Daily musings and writings from the Alchemist

Ask the Alchemist #188


Ask the Alchemist #188

I have tried making a milk chocolate with coconut milk powder but it is really soft and it is driving me crazy.  I want the flavor really strong so I used 35% coconut power but it won’t set up.  Should I use less cocoa butter?  I put in about 8 oz to a two pound batch.  I’ve even tried tempering it and it stays soft. 

It looks like you ended up with the perfect storm of a recipe to just not behave in a cooperative fashion.  You both have too much fat in the recipe and too much of it is coconut oil.    Let’s see if we can get you a good coconut milk chocolate recipe that is still strongly flavored.


Ask the Alchemist #187


Ask the Alchemist #187

Have you seen any stone grinders (of similar size) with more metal than plastic in the center bearing shaft?    We are trying to shy away from as much plastic as possible. The Delrin (= polyformaldehyde) does not seem so friendly either. 

 There is nothing unfriendly about Delrin.  The poly makes ALL the difference. 


Phase 1


Phase 1

If you are reading this, Phase 1 is begun.  Please, look around (many of the Recipes have been reworked), kick the tires, and let me know what you think.  Especially if you can't find something or find a dead link.  For now, there isn't a whole lot new.  It's just reorganized a bit.

John (the Alchemist)


Ask the Alchemist #185


Ask the Alchemist #185

Level: Novice

Reading time: 8 minutes

I want to make drinking chocolate.  Can you give me a recipe?


I’ve touched on parts of this in the past but now is a good time to bring all the options together.


Holiday Schedule


Holiday Schedule

The last day we will be shipping is Friday December 23. And hopefully if you need anything by that Sunday (December 25 – Christmas) you will have ordered well in advance.


Ask the Alchemist #184


Ask the Alchemist #184

 I have learned that some makers (myself included) are lightly baking (in the oven at ~170F) their sugar on a baking sheet before it goes into the melanger.  The idea being that the higher temperature of the sugar will maintain the liquor at a higher temperature allowing you to feed the sugar into the melanger more quickly.  I have however


Ask the Alchemist #183

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Ask the Alchemist #183

Level: Apprentice

Reading time: 8 minutes

I have been making a batch of chocolate, but I am unable to lower the acidity taste (vinegar like) that i sense on my chocolate. i have been trying to find a solution, and nothing so far. Maybe you can help me lower that acidity taste I have. The mix is 65% cocoa and 35% sugar so far and no powdered milk.

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Ask the Alchemist #182


Ask the Alchemist #182

Ask The Alchemist #182, Question: I got a Behmor (exciting new toy!!!) just did a roast of 500g beans on 400/P2 and they have come out black? Is that normal for drum roasting as I have never had this in the oven and worried that I have burnt them??


This and that


This and that

Today is just a small laundry list of announcements, some of which I would like your opinions on. There is no Ask the Alchemist because my queue is empty. 


Fiji - a new Direct trade origin.


Fiji - a new Direct trade origin.

Let’s start off with saying this bean ranks in my top 10 favorites ever.  It has virtually everything I love about chocolate rolled into one. Just look how it pegs the chocolate category in the spider graph!  And sweet.  And fruity. And nutty.  The flavors just keep coming and coming.

Yeah, I’m that impressed.



Ask the Alchemist #179

Level: Novice

Reading time: 4 minutes

I was just wondering, how important is a melanger is for this recipe of white chocolate? I know it’s important for grinding regular chocolate, to smooth the texture of the cocoa solids – but does separated cocoa butter need the same grinding, or is it already quite smooth? I’m sure it’s both useful and convenient, but I was curious if it is indispensable to this recipe or how much of a difference it would make to try making white chocolate without one.

If the use of the santha grinder in this recipe is grinding the powdery ingredients (sugar, milk powder, soy lecithin) into the cocoa butter, could pre-grinding those ingredients very fine (say, to maybe a powdered sugar texture) make a good white chocolate without needing the santha grinder?


A melanger is indispensable for any chocolate be it dark, milk or white as long as you are defining chocolate as modern chocolate with a smooth and silky texture.

Cocoa butter doesn’t need further grinding by a melanger, but everything else you add does.

Nothing available by the home chocolate maker can get chocolate as smooth as a melanger.  I’ve tried everything I could think of and they all fail to do the job.

The reason has to do with the vague term “fine” or “very fine”.  Those just fail to mean much of anything.  Sure, powdered sugar is fine compared to corn meal, but both are coarse compared to the particle size of the sugar once it has been refined in the melanger.

