I recently had a death in the family. I’ll be traveling October 4-10 and out of email contact.
Viewing entries in
I use my Sous Vide for so many things and am planning on making silk. My question is however have you tempered chocolate using a sous vide
Instead of whole cacao nibs, can I buy cracked cacao nibs from health store and put it in Melanger
Instead of cracked cocao nibs can I buy raw cacao powder from health store and put it in Melanger
One thing I can’t find an answer about is how I should go about sorting my beans. I have tried a bunch of different ways and nothing really seems to improve my chocolate every time. I see so many chocolate makers sorting but just can’t figure it out. Please help!!
I would appreciate if you could provide any specific bean recommendation to make milk chocolate.
Hey everyone and welcome to the holiday rush. I say this every year but please be patient with your orders. We are getting them out as fast as we can but they are coming in even faster than we anticipated. I KNOW the order confirmations say 1-3 days, but it is currently taking that to just get to them and then that again to get them out. Writing to ask just takes time away from packing them.
Let’s keep on with the Holidays and whatnot.
Testing and evaluation beans are available again.
Gift Certificates are a great way to get your chocolate maker something when you don’t know what they need or want.
There continues to be free shipping on FULL USPS flat rate boxes if you stuff them with ONLY beans, nibs or brewing cocoa.
The IR thermometer we have in stock has been discontinued so the 3 dozen we have is it.
The digital thermocouple, after many months, is back in stock.
That is all for now folks.
Love this channel. I've yet to see anyone skilled enough to produce a quality video making dark milk chocolate without using caster sugar. Using Honey, maple or coconut sugar. Do you reckon you could think about doing such a video in the future?
Do I have to proof my nibs and sugar before starting my chocolate? I’m worried about caramelizing the sugars and getting off flavors that are not true to the bean.
I’m confused about making liquor in the Champion. In your videos you add nibs to the melanger. Why are you making liquor at all?
Brazil is fantastic and I can hardly wait to go back.
Reading Time: 12 minutes
I just read Dandelion’s new book and chocolate making seems very expensive. Isn’t there some other way make chocolate without a melanger. Wouldn’t a high powered vitamix work? How about the Champion juicer? Can’t I just run the sugar through there? It all seems so complicated. There should be a simpler way. I can roast coffee in a $10 popcorn air popper. Can I crack the beans In a corona mill and won’t that make chocolate?
Some of you long time readers might be a little confused with why I would answer these series of question when it seems really old news. The alternative was “What happens if you dip a cat in chocolate?” and well……
I have seen a large resurgence in these kinds of questions in the last couple months. New chocolate makers are coming in droves (of which I am thrilled by) and with it people seem to be trying to reinvent the proverbial wheel.
I in no way want to stifle questions, inquisitiveness and innovation but I also really want people to do a little research and maybe realize that nearly all of these questions have been asked before and answered (mostly with a 'no').
I want people to make chocolate. Keep that in mind. So ask yourself this. If there was a cheaper, simpler way to make chocolate, don’t you think I would be the first to announce it to the world? Really, I’m not ‘Da Man’ trying to keep secrets hidden. I've built Chocolate Alchemy on the philosophy that there are no secrets and I want to spread all I know.
I guess this is going to turn into a little review of bean to bar history interspersed with some of the questions. Let’s take it from the top down, going through each step of the process.
“You are selling beans from 2015. Aren’t they too old by now?”
I only sell beans that I’ve personally tested and verified. I make chocolate regularly and pull beans from our stocks once their flavor profile degrades. In some cases that is 1 year but many (most really) times it can be 2-3 years.
“Isn’t Criollo the best?”
They are just the rarest and generally the most mild. I hold by the stance there is no 'best', just your own personal favorite.
“Can I use an air popper like coffee to roast nibs?”
See the above discussion. I tried it and for a multitude of reasons it didn’t work. Mostly it has to do with scale and control.
“Won’t a coffee roaster burn my cocoa?”
No, you can turn it down.
“Will my chocolate taste like coffee if I use my coffee roaster?”
No, I have done it for years. Any coffee oils that might cross contaminate the cocoa would be absorbed by the husk which you winnow away. I’ve never even see that happen and I’ve used the same roaster for years.
