How to Make Chocolate


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How to Make Chocolate


Making Chocolate At Home: 101


 

THIS IS THE SHORT, FAST, WHAT YOU NEED AND HOW IT HAPPENS GUIDE TO GET YOU GOING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION.

 

SCROLL DOWN

Making Chocolate At Home: 101


 

THIS IS THE SHORT, FAST, WHAT YOU NEED AND HOW IT HAPPENS GUIDE TO GET YOU GOING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION.

 

Equipment list:

 

Roaster:

It's possible to use your own oven, some varieties of coffee roasters beyond the Behmor, a pan on top of your stove, a modified pop corn popper -- similar to coffee roasting it depends on how much experimentation vs equipment you want.

Tip: The Alchemist uses his home built one or a Behmor currently.

Cracking the Beans: 

I like the Champion Juicer to crack beans.  It's fast and efficient.  And gives you double duty since it can also make roasted nibs into liquor.  Peeling by hand is low tech and the way it was done long ago (and in some origins), takes a while, and may be more or less efficient for winnowing at the same time depending on your technique. It's less efficient on time.

 

Winnowing

The lowest tech method (after hand peeling) ishair dryer set to cold, or a small shop vac set to blow; over a large bowl of nibs and husks. The bowl is circulated with a tossing motion of the hand bringing nibs and husks up slightly into the air, giving the husks a chance to blow away.  After that, there is the hand fed Sylph or the automated Aether.

 

Grinding:

Champion Juicer: there doesn't seem to be a good substitute for this one yet. With a small amount of nibs you can skip the grinding stage and go straight to the Melanger, but the bigger your batch the harder that is. You loose a set amount every time you put cocoa beans through the Champion -- six ounces (6 oz) no matter what weight you are processing.

 

Refining/Conching: 

You need a Melanger. Either the Spectra 11 for home use or one of the larger ones if you need more. There's not a home substitute for this one either. This is the heavy granite slab with granite wheels that crunches the lumpy cocoa liquor (along with your other dry ingredients and extra cocoa butter, depending on what you're making) into something you'll want to hand to your friends and grandma.

 
 

 

Optional Equipment:

To make it a little easier.

Scale:

The Alchemist uses and sells an Escali scale. In order to measure your ingredients, rather than putting them into a measuring cup, they need to be weighed. Wet (cocoa liquor and melted cocoa butter) and dry (sugar, powered milk if you're making milk chocolate) all get weighed. This is a mass not volume business. Cocoa butter and cocoa liquor unfortunately don't come with neat little lines on their wrappers to tell you how much makes a quarter cup. They don't come with wrappers!

Molds:

Molds are optional. If you have them you can make your chocolate into pretty little hearts or squares or fishes. Without them you can pour it into a zip lock bag for storage, onto wax paper in a big puddle which will dry in an uneven sheet that you can break up. An ice cube tray would work for cubes of chocolate. It all depends on what you want to do once you make it.

 

Edibles

Sugar

makes your chocolate sweet. Must be dry sugar, not honey, syrup, etc.

 

Milk Powder:

You need dry milk if you want to make milk chocolate.  You can't use ANY liquid ingredients.

Cocoa beans:

variety of your choice. Two pounds is a good amount to start with because you loose some weight in the winnowing process, and some more when you grind them. If you don't get them from the Alchemist he won't have sympathy for you if they taste bad. (the Alchemist is smiling at this as he reads it - not that it isn't true)

 

Cocoa butter:

optional, makes a softer chocolate for eating. You don't have to have it if you're making baker's chocolate.

 

Lecithin:

made from soy generally. Most people think of it as an emulsifier, this is not true for chocolate making. In this case it modifies viscosity, it makes a thinner chocolate. It is often used in place of cocoa butter since it is cheaper, but also isn't a direct replacement.

 

What to do

Roast your cocoa beans:

 then cool them until they are back to room temperature. It's easiest to do this at least half a day before anything else. A full day would be even better. Roasting cocoa beans often smell like baking brownies. Expect to attract spectators if there are any around.

 

Crack and Winnow the beans:

Either with the Champion without its screen in, or by hand. You feed the beans in the top and the nibs and husk come out the bottom. Then you do the blowing air and tossing nibs part until there is little or no husk left in the beans if you using a blow drier.. You'll also have about a six foot circle of husk around you. Winnowing is best done outdoors, or in an area that's open and easy to sweep up. The kitchen is not such a good option.  Of you use the Sylph. Turn the Nibs in to Liquor: put them through the Champion again, this time with the screen in place. Cocoa liquor comes out the bottom and the waste comes out the front. You want a bowl in each place. You can put the waste through a second time to get all the liquor out of it that's possible. Winnowing and then the champion combined will "eat" about six ounces each time you make a batch of chocolate. If you're only making a pound this is a lot to loose. Hence the suggestion above of two pounds of beans.

 

Refine/conch:

Make sure your liquor is still nicely liquid, and put it in your Melanger to turn it from the sort of lumpy, gritty stuff to smooth chocolate. Start it running as soon as the cocoa liquor is in, and then add the other ingredients a bit at a time. That way the rollers don't have to try to bump over a pile of sugar or dry milk. NO WATER BASED LIQUIDS!

