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Can you store finished chocolates in a "cooling cabinet"?

If I had a cooling cabinet with enough room, would it be reasonable after enrobing or molding, to allow the chocolates to set in the cooling cabinet, then once they're ready for packaging, store them in the cabinet until they're ready to be sold?  The store I'm setting up is small, and will usually be in the upper 60s -low 70'sF.  The cooling cabinet will be at about 55 degrees.

Tags: cabinet, chocolate, cooling, storage

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Yes. Three possible concerns:
1) when you remove your chocolates from the cold environment, you may get some condensation on them, depending on the relative humidity of the warmer room. Keep your RH as low as possible.
2) Your cabinet will generate heat as it's running - make sure you've got an appropriate outlet for that heat, lest it warm your room too much.
3) Because it's a small, enclosed environment, if you are storing multiple types of pieces that are strongly flavored, the flavors may all blend together. Package them individually and seal them tightly if this is the case.

I assume you want to do this for shelf life extension, not for concerns that your shop it too warm to store them outside the cabinet?
Well, actually that's probably the better question. I can control the room temperature adequately, but as we're a small operation, will not have a cooling tunnel. I assumed that I would need a cooling cabinet at 55 to finish off the chocolate pieces - is that absolutely necessary? And then I assumed the chocolate won't keep for too long left packaged at room temperature.

1) Can this be done with a dehumidifier? Can you remind what the ideal RH is?
2) Does outlet mean a vent? or leaving enough space around the cabinet?

Have you ever heard of converting a True refrigerator to a cooling cabinet? I've read about that on egullet, and noticed on True Manufacturing that they carry a separate thermostat that you can switch out of the fridge that will keep higher temperatures for both wine and chocolates. Thanks for the help.
It's hard to say w/o knowing more specifics, but generally speaking, the more moisture and fresh ingredients you have in your pieces, the lower the shelf life (ie, creme based truffles will have less staying power than a solid chocolate). The cooler you make your storage environment, the longer both will last. If you're ambient temperature is in the high 60's, that's sufficient for most products, but again, it's hard to be specific w/o specifics.

The best RH is less than 50%. A dehumidifier can work, but i'd suggest using air conditioners to get there. Yes, a vent for your hot air is preferred, otherwise it simply puts the hot air back into your ambient conditions, which isn't what you want.

Any refridgerator can be converted to a storage unit. Colder temps mean longer lasting shelf life, but also a higher propensity for condensation (ie, require your ambient environment to be lower in RH).
In terms of the vented cooling unit - does this mean that the "regular" refrigerator and freezer are vented as well as I imagine it's a similar problem with the hot air?
Sebastian, would you mind sharing how a fridge can be converted? My RH is less than 40%, ambient temp hovers at 68 but on almost all of my pieces I've got streaks. Thanks in advance...

Linda:

There are a couple of different questions here.

Johnson Controls makes a line of "thermostat override" devices that can be used to modify the maximum temperature a unit can go to. Most refrigerators want to work in the range of 28-46F or thereabouts. Using one of these override devices you can set the max temp to 55F. By the way, one of the least expensive storage units you can buy is a chest freezer. These temp controls work perfectly for that application

That doesn't solve the humidity issue. One way to do that would be to use a product like PolarFresh or panels from Avive, which are placed in the compartment and reduce humidity.

The streaking you're seeing is probably because the chocolate you're using is unevenly tempered.  For example, in a Chocovision machine, you need to wait a few minutes after the machine says you're in temper to evenly distribute the desirable crystals to influence even crystallization. Without knowing more, I'd say you need to mix/agitate your chocolate more than you're doing once it's "in temper." 

Gordon,

Why and how are chest freezers the least expensive?  I would like to know more about this.  Chest freezers are probably the easiest thing I have access to obtain, but I would think the moisture condensation would be too much of a problem.  I live on an island in SE Alaska and while temperatures are not the problem, humidity and obtainability are problems. 

 

Thanks in advance,

 

Roberta

Chest freezers are available through many retail outlets and tend to be very inexpensive compared with specialty refrigeration made for working with chocolate.

They do need to be modified to work for the purpose of storing chocolate:

a) You need to get a thermostat override device like the one from Johnson Controls. While you might get a 7 cu/ft chest freezer for $300 (here in NY), the controller might cost another $70. This is still inexpensive compared with $5,000 to $10,000 or more for specialty refrigeration. You wouldn't use the chest freezer for crystallization, only for storage.

b) You need to add something into the chest freezer compartment to control humidity. One option is PolarFresh; it works like a box of baking soda but it's specifically designed to help control humidity; baking soda is only about controlling odors. There are other options - but as you say, obtainability is the issue.

When putting things into the chest for storage, you'll want to pack them in a way that protects them from exposure to air and humidity. You don't want any humidity to condense on the items when cooling down or warming up. SO ... the best way is not to use huge tubs that need to be opened and closed, exposing all of the contents to the air each time the tub is opened. You could do that for organization purposes, but then I'd wrap "serving size" portions individually and put those into the larger tubs. Opening up the tub would then not expose unwrapped pieces to the air.

When taking items out of storage, you have to let them warm up to ambient temperature before unwrapping them to keep moisture from condensing on the chocolate ... it will condense (if present) on the outer wrapping.

OK, that makes sense.  I already use "serving size" portions when I freeze items now.  I couldn't figure out how a chest freezer would work for crystalization.  But from what I'm reading the override device from Johnson Controls would also work on refrigerators, correct?  I regularly use a dehumidifier for the ambient air, but I'm still struggling with the crystalization problem - small kitchen spaces don't allow for the unheated room I used at home!

 

Roberta

Yes, the Johnson Controls device should work with most refrigerators to get the temp up to 55F or so, which is usually above their range. You may want some sort of commercial fridge because it will have the wire shelves you need - home fridges are not set up for this. 

If humidity is still a problem, try one of the PolarFresh units, and you might even consider a very small computer fan on a dimmer to increase air flow.

thank you, I'm going to try that!

 

They both will discharge hot air, yes..

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