“Can I use a home brewing mill to crack my cocoa?”
No, the gap (even adjustable ones) is too small.
“Have you heard of the Crankandstein cocoa mill? Why don’t you offer it?”
You could say I’ve heard of it. I invented it and had it built by Crankandstein. I no longer offer it as I find the Champion juicer does a better job for a similar price. Plus the Champion is multi-purpose. You can also make liquor with it.
“Doesn’t the Champion get to hot and destroy all the flavor of the chocolate? It seems like it would burn it”.
I discovered using the Champion Juicer for chocolate way back in 2004 and built Chocolate Alchemy and got this whole bean to bar movement going with it. If it had burned the chocolate or made it inferior I simply can’t imagine we would be where we are today. Yes, the chocolate gets warm, and even hot, but stays WAY cooler than when you roast. No, it does not harm the chocolate.
“Can I use the Champion 4000?”
I’ve not personally used one, but hear it works ok, but not as good as the 2000 I offer. And while I am talking about the Champion, there is a Commercial version but I have not found any difference in performance or longevity compared to the Household model, so I offer the less expensive household model.
“Do I have to use a melanger? It is so expensive. Can I use……”
I cut that off because of all the variations. You can insert Vitamix, blender, grain mill, and any other of standard household appliance and I will answer that I tried out every one of them over the years and would have told you if they worked. As it is, I specifically outline a bunch HERE that do not work. Again, I WANT you to make chocolate. If I could lower the financial bar, what possible reason would I have for not doing that? The answer is none.
I’m going to take this opportunity and say I appreciate that this is not an inexpensive hobby. But when I started down this chocolate making at home road in 2004, before there was a bean to bar movement, it was not even possible to make chocolate at home. Aside from no knowledge base, all the equipment was industrial. There were no melangers. The cheapest winnower was $2000 and did a huge 2 oz a minute. There were no roasters. A basic set up would have cost you $100,000 or more. Now a good setup is $1000. That is two orders of magnitude. Please keep that in mind is all I’m saying.
“I’ve read that melangers make inferior chocolate and that you need a mill and conche to make good chocolate.”
The WHOLE bean to bar movement was built on the stunning results of stone melangers. I think that evidence right there speaks for itself as an answer to that question.
“Why don’t you invent a small $100 melanger? I’m sure you would get a lot more people into chocolate making.”
I bet Apple would sell a lot more Iphone X if they were $50 too. I would have done it if I thought it was possible but there is a lower limit to material and building costs. And really it comes down to scale in this case. Although there are 1000s of melangers out there, I would bet there are millions of iphone Xs already out there. If I made 100,000 small melangers I could probably do it for under $100 each but there is that small issue of the $10,000,000 needed to do that. As big as the bean to bar movement gets, I don’t see it ever being worthwhile to make 100,000 melangers at one go.
“I’ve heard you can’t use a tempering machine with bean to bar chocolate, that it is too thick. How do you temper?”
I am baffled where that opinion came from. You can. Certain extra light roasts that retain moisture might be a bit thicker, and some makers don’t like using cocoa butter (which makes for a more fluid chocolate), which I don’t understand, but you absolutely can use a tempering machine. That said, they are expensive and I don’t see a reason not to hand temper or to use Silk which is nearly fool proof.
That is a selection of questions that have come in the last couple months. I said at the beginning I wanted to give you a basic history of bean to bar. Dandelion’s book showed the successes very well, but what they didn’t describe (nor was it their place to) was the multitude of failures I went through. It would be impossible for me to tell you everything I tried but know that if it was a common household item, I tried it and if you don’t see it as an option, it is because it failed. And when I say failed I mean were too expensive, too DIY, too cumbersome, too hard to work with or literally just failed.
What are some of those things that didn’t work ?