If you want to put in brown sugar, dry it for a while in your oven. If you're using them, add the cocoa butter, lecithin, sugar, milk powder, etc. Put the lid on and let it go. We don't leave ours running if we aren't home generally. The thing runs from 18 to 48 hours depending on the chocolate and other ingredients. You can stop it and check how smooth your chocolate is by dipping a spoon in (like tasting batters). If you stop it for a long time it will cool off. You can put the metal and granite part of the Melanger into a slightly warm oven to warm it back up -- this is slow. The plastic knob won't take much heat -- but 100-150 degrees F for an hour or two will remelt the chocolate until the Melanger can run again.

 

Tempering:

If you want shiny chocolate you have to temper it, which takes warming and cooling and making it's structure change. As for all of this, see the Alchemist's real instructions for how to do it.

 

Mold your chocolate:

the chocolate's smooth and no longer feels grainy. Pour it into molds, or whatever final holding device you're using. Clean up for as long as it takes go get all the chocolate off the Melanger and you're done. The molds need to cool for a few hours before the chocolate comes out of them.

 

Have Questions?

What Now?

As I said at the beginning. This is quick and dirty. It's not meant to teach you how to make chocolate but to give you an overview.

Read on for the full story. 


Cocoa Beans


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Cocoa Beans


Cocoa beans have numerous similarities to coffee beans, with some important differences in processes. They are both fermented (fermented cocoa almost looks already roasted), roasted and ground for use. Cocoa beans come in three primary species, Criollo, Forastero and Trinitario, but there are hundreds of sub-varieties for each. Very loosely, Criollo is analogous to Arabica coffee in that it is the cream of the crop and has the most delicate and complex array of flavors.  But in many cases, this can also mean a very mild chocolate.

The Forastero can be compared to Robusta coffee in its disease resistance and higher production, but that is where the comparison ends. Where robusta is just horrid 99% of the time, Forastero is not like that. It has a strong full cocoa flavor, but depending on the grade and preparation, can be rather one dimensional. Well prepared Forastero is what most of us are used to eating in chocolate.

Finally, Trinitario is a hybrid of the two, and can have various characters of both parents. Often a Trinitario bean is spoken of as having a strong or weak Criollo influence.

Storage

Unless specifically labeled, the cocoa beans or nibs you have purchased in their raw form.  They are best kept in a cool, dry, sealed location.  Like this, they should remain "fresh" 6 months to a year.  I don't recommend refrigeration or freezing as it is easy to trap moisture which is not good for cocoa beans.

I recommend leaving them in their raw form until you are ready to use them.  Roasted beans go stale quicker than raw beans, usually with a shelf life of around a month.

 Roasted vs Raw

I know there is a lot of information out there about the health benefits of chocolate, and I know some people like to eat cocoa in it's raw form for "maximum" health benefits.  Personally, I do not recommend eating ANY cocoa raw.  All commercial cocoa beans have been fermented by various yeasts and micro organisms, and are often open air dried.  In addition, e.coli and Salmonella can be present on the surface of the husk.  Proper roasting completely kills any potential surface contamination that may be present, makes them safe to eat and develops the flavors associated with chocolate.  And proper, delicate roasting does not significantly reduce the health benefits of cocoa - after all, the benefits were originally found in finished chocolate, not raw cocoa beans.  Keep that in mind.

There is even some debate as to whether the nutrients and various flavonoids are even nutritionally "available" in the raw form since roasting alters the physical structure of the cocoa bean and makes it easier to grind.  If you do want to eat cocoa beans whole as a snack, go right ahead - just roast them first.  And if you really don't want to roast them, please peel them.

 


Cocoa Bean Roasting


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Cocoa Bean Roasting


Most cocoa beans that you will encounter for chocolate making are fermented, but are not roasted yet. The fermentation process does darken them up considerably and you may think they are already roasted, but the lack of an evenness in color and texture is the key to telling when they are unroasted. Roasting accomplishing a number of things.

  • It helps separate the outer husk from the inner bean and makes cracking and winnowing much easier.
  • It also virtually sterilizes the cocoa bean. This is rather important as the conditions in which cocoa beans are fermented are naturally full of bacteria, fungi and molds. There is a "quantifiable" risk of infection from unroasted cocoa beans. Roasting reduces this risk.
  • Various chemical reactions occur when cocoa beans are roasted and proper roasting is integral to good flavored chocolate.  The vinegar smell from fermenting is driven off.   Raw beans don't taste like chocolate.  Roasted beans do.

Finally, for those of you who have read about the nutritional value of chocolate and cocoa beans, and worry that roasting destroys these nutrients, please remember that all of the research (to the best of my knowledge) has been done on fully roasted, fermented cocoa beans and chocolate. Sure, if you over roast or over process it, you may well loose some nutrients, but I personally take the nutritional benefits of chocolate as a benefit, not a goal. The flavor is my goal at Chocolate Alchemy.

