Level: Novice

Reading Time: 6 minutes

I can’t get tempering down. I follow everything but no matter what my chocolate blooms.  Here is my last batch.  I am being super careful and using the syringe you recommend or a small ladle so it is perfect.  Could my nibs be bad or the cocoa butter I added be defective?

I have good news for you.  Your chocolate isn’t bloomed.  Now, it may not be commercial quality, but stop beating yourself up.  What you have there might technically be considered surface bloom, but it is just that; on the surface.   In many cases it will actually rub off.   The important thing is that it does not go all the way through the bar.

When we talk about bloom, these two photos are what we are talking about.


The even one on the left is from not destroying the Type IV crystals by getting it properly up to a temperature of 88 F or so.  The one on the left is usually from over manipulation of the chocolate when you pour it up.  You get that from either scraping vigorously back and form trying to even it out or from scraping the last of your bowl into the mold.  Basically it breaks some of the crystal structures and you get random formation.  You can tell the cause is physical and and temperature because of the swirls of tempered and bloomed chocolate.  In that you have some tempered chocolate in there you know your temperature was ok.

You mention using this syringe.


Unfortunately that is not the syringe I recommend and could also be causing you major issues.  Notice how small the hole is?  That causes sheer as you are depositing and is just as bad as scraping your chocolate.  This is the syringe style I have suggested.


And frankly, after years of experience I now rather need to take back that that advice.  When I was initially using a syringe I was filling small molds, and there is works pretty well.  But when you try to fill a large bar mold it just causes problems too often, again from the sheer and disturbing the crystal structure.

You also mention using a small ladle.  Unfortunately in your effort to be extra careful you are again just introducing more edges that cause imperfections.   The result are those surface swirls you get.

Have a look at the following.  This is the same batch of chocolate.  The one on the left I poured straight from my bowl into the molds, taking care to let the chocolate spread naturally.  The one on the right I used a small ladle where I had to double and triple dip.

But to repeat, it those distortions are only surface deep.  Here are the exact same bars top side.

Basically perfect and indistinguishable.

I want to toss out one more observation I have made recently.  People seem to want to place blame on poor tempering on high humidity, too much moisture in their sugar, bad nibs or some other really rare or odd cause. 

Occam’s razor folks. 

“Suppose there exist two explanations for an occurrence. In this case, the simpler one is usually better. Another way of saying it is that the more assumptions you have to make, the more unlikely an explanation is.” 

I by no means mean to belittle the difficulties you have in tempering.  It can be frustrating.  But in over a decade helping people troubleshoot their tempering woes, it has come down to 3 things 99+% of the time.

1)            Too high or low of a temperature, often from a bad thermometer.

2)            Disturbing the chocolate too much.

3)            A basic non-understanding tempering at all and ‘winging it’.

I have never seen a case of ingredients causing bloom.  I have never seen a case of humidity causing bloom.  I have seen cases where the ambient temperature is too warm and the crystals won’t form, but that is the rare case and in that case the temperature was over 90 F.  And is also basically cause number 1 - too high of a temperature.

So if you are having issues, first and foremost identify the real issue.  In this case it was only surface bloom (and I kind of hate to even call it bloom) so you can eliminate reasons 1 and 3 above.  After that, revisit your technique.  Tempering isa skill you have develop and it can take a little practice.  Be patient with yourself and don’t just jump to rare, esoteric solutions.

Good luck folks.  And if you still have problems, never hesitate to write me.  It is why I am here.