once it's here, I'll incorporate it into the winnower and move forward.

I have been offering Roasted Cocoa beans for the last couple months on a weekly basis and it has gone pretty well, and I've not fallen behind.  With that in mind, I will be making all beans available as roasted in the very near future. And finally, it's been a rough year as you all know.  Shipping has suffered from only being able to ship once a week.  My plan is to get back to 48-72 hour turnaround.

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New 25 lb discounts

As promised, I have restructured the 25 lb discount for whole beans.  Across the board, I've cut the existing prices almost 40% from the base price and only about 20% higher than the price for whole bags.  For instance, that takes 25 lbs of Ivory Coast from  $11.30/lb  to $6.94/lb if you get 25 lbs.  So far, this is only valid for whole, unroasted beans, the key being that they take very little handling, thus overhead, from me.  As before, if you are interested in them as nibs, those are in place, and if you are thinking about roasted, please drop me an email to inquire more. And these new prices are in the Wholesale side. I will be updating the Retail side also, but wanted to get these into place.

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New Products and Services

I've added an additional variation to the Venezuelan Sampler Packs - there is now a 4 lb version, giving you a full pound of each bean to experience, and it's discounted 30% off the base price.  Almost every week I get asked if milk chocolate can be made with fresh milk and I always have to answer no.  We now have in Organic Whole milk powder which is how it is done.  This milk powder has been spray dried which I found gave more of a full milk flavor and very little boiled milk flavor. And there are two up coming items.  I am going to be dropping the price (around 30%) of all the beans at the 25 lb level.  It should put them very close to wholesale bag price.  Very simply, I want you experimenting, playing, enjoying etc, without as many worries about price and rationing and this is something I can do to assist in that.

Finally, I know a lot of you out there would like to make the jump (or even small hop) to production, be it just a small farmers market, or something a little more ambitious.  I know there is a hurdle in both roasting and winnowing larger amounts.  I am working steadily on the winnower (the current focus is a new Cocoa mill which is just now going from prototype to beta version), but until that time, and maybe after, I will be offering all origins as freshly roasted nibs in wholesale quantities.  To me, freshness is a significant part of what makes homemade (or Artisan made) chocolate so special.  So I won't be keeping bags of stale roasted nibs around.  I will be roasting and winnowing them to order.  That will mean a longer turnaround time (7-14 days) at first, but a set schedule will be available also if you desire 30 lbs (for instance) every week or month.  Until I work out all the details, just send me a note (email address is in the Contact link) and I would be  happy to talk it over and get something moving for you.  My goal in this is to make you successful at your endeavors.

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