Options for Home Roasting Cocoa Beans

There is a ton of information out there on the web about roasting coffee at home. If you can roast coffee at home (I do), you can roast cocoa beans at home. Sweet Maria's is a great source for coffee roasting information and some supplies.

Unlike coffee, which roasts anywhere from 400-460F, cocoa beans need more gentle treatment. In that there are no hard or fast coffee roasting rules, the same holds true for cocoa. In general though, they can be roasted from 5-35 minutes anywhere from about 250-325 F. To do this, there are basically five options:

  • Oven roasting
  • Air roasting
  • Drum roasting with a gas grill
  • Coffee roaster (the Behmor is our pick)
  • Hot air gun, believe it or not.

With all of the methods, the basic technique is the same. Subject the cocoa beans to a high temperature initially, slowly reduce the temperature and stop the roast when the beans are "cracking", but before they start to burn.

The initial high heat lets the beans gain some thermal momentum and allows for a good separation of the husk and nibs as the beans expand. You lower the ambient temperature so as not to burn the outside of the bean, but let the interior continue to roast. Finally, the cocoa beans will start to pop and crack as water vapor is explosively released. This happens when the cocoa bean temperature is around 300 F. This is your sign you are just about done roasting. Experience and smell (you don't want any burned smell) are the key indicators when the beans are roasted. Once the cocoa beans are roasted and cooled, try separating the husk from one. If it comes off easily, you did well and the beans are fully roasted. Likewise, taste some. They should have a nice cocoa flavor, with no raw or burned flavors.

Generally I like to have a roast take 15-30 minutes, regardless of method. Under that amount of time and the beans seem to retain a raw unfinished flavor. Over that and they start to taste baked and sort of flat.

Criollo tends to benefit from a shorter and lower temperature roasts, where as Forastero MAY need longer, hotter roasts. So far I have had a reasonable degree of success at keeping the roasting under 320 F and stopping the roast before the "baking chocolate smell" goes away. Overall, don't take them too hot, but experiment and roast a lot by smell. If it smells like chocolate, you are on the right track.

Oven Roasting

That I am aware of, virtually everyone has an oven in their kitchen, and you can roast cocoa in it.

Here is an excerpt from one of my logs. You can see how I have slowly dialed in what temperatures to set the oven at and how to adjust it.

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Alchemist John's Oven Cocoa Roasting Log

In general, if you try oven roasting, you will start hot (350-400) for a short amount of time and slowly lower it to you target temperature (300-320 F). The more you are roasting, the higher your initial temperature can and has to be.

Remember, you want to roast the cocoa beans, not bake them.  This is how this looks:

Whole cocoa beans

375-400 5 minutes

350 5 minutes

325 5 minutes

300 until done.  Look for the aroma of baking brownies and/or pops.  Both are good indicators you are there.

If you have nibs, you both can and need to take them a little more gentle.

350 10 minutes

325 5 minutes

300 5 minutes

275 until done

That is really it. Of course, there are LOTS of other ways you can do this.  I know some people roast at 250 F (or even 220 F) for 45 minutes to an hour or even two.  I am personally not a fan of this style, but you may be.  And hey, nearly everyone has an oven.

 

Air Roasting

The is only kind of an option for roasting cocoa beans. I mention it only because I use a modified West bend popcorn popper to roast my coffee in at home, and for a couple of ounces of cocoa beans, it works well enough. It is what I use when I roast new cocoa beans for evaluation.

It is not really a practical way to roast a large (or even a moderate) amount of cocoa beans.

Regardless, what I do is toss in a couple of ounces, turn on the heat, and watch the beans swirl around. In 3-5 minutes, they are usually cracking very loudly and I turn it off and cool them down. Good enough for evaluation purposes (say, if you request a sample from me), but a little to fast and hot for a proper roasting.

Drum Roasting

If you are going to be serious about roasting cocoa beans at home, and/or making chocolate, this is the method I recommend. It has the most flexibility, consistency and gives the best overall product for the least amount of work.

You can either make your own if you are inclined or obtain one from RK Drums. These are both high quality stainless steel, sell for around $200, and will last a lifetime.

With any of the drums, you will roast on a gas grill, with a thermometer inserted just below the drum and rotate the drum with a generally available motor or rotisserie that rotates anywhere from 6 to 60 rpm.

I pre-heat mine to between 500 - 550 F, and load anywhere from one to four pounds into my drum. One the grill is up to temperature, I place the drum into the grill and start it rotating. You will see the temperature drop of 50-100 F depending how much you loaded. Resist the urge to turn the temperature up. Just let it come back up over time. After about 10 minutes, you should start to notice a nice brownie smell and the temperature should be back in the 500-500 range. Don't let it get over 550 as it can start to get out of control as the bean dry out.

In another 5 minutes the cocoa beans should start to crack. Give them about couple of minutes, smelling, judging and guessing when they are done.

Get your fire proof gloves on (did I forget to mention these?), remove the drum, dump the beans in a waiting bowl, and stir until just warm to the touch.

This is what a previous non-too-glamorous setup looked like. The drum very comfortably roasts 3 lbs and could probably do as much as 4 lb or as little as one.