And that is worth noting.  It isn’t just, or even primarily, the cocoa solids that are getting refined down.  It is the sugar and milk powder.  Let’s get away from ‘fine’.

The sugar and any other solids in chocolate are in the 10-15 micron range.  That is 1/100 of a millimeter.  In contrast, granular sugar is somewhere around 500 um( microns).  Fine castor sugar can get down to half of that.   Now, if you go searching around you will find that 10x superfine sugar can reach 15 um.  Home free right?  Unfortunately not.

Commercial powdered sugar contains cornstarch and/or other anti-caking ingredients which can lead to a gummy chocolate.  As for powdering your own, I just tried it.  I was able to get down as low as 25 um, but there were still some pieces larger than 50 um.  And that size will be coarse in your mouth.

I even tried filtering it through a sieve, and what came out was in the 10-15 um range.  The problem though was that I could only get about 10% of the sugar through (less than 1 oz) before it started clogging and caking (hence the anti-caking in powdered sugar).

Really, it isn’t a viable method for anything more than just a couple ounces of chocolate.

Finally, that neglects the aeration and minor conching that occurs in the Melanger.  Non-refined white chocolate has to my tastes this odd, harsh taste  that goes away over the 12-18 hours needed to make white chocolate in your Melanger.

There you go.  There is no making modern chocolate without a Melanger at the minimum.



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Ask the Alchemist #178

Level: Alchemist

Reading time: 20 minutes (if you are lucky)

Question: Time? Things are considered tempered when you take a test strip cool it and it has the characteristics you want. My question is does this happen rapidly, say 95% of the fat is in “V” at 10 mins, or is “tempering” when say 50% of the crystals are in the correct form. Does extending the time at temperature to say a day or 2 get significantly closer to 100% in V? Does this make a difference? You probably reach a point of diminishing returns, just curious how much science has been applied to this voodoo…

Funny you should mention voodoo.  As I am going to take this into the exact opposite direction and define tempering in technical terms.

It’s worth noting that as I think of all I want to convey I feel like the philosopher who has attained enlightenment from the study of a butterfly wing and now wants to convey it to everyone….and takes page after page explaining it and ultimately fails because you usually can’t explain deep concepts quickly or easily.   Regardless….onward.

Chocolate is tempered properly when the inflection point of the of a temperature vs time cooling plot has a slope of zero.

And I suspect that doesn’t mean or explain anything to most of you.  If you have a look around the internet you will find this old school image pretty quickly.

old cooling curve

Digging a bit deeper and you can find something like this that shows real data in a form more of you can relate to.

modern cooling curves

In both cases they are showing plots of chocolate in different stages of temper, from untempered all the way to over tempered.

And I want you to read that last line again.  There is something very important there that takes many people many years to realize.  The first epiphany as it were.  Over tempered.  Chocolate can be over tempered.  Understandably a large number of people think you want 100% temper.  All Type V crystals.  But that isn’t the case.  You want a balance.

So that answers a part of your question.  Or more to the point, it sheds some light on some of the assumptions you have made about tempering.  That it is an end state.  Sort of like absolute zero.  And maybe it is. The key here is understanding that IF the perfect temper is analogous to absolute zero, then your goal is NOT absolute zero, but some temperature above that.

Try and let that sink in.  I’ll try and explain why that is at the end.

But before we get deep into all the revelations that those plots can give us, let’s take a few moments and talk about what you are seeing there.


Pretty much all of tempering is predicated on the concept of crystallization.

The following concept is one you need to wrap your head around.

Solidifying fat crystals give off heat in the same way dissolving salt crystals take in heat.   These are the two sides of the same coin or concept.

That doesn’t make sense?  This puts it into tangible terms.

If you make ice cream the old fashion way, you will recall you mix ice with salt.  Remember that?  Do you know why?  Solid salt is just sitting there.  It has low energy.  Salt in solution is moving around.  It has more energy.  That energy has to come from somewhere.  In the case of your ice cream and ice, it comes from the temperature of the system.  Ice cream, ice and salt separate are all at 32 F.  If the salt needs energy to dissolve, then it has to steal it from somewhere so it takes it from the only place it can; the temperature of the ice cream and ice.  The result is that those temperatures drop to something under 32 F as the salt dissolves and your ice cream solidifies.