- Ice cream maker (conche)
- Rock tumbler (refiner/conche)
- Air popper (roasting)
- Ball bearings in mixer (ball mill refiner – expensive)
- Rolling pin (cracker)
- Mortar and pestle (well, becaue)
- Hand peeling (too hard)
- Corona type mill (poor results)
- Champion Juicer (refining sugar – fail)
- Champion Juicer (winnowing - hard on machine and tasted bad)
- Vita-Mix (burned the chocolate)
- Other Juicers (ride up and fail)
- Home convection ovens (under powered)
- Meat Grinders (crackers and refiner)
- Food processors (refiner)
- Grain mills (cracker and refiner)
- Coffee grinders (refiner)
- Indian Wet Grinder (burned out, but we modified them to the Melanger you now know)
And that is just a sampling. Various other Rube Goldberg type contraptions were tried and there were many variations of those above. All that and more brought us to this place at this time where the web is full of free information on how you can get into chocolate making for the barest fraction of what it would have cost 20 years ago.
By all means keep trying though….but maybe not the same things others have tried and proved doesn’t work. There is that semi-urban myth that the definition of crazy is doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result. Try not to be crazy.
Just like they say there are no new ideas for story lines anymore, I am pretty confident there are no longer any obvious solutions for making chocolate simpler and significantly less expensive than there currently is.
Regardless, keep experimenting, making and asking questions.
I've been reluctant to grind for a long time because I thought most volatiles were driven off in first 12 hrs and
This week I want to review and put in one place how time relates to chocolate making. What you are going to see again is that there is a range, and there is no cut and dry X length of time it takes to make chocolate from the bean.
What do you think of beans from Cameroon?
It is another of the short and sweet speed rounds of Ask the Alchemist.
What is your favorite chocolate?
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.
Reading time: 10 min
I am struggling making my 70% chocolate with only two ingredients. It seems like what I should do but it is really thick and hard to work with. It blooms really badly. What am I doing wrong?
Why are you not adding a little cocoa butter?
I mostly keep my head down in social media but I’ve heard through various grapevines that two ingredient chocolate is becoming a *thing*. And I completely do not understand it. It is talked about like it is superior or the maker is superior for using only two ingredients.
I guess I am going to soap box here a little, and I don’t mean to offend anyone in particular. Just take it as my musings on the subject.
It seems maybe this is where you are getting the idea you should be using only two ingredients. Cocoa beans and sugar I assume. Trying to suss out why, people toss out phrases extolling the purity of flavor or staying true to the cacao or other such nebulous statements. At the end of the day, it feels like marketing. A way to set themselves out from the crowd. Ok I guess.
If that is what you like, by all means make it. But I caution the thinking that using only two ingredients is in inherently better. By what metric? Sure. Few people want to eat a chocolate with 27 ingredients where 95% of them are chemical names. But once you are out of that mindset, I don’t truly get how 2 is better than 3 or 4. Why not 1 ingredient?
But to my way of thinking, it is some kind of pendulum reaction to 27 ingredient chocolate product. That if that is considered inferior (no real argument there) then the absolute bare minimum must be the best. This is the same logic that raw chocolate folks make. Over roasting is bad, so no roasting is best. That’s bad logic and the world does not work that way. Too much food (obesity) is bad so no food is best? Really? It is the same logic and makes as much sense. None.
Going back to metrics and why two ingredients are better I would propose these two metrics for consideration.
1) Adding a little cocoa butter (2-3%) to you chocolate can actually enhance the perceived flavor of the chocolate. It does this by allowing the chocolate to dissolve faster in your mouth, creating the sense of more flavor. You are familiar with this phenomenon in regards to sugar. Which seems sweeter? Rock candy or granulated sugar? Both are 100% sugar, but the granulated seems sweeter since it can dissolve faster.
2) Two ingredient chocolate can be thicker, and more temperamental to temper. How does this make it better? It doesn’t.
It is also worth noting that in conversations with supposed two ingredient makers, well over half say they used *a little* cocoa butter in their melangers to make life easier…..which suddenly sounds like 3 ingredient chocolate to me. This more than anything makes me think they are just playing a marketing game and that it really doesn’t matter.
That all said, let’s see if I can help.
