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How do I maintain a large batch of chocolate at 92-93° while pouring multiple molds? Can it drop below that and still maintain the temper?

 I find myself doing large batches. From 6-8 lbs a batch in my melanger. When it's time, I pour it into a stainless steel pot to cool. I have already shaved off 1% of the chocolate mass in silk and placed it into a bowl. Using the laser thermometer, I check the temp and place the silk when it gets to 94°. Then I pour multiple molds worth of chocolate.

 PS- How do you store your bars? I keep them in the fridge as I'm paranoid they'll melt at room temp.

 This last couple months I’ve been thinking of this group of Ask the Alchemist articles as the Back to Basics series and so we’ll keep that up here.

 You can get as inventive or keep it as simple as you need to but the best way to deal with this kind of situation is to think through what your goal is and solve the problem accordingly.

You asked can the temperature drop below 92 and maintain temper.  Technically the answer is yes since the chocolate is going to do that as it cools in the mold.  The only issue is if it starts thickening up and you have to stir it extra to the point you start breaking up crystals.

I submit the better question is ‘how do you maintain the temperature of 6-8 lb of chocolate’ to which I would answer with a semi-rhetorical question, how do you maintain the temperature of anything?

You really only have one option but you can do it a couple different ways.

  • Work in a warm environment so there is no reason for the chocolate to cool.

  • Preserve heat through insulation

Now, it really isn’t practical to heat your working space up to 92 F.  Frankly, that is just a sick idea and it would cause issues down the line with trying to get the chocolate to then cool when you want it to.

Instead what you can do is to put the bowl of chocolate into a warm oven with the heat off.  The nice thing about this is that is that you aren’t actually heating the chocolate do you don’t have to worry about it getting too warm.  The drawback is that you have to take the bowl continuously in and out.  You also don’t really have to concern yourself with how warm the oven is since there is so much chocolate and mostly what is warm is the air. Even if the temperature is over 100 F there isn’t enough energy to actually heat the chocolate any meaningful degree.

The other option and what I actually prefer is to use a warm water bath.  Water is a great insulator mostly due to how much energy it takes to heat it up.  Basically it resists changing temperature.

I know a lot of people are terrified of using water around chocolate because of the dire consequences but I have found it is usually turns out to be a fear of the unknown.  If you confront your fear and make a plan to deal with it, the fear goes away and your life gets easier.

In this case the worry is that you will splash water into the chocolate.  This can only happen if the bowl holding the chocolate is setting completely inside the bowl with water in it.  The simple fix is just to use bowls so that the rim of the inner chocolate containing bowl is above the rim of the water containing bowl.  Should you get sloppy and water splashes over, it is going to splash out of the bowl onto the counter and not into the bowl of chocolate.

A disaster planned for is often a disaster avoided.

Just have the bowl of water around 92-95 F.  A little warmer than your target is perfectly fine and probably even good since you are doing this because your chocolate is cooling and you want to add a little heat.  And since you are only doing 6-8 lb you are going to be done before either the water or chocolate cools too much.

This is just sort of tempering first aid as it were.  Neither of these techniques would be great for continuous production tempering but will do just great for the moderate sized batches we are talking about here.

We can use the same fear planning for how to store the chocolate.  Knowledge is power.  You temper at 88-92 F.  It is setting up around 85 F.  If it is setting up at those temperatures then basically those are the temperatures you need to worry about.  If you know your house doesn’t get close to that temperature then there is nothing to fear and you can leave the chocolate out.  And given the time I’m writing this, we are in winter so I’d be stunned if your house was more than about 70-75 F which is totally safe.

Happy tempering everyone.