Got that?  The whole point is to melt a crystal it has to take in heat.  Therefore the opposite is also true.  To form a crystal, heat is given off.   This heat is called the heat of crystallization.  To go all science and geeky on you:

“Heat of crystallization or enthalpy of crystallization is the heat evolved or absorbed when one mole of given substance crystallizes from a saturated solution of the same substance.”

Let’s bring this back to chocolate and set the stage.  You are in the process of tempering your chocolate.  You have either made or introduced seed to your untempered chocolate.  For the sake of discussion, let’s call it 31 F.  You pour it up into your mold and it starts to cool and eventually set up.

If we peek behind the curtain, and can monitor the temperature and crystals we are going to see the temperature start to drop.  That is just the natural cooling of the chocolate.  Energy is being given off to the atmosphere or maybe your refrigerator.  At the same time, the seed of Type V crystals are going to start propagating or growing.

And now the fun part (did I mention I’m a retired chemist who finds this fun?).

We can make a prediction.  As the crystals start to form we know (see above) that they are going to start giving off heat to the surround chocolate.  And what is that going to do?

Very good.  The temperature is going to rise.

And if we record those temperatures and the time, and then plot them, what is it going to look like?  It is going to be a decreasing line (the temperature is falling initially because it is in the refrigerator or whatever) then,  (oh, I’m so excited) since those crystals are giving off heat, (I’m virtually giddy here) the line is going to level off or maybe (shaking with geek excitement) even go back up!  Then, once all the crystals are formed and no more heat is being evolved (yep, pulled in a science word there) the temperature will continue to drop to whatever the ambient temperature is.

Do you have that image in your head?  Hopefully, it looks a LOT like this:

predicted cooling

Which, wow, looks pretty much identical to the plot at the beginning for properly tempered chocolate!

Science!!! (giddy again….calming down…. )

Okay, I’ve calmed down for the moment.  Hopefully you have the concepts down and we can talk about what they mean.

The first thing I want to address is that a zero slope (that flat spot) is nothing special.  It is empirical meaning that it is just lucky coincidence that the majority of we humans like our chocolate when it is tempered at a zero inflection.

If you go back to the top and have a look at the curve of untempered chocolate you will notice it is basically a straight line pointing down.

“But alchemist, even bloomed chocolate has crystals.  Type III, IV and V.  Don’t they have a heat of crystallization and wouldn’t they cause some heat rise?”

I am proud of you for making that connection.  It is 100% true.  IF…and this is where I didn’t play straight with you…we were truly measuring the temperature of your chocolate as it set up.  But that is not what those plots are from.  They are actually from a special setup that measures the degree of temper in a chocolate.  It basically looks like this:

Temper setup

This image and the text below on It’s workings is from Ticor systems

“Their operation is quite simple. A cup-like opening at one end of a long metallic (copper) tube is filled with a chocolate sample. The other end of the tube is inserted in a mixture of ice and water held in an insulated container. A temperature probe (thermocouple in early versions) is then inserted into the chocolate. Since the chocolate sample is above 85°F and the sample holder is attempting to reach the temperature of the ice bath (a questionable 32°F), the chocolate gives up heat to the holder and is cooled to solidification.”

The key difference here is the ice bath and that in a degree of temper analysis you are forcing the chocolate and temperature down quickly along a reproducible path (because is a constant temperature and the system is insulated).  The consequence of this is that you can see deviations easily and you are literally forcing the chocolate to solidify without crystallizing.  Because no crystallization is happening, no heat is given off and no rise in temperature is noted.

Got it?  Good!

And now we can talk about some of those bits of enlightenment that fall out of these graphs.

If you look at the 2nd graph above with all the overlaid plots you see a spectrum of non-tempered curves all the way to over tempered.  This means tempering is a continuum and what falls out of that is that tempering is not a discrete state but a process and because we can have a full range of tempers we can have variables that we can adjust in a predictable manner to give us those final degrees of temper.

What are those variables?  Well one big one should be obvious.  The amount of Type V seed you have present and the original question hints at that.  And that makes sense.  The more seed you have, the more energy that is given off in a set amount of time and the more the cool curve tips up.  Likewise, if you don’t have enough, it doesn’t tip up enough, the slope of the line doesn’t make it to zero, and you have under tempered chocolate, and if it is under tempered too much, it can bloom.