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Drum roaster on the grill all loaded with 3 lb of Ocumare

Dumping the beans after a 13 minutes roast

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All cool and waiting for the next batch

These are a little dark on the outside, but really fine inside

This was my third batch and actually, this roast got a little out of control. The collar holding the drum closed slipped (now it has a new collar) and some beans dropped in a caused a very smoky fire, hence the sooty appearance on the beans. Since I consider this just about the worst I could do, I figure I will go ahead and process these into chocolate and see just how it comes out. It is often said that cocoa beans have a narrow window of good roasting, but these tasted pretty good. Mostly, they are not pleasing to the eye. Note: I did go ahead and process these into chocolate. At first I thought they were going to be to burned, but by the time everything had rested, mellowed and melded, the chocolate was just fine with no hints of smoke or off flavors.

Coffee Roaster

There are only two off the shelf coffee drum roasters that I know of that can do a reasonable amount of cocoa beans. The Behmor 1600  and the Hot Top. Between the two, there is just really any contest. The Hottop will do 6-8 oz of cocoa, maybe 12 oz if you push it. The Behmor can do 2-2.5 lbs.

With both of them you will need to judge when the beans are finished and stop the roast manually as they are programmed for coffee. I have not had the opportunity to experiment with the Hot top in a number of years, so I can't really speak about it's current level of programming. The Behmor on the other hand, I have worked with a lot. It has 5 roast profiles, that are all suitable for cocoa roasting.

 

 

Now, in the same way you can use a Behmor 1600 Plus, you can use pretty much any commercial drum coffee roaster if you have the use of one.  I personally use an old Royal #5 which runs off propane and can handle 15 lbs of coffee.  But because cocoa roasts so much cooler than coffee, I routinely roast 30-35 lbs of cocoa. 

 

As a rough temperature profile, I pre-heat to 350-400 F, and drop in my cocoa.  With a thermometer in the bean mass, the temperature usually drops to the low 100's.  I then roast, adjusting my heat, to reach 250-260 F over about 13-18 minutes.  Yours of course may vary, but as a bench mark, for me, the beans just start to crack in this temperature window.  So if yours shows 300 F or 240 F, fine, that is roughly your 'new' target temperature in 13-18 minutes.  And those time and temperatures are not set in stone - they are to give you a guideline to work with, and then adjust off of after you have made it into chocolate.  To sour?  Try a little longer and/or hotter.  A little acrid?  Try dropping your final temperature a bit.  To acidic and acrid?  Roast it a bit longer (to reduce acidity) but do it more gently (to reduce the acridness).  Get the idea?  Hopefully so.

Hot Air gun

This again is from the realm of coffee roasting. It is not high tech, but it gets the job done. Basically, place 1-2 lbs of cocoa into a shallow bowl (the coffee roasters use a dog bowl, really), use the heat gun to heat the beans, while you manually stir them. In the same vein as before, add a lot of heat initially, back off as the roast progresses, and stop when cracks are happening and it still smells list baking brownies.

I will be updating this particular method as I get more experience.


Cocoa Bean Cracking and Winnowing


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Cocoa Bean Cracking and Winnowing


To make chocolate, this husk must be removed from the cocoa bean.  The goal here is to crack the cocoa beans into pieces and then separate (winnow) the husk from the nib.

Cracking

It can be done by hand, but this is rather tedious and not very approachable. Like most things, there are many things that do not work, and only a few that do work. Here's a basic list of various ways you can and can not crack cocoa beans.

Do not work for Cracking:

  • Meat Grinders
  • Food processors
  • Grain mills
  • Coffee grinders

Works OK, but not great or not feasible

  • Hand peeling
  • Corona type

Works Good

  • Crankandstein Cocoa Mill (discontinued)

Works Great

  • Champion Juicer w/o bottom screen (see it attached to the Aether below)
  • Deluxe Cracker - a stainless steel and brass cracker build for the Aether for extended lifetime and faster cracking.

After proper roasting, you will notice the outer husk is much looser and easier to remove. It sounds simple enough but just a few years ago, there were no equipment that worked off the shelf.  I contacted two companies to see if they had any interest in modifying one of their products to handle cocoa beans. Crankandstein worked with Chocolate Alchemy and the Crankandstein Cocoa mill was born - a heavy three roller, dual drive, set gap mill.  Sadly they decided to stop making them.

At this point I can't recommend the Champion Juicer for cracking both raw and roasted cocoa beans.

 

The Crankandstein Cocoa mill (discontinued)

Crankandstein Cocoa Mill

Crankandstein Cocoa Mill

 
 
 

Winnowing

After your beans are crack, you then need to separate them husk and nib. In exactly the same vein as cracking, there are a range of things that work and don't work.

Does not work well:

  • Champion Juicer - years ago I proposed separating (not really winnowing as no air is involved) the husk and nib as you grind.  I technically will work if you are doing small 1-2 lb batches, but it is VERY hard on the Champion and the cocoa and not something I generally recommend any more.  It's fine for a final filter (see below) but not the initial separation.

