I am literally brand new to making chocolate.
I have thought about it for quite a bit and am finally committing. I have purchased some raw beans, Champion juicer and a grinder. I am, however, quite intimidated about starting and screwing it up.
Any advice or suggestions would be most welcomed. The more basic the better.
There are many resources here - and on ChocolateAlchemy.com - that can provide you with a starting place and guidance. However, there is no substitute for just diving it and doing it. The best way (the only way, really) to learn is from experience.
There is a tendency to think of cocoa beans as being precious and having enormous value. (If you're paying $10 or more a pound they are pricey - consider making the investment in purchasing a larger quantity so you don't worry about ruining them.) They are just ingredients. Just as any chef can be expected to burn or otherwise ruin an expensive piece of fish or beef - or truffles or whatever - as they are learning, you should expect to ruin some beans. They are just ingredients. Over 3 million metric tons were harvested last year (about 7 billion pounds). A "ruined' batch of beans is not "wasting" them if you learned something, and a couple of pounds out of a couple of billions is not all that much - won't you agree?
One of the most important things to have in your journey is a journal and write everything down. Weigh the beans before you start roasting them. Weigh them after. Mark down times and temperatures. Weigh the nib after cracking and winnowing and then the liquor after grinding. Get in the habit of documenting everything.
If you're in any doubt during the first run, over-roast rather than under-roast. For most people, over-roasted chocolate tastes better than "raw" chocolate. And some chocolate makers are known for their heavy roast profiles (e.g, François Pralus).
Like anything worth doing well, it's going to take time to feel comfortable with the materials, equipment, and processes. Work with it, don't fear it.
I cannot thank you enough for your response. I should take a lesson from my kids (who cannot wait to get started) and just do it.
I can't agree with Clay more. In 2005 I started with essentially the same equipment you have now, and treated "making chocolate" as a fun activity for me and my daughter to do. Many times we hand peeled roasted beans while watching cartoons together.
I've burned beans, siezed chocolate, fought with tempering, made crappy chocolate, and made great chocolate. While doing it all, I was experimenting, giving it away to friends, and having fun.
In fact I had so much fun that I wrapped up a couple of other business ventures and started my own chocolate company.
If you're worried about beans, remember this: It's easier to blow $50 going to a theatre for a couple of hours than it is to make a couple lbs of bad chocolate (which incidentally isn't something your kids' friends can likely do with their parents).