So, is time something you can manipulate?   Will more time (2 days?) give you a higher degree of temper because more seed is formed?   It certainly seems like it might be, and it can be, but it turns out that it isn’t practical.  And the key is understanding that time is only helpful if it is your only variable.  And in many cases it isn’t.

If you are tempering from scratch it is useless.  Why?  Because when you bring your chocolate down to 80 F or so and form seed, how much you form is varies with how fast you reduce the temperature and the ambient temperature.  Without being able to control those exactly, you will have different amounts of seed (which you have no way of knowing) and that basically means you are starting from a different point in the tempering process each time so you can’t get to the degree of temper by measuring time.

If that isn’t clear, think of it as getting a car up to 60 mph (perfect temper, zero slope inflection)  from a random unknown speed with only a stopwatch. It can’t be done.  There are too many variables.  How fast are you going (how much seed initially), how much are you accelerating and how do you measure it (what is the ambient temperature) and are there hills that you have to go up or down (how much heat loss do you have).

This is why hand tempering can be a series of failures until you both get a feel for how fast 60 mph is and you get used to the road (i.e. your techniques and conditions get VERY reproducible).

So what are you to do?  You use some form of seed.  And a tempering machine or water baths if you can.  Neither is magical.  They are nothing more and nothing less than variable control and management.

When you use seed or silk you starting with a known amount of seed, and better yet (analogy shift warning) your speed IS 60 mph and you just have to maintain it by watching the speedometer (your temperature).

If you want a lower degree of temper, you use less seed/silk.  If you want I higher degree of temper, you use more.   That simple.

So, it was probably hard to miss that I mentioned both seed and silk.  The distinction is that the former is tempered chocolate and the latter is tempered  cocoa butter.  And they produce different tempers.  Not just different degrees of temper, but actually different types of temper.

S. Beckett (The Science of Chocolate) notes this:

The temperature at which the inflection on the curve occurs is very important.  The higher the temperature the more mature the crystallization and the higher the temperature at which the chocolate can be used for moulding and enrobing.

Silk makes for a more mature crystallization and is my personal favorite way to temper (video of that coming up).  You can see this by how it is used.  You mix it in at around 93-94 F.  You use significantly less (0.5-1%) than you would tempered chocolate (20-30% many people recommend) and it propagates very fast through the chocolate, setting up quickly and with a particularly high resistance to blooming.  And if you were to run a cooling curve on it you would see it produces the inflection point at a higher temperature correlating with a more mature crystal.

Is this all helpful day to day?  I personally think it is since I wrote it.  How?  I think 90% of the help it gives is taking some of the mystery out of tempering (after you reread it a few times).  It is just variables and if you grasp that, you can start to look for variables in your process and eliminate them or at least identify them when something goes awry and you chocolate blooms.

Can your or should you set up your own temper meter?  If you find it fun and like the hard data, by all means do it.  It isn’t hard.  It is basically a thermometer and an insulated ice bath.  You will probably have to play around a little with your sample size to get a flat line for untempered chocolate but that is about it.  But of course you don’t have to.  Hell, I LOVE this stuff and have not done it. But you can.

Oh, one more thing.

Remember I said I would explain why you don’t want an absolute temper?  It’s really kind of simple. Mostly it is because you are a person eating chocolate and not a chemist striving for a perfect beautiful crystal.  You are not looking for perfection in structure.  You are looking for perfection in mouth feel.  You are looking for an experience.  You are looking for that perfect state where the chocolate is smooth and melts easily in your mouth.  That point of state that allows maximum release of flavor and enjoyment.  You are looking for the perfect tipping point where it is almost bloomed and almost too hard.

You are looking for balance.

I hope that was enough science to this voodoo we call tempering.

Welcome to the art AND science of chocolate making.

1 Comment


Ask the Alchemist #177

Level: Alchemist

Reading time: 13 min

Hi, John - I just watched your roasting video. I am one of those people (for the last 1.5 years since I moved to Seattle) who doesn't currently have an oven. I hope to move in the next few months, but until then I've been taking my beans to my son's house to roast them in his oven. After watching this video, I'd like your opinion.

The oven is a Wisco - 1300 Watts.


Somehow I made the assumption that using this for my beans wouldn't be a good idea because the air circulation is so strong inside it; much stronger than a traditional convection oven. When using it for typical baking I need to drop the temp about 25* from what recipes recommend. Now I'm not so sure. This thing is small - about 15in wide, so these are the Pyrex dishes I have that will fit. Of course, I don't want to take a chance on wrecking a batch of beans. Given what I've described, do you see any problem using this for cacao?


