Welcome back to the beginning of an exciting new year. I am hoping this year will bring a lot of progress to the Art and Science of Homemade Chocolate - Chocolate Alchemy. Last year I learned quite a bit about chocolate making and made all of my year end goals. I am really pleased about that. We developed our Cocoa mill, have 5 cocoa bean varieties in stock and started our refiner R&D.

In particular, the rock tumbler turned chocolate ball mill refiner is working out very nicely. I took some particularly coarse textured, rough and sour flavored chocolate (I tested some purposeful under roasting), combined it with an equal portion of 3/16" stainless steel shot, and set it tumbling in the ball mill. Initially, I tried it without any heat and saw no change in the chocolate. I then made a very simple enclosure for the container portion of the ball mill, put a heating pad under it (you don't want to heat motors) and again let it tumble. A day later the chocolate was significantly smoother, although it did have a touch of sugar grit left, but so much less than anything to date. The biggest change was the flavor profile and how it melted in my mouth. Wow, what a change. The sourness had disappeared and was replaced by a pleasant brightness. I really did not expect this as usually an open air conch is needed for these kind of changes. It was a nice surprise. I will start experimenting with different ratios of chocolate and SS balls, and will probably try some mixed media (SS cones, rods and triangles) to see if I can optimize the particle size reduction

I suspect in the end, this little tumbler (a quaint 4") will prove the concept, but a larger diameter tumbler will be needed to generate enough energy and grinding force to get the chocolate where we want it to be..

R & D materials are off to CrankandStien for some manufacturing work for a conch/refiner. I hope to have a working model in a month or so, and I will test that out and report back.

For this year, I expect to have a working refiner and/or combination conch to offer. The new crops of cocoa beans are starting to come in. The new Barinas is quite nice, with a few more aromatic than last year. I am hearing about the availability of some organic Ocumare and even some rare Porcelana. I have not tasted any, but I hope to carry a new Carenero Superior as the old crop runs low, and maybe a few new varieties as I get to taste them.

And finally, I hope to continue to meet more interesting and exciting people this year (yes, I mean you my customers, friends and fellow Alchemists), continue the quest for homemade chocolate and rediscover the Art and Science of Chocolate Alchemy and bring it to you!

Happy Chocolate making everyone.