First off, I am going to recommend you reconsider why you want to use only 2 ingredients. Put aside what you see other people doing. Keep in mind that that two ingredient chocolate you tasted and love *may* contain extra cocoa butter. Evaluate the chocolate you are making for what it is. Did you actually try making it with a little extra cocoa butter and if so, did you like it better without added cocoa butter? And why didn’t you make 1 ingredient chocolate if you wanted to *pure* cacao flavor?
Seriously, this is about what you like and enjoy. And that means the process too. If you can’t temper it because it is so thick, and it blooms, and you didn’t like the chalky texture, just how did you improve the experience and/or final product by keeping it *pure*?
Ok. I was going to offer help. I have heard that people have had difficulty with Tien Giang being especially thick. So I roasted 6 lbs and divided it into 3 batches.
1) The control. 74% cocoa, 26% sugar.
2) Heated control
3) 20% vodka soak
Spring boarding off my success with the honey chocolate, I mixed in vodka 20% by weight into the roasted nibs. After soaking in for 2 days, I dried them in an oven for 2 hours at 150F. To make sure it was not just the heating that made any difference, I also heated an equal amount of roasted nibs the same way. My hypothesis here was that moisture was causing the extra thickness and that by reducing that moisture, I could reduce the viscosity.
The final results were everything I hoped they would be.
1) This was thick and very hard to work with.
2) This was thinner and easier to work with.
3) This was the thinnest of the three.
The extra drying helped significantly to dry out the nibs, even though they had been previously roasted. In many cases I think this might be all you need to do if you insist on only 2 ingredients.
The vodka really helped to pull out extra moisture. I took weight measurements before and after drying and out of 740 grams of nibs, the heated control lost 5 grams of water, and the vodka treated lost 12 grams.
And the flavors were basically the same.
Alternatively, 3% cocoa butter reduces the viscosity nicely and if you are not allergic, 0.5% lecithin will very nicely bind with the water and make the chocolate easier to work with. And to my tastes, they all taste just as *pure* and true to the cocoa’s potential. Your mileage may vary.
If you have not guessed, I lean toward solid data and rigorous evaluation. Don’t follow a path because everyone else is. Make what you like and be honest about it and challenge your per-conceived notions. Maybe they will be right….but maybe you will find there was a heavy placebo effect going on and that 2 ingredient chocolate isn’t anything particular special.
Chocolate you made yourself. That’s special.
Every Tuesday, for the next few months we are going to be putting out a new video on our youtube channel, How to Make Chocolate at Home. In a similar manner to my walls of words in text, I ramble a bit, taking this or that side path as it suites what I am attempting to convey. All about cocoa beans is new.
I hope you enjoy it.
Do you have any videos showing how to make chocolate? I’ve looked all over and can’t find them.
I was just going over with my a member of my team how to announce our video series. Thank you for the absolutely perfect introduction.
Yep, you heard it right. We have videos on the way.
I’m going to go into full self deprecation mode and say that although they hopefully will do the job, they are not as polished and smooth as I might want. And in pretty classic Alchemist fashion, noting that I often communicate in great walls of text, I talk a lot in these videos. No. Really. A lot. So here is the official announcement:
For years I’ve been thinking that a video series on making chocolate would be a good complement to this site and to my weekly “Ask the Alchemist” series. Well, I finally got it done and today we are announcing the beginning of Video Tuesdays. Every Tuesday we’ll add a new video to our You Tube Channel until all 15 of them are posted. Think of it as an online correspondence course in how to make chocolate at home.
If you subscribe to the channel you’ll be alerted whenever a new video is posted. Today our first one is an overview of the Chocolate Making Process I’ve developed over the past 14 years.
There is the first video.
Eventually these will all live on our site as well as on You Tube, but we’re waiting until our site gets a facelift later this year (yep, more foreshadowing there).
The videos that are queued up are as follows:
- Chocolate Making Overview
- How to pick your beans
- Behmor 1600 Roasting
- Oven Roasting
- Drum Roasting
- Cracking Beans
- Making Chocolate Liquor
- Making Dark Chocolate
- Making Milk Chocolate
- Making White Chocolate
- Tempering Philosophy
- Cocoa Butter Seed Tempering
- Bowl Tempering
Plus one on how to change the belt on the Spectra Melanger.
Enjoy. And please let me know what else you would like to see.