Let us get this out of the way early.

I am going to lie to you today.

That is a lie.

What I mean by that is that in a binary world, something is either the truth or a lie, and if I am not telling you the whole truth, I therefore must be lying to you.

This is basically I joke I tell to get the attention of a group of 8th graders when I talk about the science of chocolate making.  Go watch my youtube video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fi2RY8zqy9g ) where I tell the whole story.  Suffice it to say, I am NOT going to actually lie to you (on purpose) but I am going to leave a lot out since what I am going to talk about is full of maths and thermodynamics that are going to make many people’s eyes glaze over.  My goal is to get you to understand what is basically going on and why I am making the statements and assertions I make.


And it’s very possible many of you CAN handle the truth.

With that, hold tight, and let’s jump in.


First the answer.  Yes, you can use that oven.  For 1 to 2 lbs of beans.

Now I will tell you why I say that.  But I need you to be somewhat conversant in some basic terms and how I think.

From Google – “The British thermal unit (BTU or Btu) is a traditional unit of work equal to about 1055 joules. It is the amount of work needed to raise the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit.”

I am starting there because I know from empirical experience that my Royal #5 coffee roaster produces about 42000 btu/hour with propane.  How do I know that?  I measured the orifice of the propane outlet and looked up the BTU/hour connected to standard liquid propane.

Multiplying that out, that translates to 44310000 joules/hour.

I can roast 35 lbs in my Royal in about 20 minutes or one third of an hour.  That means I need  14770000 joules of energy for 35 lbs regardless of time it takes me to get it there.  Dividing by 35, that means 422000 joules per pound are required.

Part of this kind of number crunching is verifying I am in the ballpark.  I’m going to do that with checking my pre-heat requirements against how long I know it takes me to pre-heat my roaster.

Iron has a specific heat capacity of 0.45 j/g C.

I know my roaster weights about 300 lbs, but estimate the portion I heat up to 350 F is only about one third of it or 100 lbs.

100 lbs = 45 kg iron =45000 grams

350 F is a change in temperature of about 150 C.

0.45 x 45000 x 150 = 3037500 joules to pre-heat.  If I divide by the heat input (44310000 j/hr) and convert to minutes (multiply by 60)

3037500/44310000 * 60 = 4.11

4.1 minutes to pre-heat.  Yep, that is not a lie.  Some days it’s a touch longer, but it’s in the ballpark, so I am counting that as confirmation that my heat input and roasting requirements are about right.

Next, we can use those numbers to see what a 1300 watt convection oven should be able to do.  But we need to get everything in the same unit.

Again, from Google:

“One watt of power converted to joule per second equals to 1.00 J/s. How many joules per second of power are in 1 watt? The answer is: The change of 1 W ( watt ) unit of power measure equals = to 1.00 J/s ( joule per second ) as the equivalent measure for the same power type.”

That just means that 1300 watts = 1300 j/s

We know we need   422000 j/lb.  A little quick math canceling out joules and the minimum time needed in seconds falls out.

422000/1300 = 324.7 seconds.

Dividing by 60 seconds/min tells up how many minutes we need to roast a pound with perfect efficiency.

5.4 minutes per pound.

On the surface, that sounds great.  Except you really don’t want to roast that fast.  If you try, you are going to over roast the outside and under roast the interior.  So you need a slower roast.  No faster than 12 minutes for a roast is what my experience tells me.  But you don’t want to turn the heat down and not use the oven to its capability so that means you should put in more than 1 lb of beans.  How much?  Just divide 12 by the 5.4 minutes for a reasonable estimate.

12/5.4 = 2.22 lbs = 1 kg

Which amazingly enough is right what I said at the top of the article.

“First the answer.  Yes, you can use that oven.  For 1 to 2 lbs of beans.  “

But you will note I said 1-2 lbs.  Why 1 lb?

Well, that delves into modes of heat transfer.  That means when you add heat to a system, there are three ways for it to get from the source to the item you want to heat up.

Convection, conduction and radiation.

This is a convection oven.  That basically means air heating up by the heat source, circulating to the air to what you are roasting and that heat transfers to the cool items (cocoa beans).   It’s pretty efficient since hot air can surround the beans except where it is touch the pan or other beans.  In a thin layer (what I advocate, and why I advocate it) 70-80% of the surface of the bean can be exposed to the hot air.