Works ok, but not great:

  • Long tube PVC winnowers.  There are various permutations of these winnowers.  Some have one fan, some have two, some have speed controllers, some have valves, most (maybe all) are hand feed.  Most work well for seeds, but none work simple and easy with a single pass and without a LOT of hands on user intervention.
  • Hand peeling - 1 lb/ hour.  'nuff said.  Well, I will say more.  Works fine, but is slow, tedious, hard on the hands and not approachable.

Works Good:

  • Bowl/Blow dryer Method

Works Great:

 
Winnowing the cocoa beans with a hair dryer

Winnowing the cocoa beans with a hair dryer

Bowl/Blow dryer Method

The goal here is to blow the lighter husk away but leave the heavier nibs.  It's a bit messy, and not good of indoors, but does a fine job.  I recommend wearing a dust mask.  There is definitely user technique involved.  Once you find that technique, you can expect to do about 0.75-1 lb/minute.

3-4 minutes later, just over 3 lb of Homemade Cocoa Nibs

3-4 minutes later, just over 3 lb of Homemade Cocoa Nibs

Use any old hair dryer, although a small shop vac works great. Come in high and stir with your hands (or those of your apprentice, you can see my daughter Logan helping below). You will soon work out how close the blowing air needs to be to blow the husk away, but not the nibs. After a few minutes, you should have a nice bowl of nibs ready for the Champion Juicer or Melanger.

Don't fret too much about a few pieces of husk here and there.  The industry standard isless than 1.5% husk.  That's actually quite a lot. This method can easily get you under 1%.   The screen in the Champion will remove those few bits, and actually make a very nice filter bed if you go that route.  And otherwise, it can go straight into your Melanger.

 

Aether Winnower

After many years of hand winnowing via the above method, and seeing that no one else was coming up with any good versions of compact, simple, reasonably priced winnowers, I finally invented the Aether Winnower.  Currently there are two versions.   The full sized Commercial Aether, and the smaller table top Sprite.

aether-winnower-small.JPG

You can find more information  for the Aether here:

You can find more information for the Sylph here.

Here is a nice overview of both the blow dryer method and using the Sylph.

 

And likewise more information about doing it yourself (DIY)

Chocolate Alchemy’s DIY Winnower

Chocolate Alchemy's DIY Winnower Part 1

Chocolate Alchemy's DIY Winnower Part 2

Chocolate Alchemy's DIY Winnower Part 3

I need to point out that those were the first posts and plans, and as you can see in the photos above, the design has changed slightly.  Below are MUCH better.

What I need to point out is it is a hybrid of both winnowers, neither quite full sized Aether, nor smaller Sprite.  It uses the larger PVC of the Aether, but the basic bucket configuration of the Sprite.   It shows no supports, and has purchased ball valves instead of the slider valves I have on the working models.  Most important though it has the Discriminator air flow in the 'correct' place, namely fully under the nib/husk entrance, instead of somewhat adjacent to it as in the first design.

You may be saying to yourself, 'self, isn't that a PVC winnower that above he said didn't work well?'.  And I will answer, no.  This has three critical differences:

  1. There is no long drop tube.  Instead there is a deflector to stop the velocity of the nibs and husk, which was the only reason for a long tube.
  2. There is a Discriminator air flow below the nib/husk entrance.  Honestly I am not 100% sure why it works from a physics standpoint (although I could ramble and give some semi-half-baked ideas, but I won't), but I do know it works with it, and does not work without it.  'nuff said.
  3. It's simple to operate.

Eventually there will be both full plans available.  But there is more than enough information to make your own, and I will always answer questions if you have them.

Finally, for those that like to see the progression of an invention, this is the Aether Winnower start to finish.


Grinding


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Grinding


Grinding

First off, expect to make a mess! It gets better with experience, but initially, cocoa will go everywhere.

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After your cocoa beans have been roasted, and possibly cracked and winnowed , the next step in chocolate making is to grind them until they liquefy into cocoa liqueur. Again, I have found many pieces of equipment that just are not up to this task. To name a few, general food processors, Vita-Mix, coffee grinders (burr and blade), meat grinders (manual and electric) and mortar & pestles (we are talking alchemy here after all) are just are not sufficient to the job at hand. I have heard that a Cuisinart juicer attachment can work, but most juicers will not work.

What does work remarkably well is the Champion Juicer. It grinds and separates the husks rather nicely. It does take a few of passes, and care must be taken not rush, as the cocoa mass can become too hot, and flavor can be impacted. I have successfully done a 4 pound batch of cocoa beans in 1/2 hour. This may seem like a long time, but it really is not. After you hit a routine, you can even be cleanup and have your chocolate into your Melanger and refining within an hour.

 

 You want to feed the nibs into the Champion (with the fine screen on now) a handful at a time, using just enough pressure on the tamper to feed the nibs in, but don't bare down - it will just overheat the motor. After two or three handfuls you should see cocoa liqueur coming out of the bottom screen, and whatever husk is left coming out of the spout. Put all of your cocoa nibs through and collect the liqueur. Don't put it through the Champion again as it does not really do anything and just makes a mess.

