We have a simple but lofty goal.
This first post will give you an idea how and why Chocolate Alchemy was started.
To unearth the esoteric knowledge needed to make great, real, home made chocolate from scratch, and pass that information on to you in a straight forward and approachable way. Toward that goal we carry a variety of cocoa beans for you and us to experiment with. The process of making chocolate may seem daunting at first, but once you start breaking it down into its individual steps you find it is really not that bad. Each step is outlined in detail through the links to the right. We may not always have the lowest prices but we strive to have only quality products, unequaled prompt service, and a passion and love of chocolate that you can depend on day in and day out. We are here to help you in your Alchemical Chocolate trials. We want you to make chocolate and we want to be your source of information on just how to do it.
We were told when we started down this path that it was just not possible to make chocolate at home. The equipment was too expensive or just did not exist, the techniques were too difficult and the average Joe Consumer would just not want to do it. Besides, there were no raw materials (cocoa beans) available. Well, we had heard all this before in the home brewing industry and the home coffee roasting market. I brew my own ales and roast my own coffee.
Oh, and a final note about how it works here. There is a running log on the main page. New developments, experimental results and other pertinent information is "posted" there as it becomes available, usually once or twice a week, sometimes only once a month. In addition it is a rudimentary forum in that you can leave posts and comments, but we also have an actual Forum that we encourage you to visit. If you have a question about something you just read or something you want answered, just click on "Please leave a comment" and do so. Comments are checked every day or so and responded to as possible. Also, we don't know everything. Someone else reading just may have the answer. Aside from anything else, Chocolate Alchemy is about sharing knowledge. There are no trade secrets and nothing is taboo here. Of course, you are always welcome to e-mail us directly at Contact at chocolatealchemy dot com.
Late in 2004 we engineered a piece of equipment that works to refine and conch chocolate at home. The Alchemist Stone Chocolate Melanger! They rest they say is history.
Our intent is to supply you with any and everything you need to make fresh chocolate at home. If there is something you would like us to carry, let us know and we will see what we can do. We are here for you after all.
Roasting the beans:
In order to make chocolate, the raw fermented cocoa beans need to be roasted. We have been pursuing ways to roast cocoa beans and are comfortable with three main ways. Oven roasting is probably the most approachable for the average home chocolatier. You can easily do 5 pounds at a time this way. Drum roasting on a gas grill, in our opinion gives the best control, and flexibility. Again, 3-5 pounds is easy to do this way. Lots of people roast coffee this way, so it is definitely an option if you want to get serious about chocolate making. The third way is with a designated coffee drum roaster. The best on the market for roasting cocoa beans is the Behmor 1600. It can roast up to 2.5 lbs of cocoa on 5 different temperature profiles.
Cracking and Winnowing:
In the industry, beans are separated into nib and husk before being ground into cocoa liqueur. Sure, you could do this by hand, but I find that very unapproachable for the home chocolatier. I just can't advocate hand peeling 5-10 pounds of beans when the technology exists to do it by machine. We are about 85% there on this one. We worked with the makers of the CrankandStein grain mills to come up with a design that will work well for cocoa beans. That is no longer available but the Champion Juicer will crack the beans. For winnowing, you can start with a simple blow dryer. The Sylph and Aether winnowers that we invented of course make it much easier.
We absolutely have this one down. Hands down, the Champion Juicer is the way to do this at home. You can do pound after pound with this piece of equipment. You may read other places about using a mortar and pestle, or a coffee grinder. Frankly, we started with these and they are an absolute pain to work with, make a mess, and only "sort of" do the job. Frankly, to make "modern" chocolate, you need modern equipment. Also, in our experiments, the Champion also separates the whole cocoa bean into liqueur and husk without the need to pre-crack and winnow (although, there is a lot less waste with pre-cracking and winnowing) . We have not yet taste tested chocolate that was made with and without the husk separated beforehand. That is on the experimental horizon. Basically, anything that can make a "nut butter" can turn nibs into liqueur. Have you ever seen those "Olde Tyme" peanut grinders. Those too will work, pushing through an impressive 2 lbs/min. If you want to make baked goods (cakes, brownies, truffles) from varietal chocolate, what you have at this stage is effectively "unsweetened baker's chocolate", but MUCH better! You can use it at this stage without further refining, conching or tempering.
We have been doing various test batches of chocolate with different proportions of sugar, cocoa butter and lecithin. You can check these out in the recipes section. It will let you try out some set recipes without having to reinvent the wheel and make up your own. That is what we are here for! In the mean time, if you really want to start experimenting, I would recommend two pounds of cocoa (pick the bean you like the flavor description best), 1.5 lb sugar (pre-powdered in a blender) and that is all. Just follow the steps in the Grinding area. That will give you an idea of where this Alchemy can take you. It IS going to be a little grittier than modern chocolate, but it has not been refined or conched. Mainly, it will show you just how amazing the flavor of fresh chocolate can be. Please do not hesitate to contact us and we will happily help you create your own chocolate creation.
Refining and Conching:
This was the last step we needed to work out in order for you to make chocolate at home that is indistinguishable (except it will be fresher and better!) than chocolate you can buy. It involves getting those sugar and cocoa particles rounded and smoothed down so it feels silky on your tongue. We are asked weekly if there is a "cheap" way to do this. Unfortunately, no. We have tried MANY things, but what we found is that a Spectra 11 Melanger (formerly the Santha Wet Grinder) does this job very well. It can run continuous, hour after hour. During this time, volatile components are driven off and other flavor components are oxidized into that silky, luscious, heady flavor we think of as chocolate. Finally, the last of the moisture will be driven from the chocolate, leaving you with CHOCOLATE!
Tempering and Molding:
There is plenty of information about this on the Web and elsewhere, so we will present the information, answer any questions about it that we can, but effectively, there is nothing for us to do here. We have complied a basic tempering page for your information and offer a few different molds to work with.
Good luck and may your Alchemical Chocolate creations always bring a smile your face!
Meet The Alchemist
John Nanci, Founding Alchemist