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I currently have two table top temperers, which are plenty for my production from home. I am considering setting up a commercial space in which to manufacture in order to meet health standards for re-sale.

Can anyone provide me with what types of machines they have used for start-up? I was looking at Hilliards but read one comment that said their 'Hand Coater' might be overkill for shell moulded chocolates, which is what I do most. I want to get into bars as well, and so it would seem a machine built for mould filling would be best. Is a large 'tempering/holding tank' and vibrating table the way to go? I could really use some help here. Much appreciated...

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Amber:

Apart from refrigeration equipment (which most startups get very wrong) the subject of what temperer(s) to use is one that I find most people lose sleep over.

For one of my recent consulting clients, I advised against a single 35kg machine for a number of reasons. The key one is that when we got done fitting everything else in to the space that had to go in there was no room for a machine that size. We ended up purchasing 3, 10kg Chocovision machines for maximum flexibility (she can have three dark, two dark and one milk, etc. depending on what needs to get done at any given time), quick changeover (we bought spare bowls and baffles), and backup in case one of the machines breaks down (e.g., a baffle breaks). By keeping melted chocolate available the tempering cycle is cut in half because you're not melting the chocolate in the temperer.

That said, she has taken on a bar molding project as a contract manufacturer and it is immediately obvious that hand-filling molds just doesn't cut it from a throughput perspective and there is just no way to make sure that the right amount of chocolate is going into the molds if you're scooping it out of the temperer and pouring it by hand into a mold.

If I were in your shoes, I would be looking for a medium-capacity (10-15 kg) machine with a pump depositor and integrated vibration table(s). Keep your two table-top machines as backup and for any working with white chocolate you need to do.

I happen to like the machines Selmi makes and everyone I know who has one is in love with them. They make a number of sizes, which one is right for you really depends on what directions you think the business will grow. The smallest machine, the Color, has a tank capacity of 12kg, but by keeping melted chocolate on hand (there are far cheaper ways to do this than using a holding tank) actual throughput is up to 55kg/hr. Because the tank is so small, changeover from dark to milk (and vice versa) is quick, and there is a minimum loss of chocolate in the changeover. All Selmi temperers are continuous temperers which means that the chocolate is held in an untempered state in the workbowl and gets tempered as it is needed. This way you never have to worry about the chocolate overcrystallizing and thickening.

Another nice thing about all Selmi machines is that they have integrated depositing pumps. You dial in how much chocolate to deposit in each cycle and the machine deposits that much chocolate to within about .5gr. There are two vibrating tables built into the machines.

How can you keep melted chocolate on hand cheaply? Get a used bread proofing cabinet (you can get them in New York for about US$200) and remove the humidity control unit - you don't want to be injecting humidity into the cabinet. Set the temperature on the proofer for the temperature you want the chocolate to be at and put the chocolate into food-safe tubs with lids when you leave for the night. When you come back in the morning you will have melted chocolate at precisely the right temperature to add to your machine.

You can use this technique with just about any temperer, including Chocovision machines as long as you don't add more than about 20% new chocolate at a time. (That means, if you have 10 pounds in the bowl, when you get down to about 8 pounds add 2 pounds of the melted chocolate (at the lowest temperature possible) into the bowl behind the baffle. This will incorporate the melted chocolate into the tempered chocolate in a way that will not take the chocolate out of temper.
The Selmi Color does look like a very nice machine, do you know how much it is?
I will add my recommendation for Chocovision machines if you are on a tight budget. I have one that has been used daily for 3 years with no major issues. The baffles are problematic, but they are good about replacing them if you ask. The change overs are super easy as well which is an issue you will soon appreciate when you venture into larger machines. I have the largest Hilliards machine as well as a JKV 30 and a Savage 125lb/125lb machine. All have their benefits and weaknesses.

The advice from Clay regarding having melted chocolate on hand is an excellent one. Even if you just use it to load the machines with, you will save a lot of valuable time.

BTW, I hand molded over 45,000 bars last year so you can do a lot more than you think if you have to!
Wow, that is a lot of bars to mold! What machine is better the Chocovision or the Hilliards? And what are the price differences?
And how did you fill the bar molds from the temperer?
thanks....
Hi Koa.
Well the Chocovision machines are around $1300 each, and as Clay mentioned they hold about 10lbs. The Hilliards that I was refering to holds maybe 60 lbs or so, and I think I paid $9500 for it. There is a smaller Hilliards called the little dipper which is comparable in size to the Chocovision. It costs maybe $500 more. The Hilliards machines are definitely a good no frills workhorse, and I feel like they are more suited to continuous duty than the Chocovision.

Again, budget is an important factor. If I could have 1 hilliards little dipper, or 2 Chocovisions, I take the 2 chocovisions. We have 3 of them in our shop, so they are certainly up to the task of retail work.