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On the other hand, you should now pass the husk and cocoa liqueur that came out the spout back through the Champion. Each pass will allow more and more husk to be separated out until only husk is coming out of the spout. If you have winnowed well, you may not have any come out by the end.

I used to advocate mixing in your other ingredients in at this point, but since we discovered the Melanger for refining, it really serves no point to add in your sugar. If you are going to put your chocolate straight into the Melanger or simply know how much extra cocoa butter you are going to add (if you are adding any at all, it is optional), I do advise putting it through the Champion now. What it will do is free up the last of the cocoa liqueur that is in the Champion, and "flush" it out. A lot will come out the spout with more husk. Just pass it through over and over until all the cocoa butter is through the screen and "dry" husk it coming from the spout.

As for how much cocoa butter to add, there are no hard rules about proportions or ingredient but here are some rough guidelines.

Sugar content can generally runs from anywhere from 20% (i.e. 80% cocoa, a rather bittersweet chocolate) all the way to 70% sugar (Hershey's). I have found 60-65% is a nice place to start experimenting. Cocoa butter is not a necessity, just an option. It can run anywhere from 0-20%. At 20% the result may be interesting and certainly milder, but also creamier. So far, I like 0-8%.

Lecithin you will find in almost all ingredient lists of chocolate. As it says, it is an emulsifier and is often added at 1-2% of the extra cocoa butter you add. Not a lot. On the other hand, I have one test batch with 2% total added, and it definitely gave an extra silkiness to the chocolate. Aside from flavor and texture, the test batches with lecithin processed noticeably easier through the Champion Juicer. I use granular from a local health food store. I have not tried liquid but am told it works fine.

What does all this mean? Experiment! Start somewhere around 60% cocoa, 35% sugar and add a little extra cocoa butter (5%, about an ounce for the batch sizes we are working in) and lecithin if you feel like it. Adjust the recipes after than. It will still be good regardless of what proportions you use.

Once it goes into the Melanger it starts out quite the ungainly mess, and looks like it can not possible work, but Alchemy it is!


Conching and Refining


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Conching and Refining


Conching & Refining

I have noted that there tends to be some confusion when people talk about conching and refining chocolate. It probably does not help that I have even put the two processes on the same page. But I want you to understand that they are two separate processes with two different goals in mind. Sometimes conching and refining can happen at the same time, but they do not have to and often you do not want them to. Some definitions are probably in order. Conching Conch comes from the Spanish word concha, which means shell. The name "conching" arose because the original vessel used to hold the chocolate was shaped like a conch shell. Conching is a modern process used in making chocolate The characteristic taste, smell and texture (and by this, I mean general mouthfeel, not particle size) of chocolate are developed at this stage.

Refining

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The process of reducing the particle sizes of both cocoa solids and sugar crystals in finished chocolate. The goal is somewhere 20-30 microns. Your tongue loses its ability to determine texture and grittiness at around 50 microns. Under about 15 microns the chocolate can get gummy. We will worry about over refining when we get there. We can only hope for that problem.

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With that all said, what we have found that works remarkable well for both Refining and Conching is the Spectra 11 (previous known as the Alchemist's Stone Melanger). If you notice, it looks a lot like a commercial old style Melangeur.

Santha Wet Grinder

Old Style Melangeur

On a weekly basis I get asked if there is another less expensive way to refine chocolate at home. Trust me (hopefully you do), if I knew of one, you would know about it. Right now, to the best of my knowledge, the Melanger by Santha is it. Although the list is by no means conclusive, different things we have and failed to use as chocolate refiner are as follows:

  • Ice cream maker
  • VitaMix
  • Cuisinart
  • Blenders (many makes and models)
  • Juicers (including the Champion, which is the only juicer we know of that will liquify the cocoa nibs, but still doesn't touch sugar)
  • The oh so romantic Mortar and pestle
  • Ball mills (homemade they were just too expensive)
  • Rock tumblers (with steel shot)

There might be more, but again, if we had found another way, you would be the first to know. As for the Wet Grinder (as it was formerly known) it was only capable of running an hour before the motor started overheating. With a little testing we were able to suggest some modifications to Santha that would allow the motor to run continuously as needed for chocolate. They were happy to accommodate Chocolate Alchemy and small scale Melangers were born.  (Side note: if you happen to have an "original" Santha Wet Grinder, or some other wet grinder , you can always modify it to run continuously. Just go to How to Hack your Santha).

The current vent modified cover from Santha looks like this:

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The Santha has a heavy motor that rotates a granite slab (10 lbs) and two large heavy (7.25 lb total) granite rollers at about 150 rpm. The whole thing is just under 50lbs! Oh, and I just saw they say it is "light weight" - don't you believe them - this thing is a heavy duty monster - and that is great! Really, the pictures just do not due it is justice. Just have a look.

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So, how do you use the Melanger?

I suggest pre-heating the bowl and rollers.  Don't go over 150 F as the epoxy can fail.

Melt any cocoa butter you are going to add.  Anywhere from about 120 F on up to 250 F.