Conduction happens with contact.  From the surface the beans are on to the beans.  It’s actually pretty inefficient for anything that isn’t perfect flat.  In the case of a cocoa bean, there is probably only 10-20% of the bean touching the surface of the pan.  That is why it doesn’t do well.

Radiation is basically direct line of sight.  When the sun comes out and shines on your skin and you feel warm, that is radiation.  You are not touching the sun and it isn’t because it caused air to move and warm you.  So if there are elements shining on the beans from above, then they are being heated that way too.  If they are heating from the bottom, then very little radiative heating is happening.  Instead the elements are heating the pan and the pan is conducting the heat (per conduction – above) and heating the beans.  In this case, it’s probably the least efficient way to heat.

Ok, deep calming breath.  I know that was a lot.  We are almost done.  And I can now use those terms to talk in a more efficient manner about why you might only be able to roast 1 pound.

Even though this is a convection oven it doesn’t mean it is efficient convection or convection as good as it can be.  Also, conduction is going to be very low due to the very low percentage of bean surface area actually touching the pan.  And where radiative heat might be effective in some cases, the convection in a way circumvents it by distributing the heat around the chamber.  In this case though, that is not a terrible thing and is actually pretty good or the top of the beans might get scorched.

After all is said and done there is probably only 50-60% efficiency going on here.  The rest of the energy is being lost.  Either through the non-insulated walls and glass door or through direct energy loss when you open up the door to stir the beans every 5 minutes or so.  Remember, you still have to stir. If you don’t, the top of the beans will be over roasted and the underside that is in contact with the pan will be under roasted.

And how do I know so much is being lost?  Again experience and puzzle solving.

Years ago I had a drum roaster that I built.  Over time I modified it for efficiency.   It started off at 2000 watts, with a slow 6 rpm motor and no insulation.

If we do the same calculations, recalling we need 422000 joules per pound  and have 2000 watts we find we, in theory, could roast  a pound of beans in 3.5 min.

422000 / 2000 * 60 = 3.5 min/lb.

The drum contained 5.5 lbs of beans.  So if this roaster was working as well as my Royal, I can apply this math:

3.5 (min/lb) x 5.5 (lb) = 19.25 min

And predict it should have taken me a touch over 19 minutes to roast 5.5 lbs of bean.  But the reality of the situation was that I could only roast about 3.5 lbs of beans in that time.  Doing that efficiency check :

3.5 lb / 5.5 lb = 63.6%

This showed me my system was inefficient.   A little over 35%.

It was not until my 6 rpm motor died and I replaced it with a 45 rpm motor did I discover how important REAL convection is.  As soon as I did it, my roast time dropped to 14 minutes. It was like a 35% boost in power.  Efficiency really.   Consequently I was able to add more beans to my roaster.  When I put in 5.5 lbs, my roast time went back to 19-20 minutes – exactly where a good efficient system should be.

See, it was not enough that the beans were tumbling.  Too many were touching and protecting each other from the heat.  Just like in a table top convection oven with beans on a try.  It was not until I got them lofting did real, full convection kick in.  And it is worth noting that after I insulated my roaster, the roast time dropped to about 17 minutes showing again how much heat gets wasted out the walls and over time.  Just like when you open the door to stir.

So, sure, it is a convection oven, but the beans are only partly benefiting from the moving air.  Sure, if it was not convection, then the roast times would go way out to 30 minutes like a classic oven.    But you really can’t have too much convection in a non-tumbling roasting situation.

That is where I get the 50% efficiency count from.  30% or so from non-ideal convection (no loft) and 20% loss from continuously having to open the oven to stir and there you go.

A bunch of lies.  Well, half truths of omission.  And it was STILL a ton of reading.

Yes, you can use that oven.  For 1 to 2 lbs of beans.

And  now , hopefully, you know why and how to work it out yourself if you need.

Go have some chocolate.  You deserve it.



New arrivals

A very limited supply of Belize from Maya Mountain has arrived. Belize 2016 Organic/Direct Trade:  Smooth, silky chocolate.  The raw beans have an odor of fresh pineapple.  While roasting there is toasted macadamia nuts, warm proofing spelt bread and a lovely savory quality with a touch of tang from fermentation.

The four *new* old favorites from Venezuela are also here. Sur del Lago, Cuyagua, Guaniamo and Canoabo.