I hope I have not confused the issue for you. If you have any specific questions, I am more than happy to lend my perspective.
Good Luck!
Koa,
I got quoted close to $18000 for the TOP system from selmi which was a dosing temperer with integrated vibratiing table-the capacity is 60 kg. In the end I bought a savage 55 kg melting "conditioner" as it is called with an integrated depositor. I'm building a simple vibrating table-there are instructions online at various posts. I went with the conditioner because of the timer features and I got a custom pump to make coins for pastry chefs. I have found that there customer service has been above average and that in itself has made the purchase worthwhile. With a melting conditioner you can set the timer for an overnight melt and hold specific temperature ranges. I then deposit a portion out onto a marble to seed the mass and set the temperature to the working temperature. The system cost me about $9500 and can later be used in conjunction with another kettle to make a contimous system. Scalability is an important factor in purchases as costly as these for a start up
Koa -

I've looked at the Savage Brothers site a number of times and I've never seen that there was a metered depositor on the temper/conditioners. That's a good price for the capability offered. Is the metered depositor a standard feature or did you pay extra for it? If so - is there a part number? I am right in the middle of pricing a proposal and that would be really, really helpful to have.

I wouldn't use the marble slab approach, I'd used grated tempered chocolate as the seed. You can get chocolate graters pretty cheaply.

While scalability is totally important, flexibility is, too. So I look for a mix of machines that can multitask.

One of the advantages of the Selmi approach is that you can get an enrobing belt attachment, which I don't think is an option on the Savage tanks.

In the end I'd get the smallest Selmi that supported the enrober AND one of the Savage tanks you mention.

:: Clay
Clay,
I paid for the conditioner and depositor separately. The depositor is item number 9900-60-015. It is the same as the 50 lb table top temperer/depositor, but a larger pump and larger kettle.

Regarding the tempering- I don't have tempered chocolate to use from so the option is hand temper or use another chocolate. Regardless, the melter is capable of staying in temperature ranges for long time periods and I have found that if the temperer starts the night at a high temperature and slowly goes down to the working temperature stable crystals do form (This is somewhere in Minifie's book). I have added the marble slab in order to cool the chocolate mass faster and to give it some crystals to begin the process. The conditioner does not automatically temper drawing hot water from pipes, but theoretically I could do it manually-and thus voiding the warranty.
Savage also had many addons -not sure about belt but they told me they have many options to scale up production and automate in the future. My experience with most tempering machines is that in order for them to work the best, the operator needs to know how to temper anyway. This is even more true when you make your own chocolate.
Hope that helps.
-Jo
Jo:
I appreciate your comments on getting started. I too am just getting started and have formulated several varieties of chocolate. But, I find it most beneficial to find an experienced individual that can make my product while I am doing the marketing and business development.
I need to find a co-packer or someone who has capacity to make small bars for me. I'm located in NJ. Any ideas of smaller operations that could handle several varieties with batch sizes of 50 to 200 lbs?
Brad
Its been awhile since anyone posted on this thread, but Im still at it. Im curious how you managed to mold that many bars by hand. I am quite caught up in the idea of vibrating table and having imperfection free final products... was this an issue for you? Were you just scooping into the molds free hand?

I have researched the Selmi machines and they quoted me 15,000 for the Colour and 19,000 for the next size up before depositing heads and shipping clear across the nation and over the border. While it is not a stretch for me to see the elegant simplicity of these machines, my business plan and ostensibly the community, small small community where I live, won't support it.

So Im back to Chocovision... Were you hand wrapping too? Tell me this is possible! You go on to say that you have 3 other more 'largerl' machines. Would your production have been possible without them?
Hi Amber.
My business evolved slowly. I started very part time molding a line of 3 different bars using 1 chocovision Rev X (like the x3210), 35 molds and using El-Rey Couverture. Now 4 years later, we are in the set up stage to make all of our chocolate from bean to bar, we have a line of 9 Escazu bars and about to release 4 EZCA bars, and we have a retail shop. Yes, it is possible!

If you are depositing just chocolate into a mold, then a depositor is really nice, but if you have inclusions like most of our Escazu bars, then it gets difficult. Thats why I was forced to do it by hand. I think that is why you see bars like Dagoba and Vosges grind their inclusions so small that they dont have texture anymore. The pumps just cant handle it. If anyone knows of a depositor system that can, I would be very appreciative!

Vibrating the mold is a must for me. I have a vibrating table mounted to a JKV30, but originally I used inexpensive used laboratory vibrators. You can get them really cheap and they are very durable. I still use them over the JKV because they are adjustable.

Wrapping is done by hand. The least expensive used machine that I have found to wrap bars was $35k, and most are double that. This is one area where having the right employee is crucial. Not everyone can wrap at the required speed, and 15 bars per hour 1 way or the other makes a huge difference. I once saw a video of Sharffenberger in the early days, and they had a line of people wrapping by hand, so I think that it is a viable model for this stage of the game. In any case, making 45k bars is one thing, but wrapping them...mind numbing!

At our current production, no we couldnt do it without the "big" machines, but we were able to stretch the little ones until I was able to figure out which problems required solutions.

Good Luck!
Hallot Parson
www.escazuchocolates.com
Thanks Hallot!

That really helps, its so easy to get ahead of oneself...

Congratulations to you on your burgeoning business. Bean to bar is amazing...I aim to try many of these USA products in the new year.. .we have so many rules regarding imports in Canada its downright annoying. However, privately I can buy them for my own enjoyment.

Im wondering about the vibrating tables you mentioned. Are they the same as the table top shakers? Ive been looking and have seen reciprocal, 3-D, orbital etc. etc. They aren't what I call cheap (starting at about a thousand bucks) but cheap in comparison to some things... like chocolate specific vibrating tables. These look much like a large digital scale, and you can put platforms on them to support 'tiers' of test tubes or whatever you fancy...

Am I looking at the completely wrong thing? Thanks in advance!
Amber

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