If you are using liquor, melt and add it.  If you are using nibs, heat them to 120-150 F and add them in small handfuls, giving the Melanger time to grind them down.  Add more as it gets smooth.   You can add your pre-heated sugar at this point too.  There is no need to pre-grind your sugar.  Regular granular sugar works great.  NOTE: Do not add ANY water based ingredients to your chocolate in the Melanger.  The chocolate will seize and you can damage your Melanger. After the first hour though, the chocolate becomes more liquid like and the whole thing generates enough heat by friction that additional heat is not really needed. After that, I have found a difference in texture after every hour, with "smooth" chocolate occurring around 10-14 hours. With the freshness and quality of ingredients we are using, I have found no degradation in flavor or signs of over-refining after 24 hours of refining and I have word from various customers that it performs great up to 36 hours (not that there is a problem after that, just that they refined that long). It is that simple.

If you need to stop the refining, just do. It will not hurt a thing. I turn mine off at night, put the bowl into a pre-heated oven (about 150 F, with the oven then turned off) and let it set overnight. It is usually still liquid in the morning and I can just restart the refining. If it does solidify, just turn the oven on about 150-175 and melt the chocolate. Take the cover off for better heat transfer and so you don't melt it. Finally, the bowl is held together my an epoxy that has a maximum temperature limit of about 170 F. It can handle a 200F for a short time, just don't let everything get that hot.

My latest batch of chocolate was two pounds of milk chocolate.

8 oz Ghana Forastero liqueur (melted) (20%) 8 oz cocoa butter (melted) (20%) 8 oz non-fat dry milk powder (20%) 16 oz sugar (40%) 2 g lecithin (0.2 %) 1/2 vanilla pod (split and soaked in the cocoa butter 1 hour)

After refining for 10 hours, at 1 hour increments, there was no noticeable grit left from the sugar. During that time, some conching occurred to - there was a marked increase in viscosity (which is what is supposed to happen) and some of the sharper flavors at the beginning have mostly disappeared. Conching has to occur to some degree as there is tremendous shear where the 120 rpm granite rollers rotate against the lower spinning granite slab.

This is the chocolate as it just went into the Santha

.

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After about 5 hours you can see most of the grit has been refined away, but you should note that there is not a lot of gloss to the chocolate. It means is it not ready yet.

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This is the chocolate all finished. There is a nice high gloss, and you can even see the chocolate sort of spinning off of the granite rollers.

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Of course, the real test of whether it is done or not is "do you like it?" and "is it smooth enough?". Only you can answer those questions.

In addition to the above basic instructions, there is also the Chocolate Melanger Instructions and tips which give a bit more detail on how to use (and not abuse) the Melanger.

In the mean time, the following will give you a bit more detail as to what in involved in refining and conching.

Refining and(vs) Conching

Conching

The process involves heating and mixing for several hours to several days the ingredients of chocolate - cocoa, cocoa butter, sugar, lecithen and and any "flavoring" such as vanilla or essential oils. For milk chocolate, dry milk powder is also included in the mix. (don't try to use liquid milk, it will seize on you). During conching, the chocolate is heated to temperatures of 110 to 180 F, sometimes externally, sometimes just from friction. In the "industry" many Milk chocolates are heated to temperatures over 160 F to allow the lactose crystals to transition into amorphous lactose. This transition is often why milk chocolate has that soft and silky mouth feel. Some people (both commercial and at home) don't do this, and that is fine. Especially at home, it is your choice. I find the 140 F often reached in the Melanger does just fine. Regardless, during Conching the sharp taste of the fresh cocoa slowly disappears. At the same time the acidity and bitterness of cocoa are lost and the moisture content is reduced (there is actually debate over this) and the delicious chocolate flavor becomes fully developed. Simultaneously in the process, the smoothing of the cocoa and sugar particles takes place with cocoa butter forming around each of the small particles. This is different from refining really. The particles of sugar and cocoa are smoothed out in conching but not substantial reduced in size. Conching is done for several hours or up to three days. Finally, there are basically two thoughts on conching - low and high shear. When conching was discovered, there was only low shear, and this is probably why it could take up to 3 days. With modern equipment, there have been a number of conching advancements, notably high shear conches. These supposedly (there again is great debate) can conch a batch of chocolate in under 15 minutes. The high shear causes the volatile components to be quickly liberate from the cocoa mass.

There is no real right way or amount of time to conch. It is up to you and what you want your final chocolate to be like. All I can do is give you certain guidelines. Certain Criollo cocoa beans are chosen because they are bright and fruity. You would not really want to conch that for 3 days because you are just going to drive off those qualities that you choose the bean for in the first place. And you will need to keep balance in mind in that desirable and undesirable compounds are driven off during conching. The trick is to find that combination of conditions (low or high shear, high or low heat, short or long time) that give the chocolate flavor you want. Conching is probably the least understood process in modern chocolate making and consequently the most Alchemical of the processes. Finally, try not to worry too much over it. Even if you chocolate is not exactly like to want it, it is still going to be good, primarily because you are using fresh quality cocoa beans.Right now there are no heated home conchs, only the Santha that conchs as it refines. The present plan is that we can further modify the Santha to be heated. We are working on that and will keep everyone up to date.