Sur del Lago 2016 -   It is a complex, well-rounded cocoa that can make a luscious chocolate bursting with flavor accented by bold red berry fruit, dry cashew, toffee,  malt,  caramel  and most important, chocolate.

Cuyagua 2016 This is what Criollo is all about and what everyone claims to have (but rarely do). It is fruity, delicate, with walnut and plum skin.  The aroma is plum and vanilla, with both coming through in the taste along with a nice back drop of current, vanilla and cream.

Guaniamo 2016 This is a wild harvest Forastero and the most elegant I've ever tasted.  Actually, very atypical for a Forastero.  That's what natural selection can get you.  There is rose and gardenia in the nose.  The flavor is distinctly chocolate with undercurrents of loam and soft leather.   It is rather low in bitterness but has a nice balancing astringency, but not overpowering.  There is distinct acidty, but soft like a malic acid grape nip.  The lasting impression is succulent.

Canoabo 2016.  What it is is a study in balance and elegance. Like a lot of the beans in this region, there is cream and soft red fruits. Red currant comes to mind. There slight tang of mineral molasses for balance. A touch of roasted brazil rounds out the flavor.


1 Comment

Ask the Alchemist #176

Level: Apprentice

Reading time: 10 min

i want to make chocolate peanut butter.  So can i use such grinder I can make in 2 steps namely 1 grind peanuts with cocoa powder and sugar in grinder then for proper and smooth consistency like nutella grind in such stone grinder

nut chocolate

You can use the Spectra 11 to make a variety of things.  Nut butters and their variations are one of them.  Since you can also make praline (hazelnut and sugar) there is no reason you cannot make your peanut butter chocolate creation.  But you may or may not run into some practical considerations.

The main issue you are going to run into is that if your goal is something like Nutella, it may well be too thick for the Melanger.   It is spreadable and does not really flow.  At least if you produce it with the standard Nutella ingredients.

This is one of those times that the use of cocoa powder is called for.  If you are keeping traditional as it were  Nutella consists of the following:

  • 55% sugar
  • 16% Vegetable oil
  • 13% Hazelnut
  • 7.8% Skim milk powder
  • 7.4% Cocoa powder
  • Lecithin

If you do some calculations you will find that it is about 30% fat, which is a touch lower than the recommended 33% fat for most chocolates.  Lower than 33% and your mixture may be too thick to work properly in the Melanger.

But you were asking about peanut butter, not Nutella.  In that case the gloves are off and you no longer have to follow those proportions.  And it is also worth noting that neither peanut butter nor Nutella are actually as smooth as chocolate, which will also work to your advantage.  As will the relatively small amount of cocoa powder the above recipe calls for.

I would recommend first off making sure you are using roasted peanuts.  The same moisture rule applies to nut butters as it does to chocolate.  Too much water will cause the nut butter to get very viscous in the Melanger.  It may flow with it stopped but the sheer makes it push back as it were.  I once almost broke my melanger trying to grind raw almonds.  It wasn’t pretty.

So start with your peanuts.  How much?  I’d start at 60%.  Unlike chocolate that is a solid at room temperature, peanut oil is a liquid so you can avoid having to heat them and the Melanger bowl.  Add them a bit at a time until you have as much as your recipe calls for.  I would suggest giving it probably an hour or two to grind before continuing with your next addition.

That would the sugar.  Even though the Nutella recipe is 55% sugar, I would start off with 25% and see what you think.  Again, I would give that a couple hours to grind down.  You can always add more and keep grinding.

Now you come to a decision.  I said before that cocoa powder would be ok here.  And it would be.  At around 7% you could very possibly just stir it in and be done.  Remember, Nutella isn’t as smooth as chocolate.  Except we are not exactly following the recipe and to make it to 100% total, you are going to need around 15% and past experience has shown me that the melanger is going to have trouble with that.  So, you can either try stirring it in and being done, or, try this upping of the ante.

You have gone through the trouble of using a Melanger and fresh ingredients.  I would suggest going ahead and dropping the cocoa powder and instead use roasted cocoa nibs.  Just put the 15% cocoa nibs (don’t forget to warm them) right into the Melanger.  Since cocoa is about 50%, this gives you the same percent of cocoa in your mix as Nutella but has the advantage of that you will be adding some cocoa butter which will help thicken your mixture (since it sets up at room temperature) without the need for high sugar and other ingredients.  And keep in mind it will be a bit thinner in the Melanger because the cocoa butter is melted.