We have come a long way since Chocolate Alchemy started. You if want, you can go read some of the History.


Tempering and Molding


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Tempering and Molding


Tempering and Molding

I should start off saying that I am not an expert at this portion of chocolate making. Fortunately, it is the best documented and chefs have been doing it for years. This is the basics, but as so much of this Chocolate Alchemy entails, lots of practice will probably be required. Why temper chocolate? It is what gives the chocolate bars you eat that finished glossy, shiny appearance and that nice snap when you eat it.

If you don't actively temper your chocolate, you might get lucky or you might not. The left most picture is of a piece of chocolate that is not tempered. It has just a matte appearance, is soft and melts readily if you try and pick it up. After a couple of days untempered chocolate tends to "bloom". That is the middle shot. It still tastes fine, but I find the texture of bloomed chocolate a little odd. Kind of coarse. Finally, the right most chocolate is tempered. It has a nice shine, snaps when you break it, and does not melt as you are trying to pick it up.

untempered chocolate

untempered chocolate

chocolate which has bloomed

chocolate which has bloomed

tempered chocolate

tempered chocolate

Tempering involves bringing your Alchemical chocolate creation to a temperature at which the cocoa butter reaches its most stable form.

Many people seem to be quite confused about tempering and what is going on. One day it finally snapped into place (pardon the minor pun) what was going on. I have done my best to explain in these combined articles.  Tempering - Deconstruction and Reconstruction.

Chocolate will crystallize (incorrectly) if any moisture gets in it. When tempering chocolate, you must keep your chocolate dry at all stages, after all, you just spent days conching it to remove the water.

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Just look what a drop of water will do!!! If you really get into making chocolate, it might be worth it to consider purchasing a chocolate temperer although I personally prefer the hands on process. These appliances take the guess work out of tempering. Home machines run between $300 and $900 and can be found on the internet.

The first step of tempering chocolate is to melt it carefully. About the minimum I would suggest doing is about 1.5 lbs. Less than this and keeping the temperatures correct can be tricky. The temperature should be between 100 and 110 degrees F. I find melting a number of pounds is convenient in a oven with a pilot light over the span of a few hours. To use a double boiler make sure the water simmers but does not boil and that the pan is not touching with the water. Stir almost constantly. When your chocolate is almost melted turn off the heat and continue stirring.

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When the chocolate is melted, pour it into a second, dry bowl to help bring the temperature down or just stir until it is cooled a little. You want to maintain this melted chocolate at a temperature of about 95-100 degrees F. Use a good thermometer to verify this.

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Pour about a one quarter to on third of the melted chocolate on a dry non-porous surface. Marble is traditional, but I have never been traditional, so I use granite.  There is nothing magical about only tabling a portion of the chocolate.  In theory you could not reserve some and just do it all, but it's generally much easier to just work with a portion.  Why make your life more complicated by using more?

Use a spatula to spread the chocolate out, then bring the chocolate together again using a pastry scraper or the like.

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Continue this until the chocolate has cooled to 82-85 F . At this point the chocolate should be a thick mass and should take 10-15 minutes. This is not set in stone, just an estimate. Personally, I have found that I am not even measuring this temperature, I am just working it until it start to thicken up

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To get it workable again, I add some of the 100 degree held chocolate to the seed chocolate (what is on the granit) and work it gently.

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Add this mass back to the bowl of chocolate that you have kept at 95-100 degrees F. Stir it in gently trying not to create bubbles.

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Check the temperature. You want a temperature of about 90 F , but never over 92F. If you go over, the seed crystal you just formed at 82�F start to melt and reconfigure and effectively you start untempering your chocolate. Heat it gently if the chocolate is too cold and adjust your amounts and temperature next time to reach this goal. Remember this is a dynamic process and rarely the same twice.

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The chocolate should now tempered and can be poured into clean, dry molds. I like to use a large syringe to dispense the chocolate.

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Once the chocolate is in the mold, give it a few gentle but firm raps on the counter and it will smooth right out.

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You can either refrigerate, freeze or just let the chocolate harden at room temperature before unmolding. You will just have to experiment and see what you like the best. Ask 3 chocolate makers which is the "right" way and you will probably get 4 different answers. Regardless, once the chocolate has set up, just invert the mold, and press gently. The chocolate should just pop right out - all tempered and glossy.

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Remember, this may take a bit of practise, and should the need arise, the chocolate can always be tempered again as long as no water has been added and it has not been burned.

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Good luck!

If you want some other versions of tempering, check out the following.

Wayne at "Wayne's this and that" has experimented with a huge number of items. One of them is making chocolate at home, and tempering. Check his site out. I like how he approaches tempering.

ScharffenBerger does not have a direct link to their tempering section right now. It is worth searching out though. Go to ScharffenBerger and use their search to find "tempering". They approach it in a very good way, lots of definitions, (Al)chemistry and practical knowledge.

Now, Go make some Chocolate!