And after all that, I am going to toss out one more piece of advice that is closer to how I would actually approach this.  At least the first time as I am formulating the exact recipe I want.  Keep in mind I gave you some approximations (60% peanut, 25% sugar,15% cocoa nib) that may or may not be to your tastes both flavor wise and from a consistency/viscosity standpoint.  And at the same time I’ll show you why Nutella has some of that vegetable oil in it.

When I did this I made a batch of sweetened peanut butter and a batch of chocolate and mixed them together (in the kitchen, in bowls, not the melanger) until I hit the flavor proportions I wanted.  For me this was 25% sugar in each.  Then I mixed them in small batches at various proportions until I hit the flavor I wanted.  75% peanut was both too peanut heavy and too thin.  75% chocolate didn’t have enough peanut flavor.  For my tastes 45% peanut butter was just about right but it was too thick.  It was like a chocolate fudge and not spreadable at all.  Enter the vegetable oil.  Or close enough.  Since I already had peanuts in there I added a small amount of peanut oil until the consistency smoothed out to where I wanted it.  In this case it was about 7%.

And a little tip.  When you are testing your proportions, I had the peanut mixture about 60 F and the chocolate at 90F so when mixed, the chocolate set up.  It saved me time waiting for it to cool and solidify.

Once I had my proportions, I was able to make it in the melanger in one go since the cocoa butte kept it fluid while hot but solidified just right when cool.

So there you go.  Three different ways to make a sweetened chocolate nut spread.   See which one works for you and your tastes and go from there.

1 Comment


Ask the Alchemist #175

Level: Alchemist

Reading time: 7 min

So I have the revolution X chocovision tempering machine.

I am noticing at our apartment temperature being an average of 74F our chocolate does not hold nearly as well as others. I have a bar from fruition, rogue, dandelion, etc etc all at about the same 70% ratio and they seem to hold their temper so much better. Some don't use any cacao butter while others I can tell by texture use quite a bit.

I use these big blobs or "brains" I call them for seeds, I use them over and over but they are all white and flake apart when I put pressure on them... Is it because they aren’t in perfect temper why the resulting chocolate isn't coming out and holding that glossy black temper for a long time?

I just notice it gets a slight white film on it after a few weeks and the texture gets a tad funky..

Just so you know I am also using the temper 1 setting, so seed out at 90F and molding at 88.7F and then in the fridge to harden.

Should I be using the temper 2 setting where it drops it down and then back up to 88.7? Since the quality of my seed is pretty shit? Just figured I would ask. I am going to experiment as I just read through your illustration of tempering (great job by the way, the best most clear description I have seen yet)

If I just let the chocolate sit at room temperature it comes out really streaky and white 

I figured 74F is just too warm, but based on your illustration it seems the temper might be off?


OK, tempering troubleshooting it is today.

For those not sure what is going on here, the method here is a mixture of a way I found works under certain conditions and using a tempering machine with seed.  You can read the whole method here. http://chocolatealchemy.com/illustrated-tempering/

It entails using freshly crystallized chocolate as seed for tempering.  Go read it.  I won’t bore you here repeat it all.

Your issue appears to be that you have combined  methods and are storing and using  old bloomed chocolate instead of the freshly solidified chocolate that I call for.  That is clear, aside from you saying it of course, is because it is white and crumbly.  Forget “not perfect temper”.  These are fully bloomed and devoid of any temper.  Just because you call it seed does not seed it make.

The key to making my method work is that the seed portion that you use must be relatively fresh.  In this state, there is a lot of Type V crystals.  When you put this into your melted chocolate at 90-95 F, all the other types melt and you are left with a substantial quantity of Type V that acts as real seed and you get a good strong temper.

In old bloomed chocolate the amount of Type V has gone down significantly.  As bloomed chocolate ages, there is solid state conversion.  Type V converts to both IV and VI under certain conditions and this most likely is what is causing your issue.  Those blob/brains are your indicator that your have Type VI.  The Type VI melts at even a higher temperature than Type V, so there is no way to get rid of it without destroying your remaining Type V also.

I can’t really speak for your tempering machine’s settings as I don’t know them.  Regardless, going down to 80 and back up won’t fix your issue if you are using Type VI contaminated seed unless you go all the way up to 100 f and then back down, which negates the whole reason for seed.

My recommendation then is to toss your crumbly not-seed chocolate and start fresh.  And after that, instead of using this current method, there is no reason not to just reserve a bar of well tempered chocolate as your new seed.