The Chocolate Life

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Hi all, first I want to really thank you for all the wonderful cacao wisdom you share here. I read your blogs, and have slowly figured out how to make my chocolate bars thanks to you. It is time to get some more advice as to next steps in my chocolate bar creation.

I am currently selling my bars in one local natural food grocery. I sell about 10 dozen bars a month there. I wish to add more retail outlets, and need to send samples. Before I do this I wonder what "the next step" in making them more delicious and more marketable might be?

So, first off, what I am doing is making them out of "raw" powder (debatable I know), cacao butter and coconut sugar. My first concern is the texture is somewhat coarse because the coconut sugar is so granular. I do grind it in a magic bullet first, but it is still too coarse, especially in the 75% where the sugar makes up so much of the volume. Is a conche the best next item to buy? If I understand the blogs here, the conch will grind down the sugar and other particles, and in that process also volatize off some undesirable flavors?  

My system of melting and tempering is ok, though it is manual. Still I can make and temper a 4 pound batch easily. Is the conche the machine I need??? And if so, I need one that can deal with at 4 pounds at a time. That volume will grow. So suggestions as to what brand and model would be appreciated?  On the other hand, perhaps that is not the machine I need?  Also, I wonder since the powder is so fine, it is almost dust, am I conching basically just the sugar? If that is the case, would I do better finding a mill for the sugar?   What else will the conching do for my chocolate? Also,  I am still a small business, run in my home kitchen, with a state license, etc. Still, if it is noisy and running for days, that is a big impact. What would be the quieter brand of conche, assuming conching is the solution.

So, the coarseness is an issue. Is it pointless to conche chocolate that is made from fine powder, or will it improve the taste as well as the sugar texture?

Thank you!

Mack

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Hi Mack, we use the Santha for conching small quantities of chocolate (3.5kgs/batch aprox), it homogenizes the mixture, lowers the particle size and I have noticed changes in flavor and texture. We recently came upon a very fine sugar so we were able to lower our conching time but we're looking for a sugar mill to make it ourselves :)

We have made chocolate from an already conched chocolate (like 70%, just to add different flavors) and chocolate from fine powder and the Santha works fine.

Hi Daniela, 

I apologize for the long delay in answering. I would love to know the source of your "fine sugar"! 

I am going to try making some bars with Coconut nectar and see how that works. I am worried about moisture issues, but will find out if this works.  My research on sugar mills is that they are either very expensive in the $5K and up but available in the USA, or are $600 and available in China or India where I guess they still have cottage industry and thus supply this kind of equipment. I still hesitate, I know sugar is gummy, and will it gum up the machines?  Conching seems a good answer, but I am not in a situation where I can do that due to noise and such.

Thank you!

Mack

We're tried different brands of refined sugar, unfortunately we did had an accident once with one brand of sugar that contained starch (even though they said it was "pure sugar") and our Santha basically overheated and created a big smoky mess and the machine was, of course, unusable after that. About the noise, it's not that bad, we conch the chocolate in the shop, right in front of the customers so they can see :) And well, the sugar we're currently using it's made in Costa Rica.

You can read this article on Chocolate Alchemy about conching, if you haven't already. http://www.chocolatealchemy.com/conchingrefining.php

Hi Daniela, yeah, I bet the starch had a big impact on the conching machine!  I tried using a confectioners powdered sugar with tapioca starch to see what would happen. It became very thick and I had to increase the cacao butter to make it useable. The product itself tempered and molded well though, and I am considering using it temporarily until I can resolve my next step. It tastes great, and has a velvety mouthfeel. I also tried the coconut nectar which did not seize up the chocolate but it had a strong flavor that I don't prefer. 

I work out of a licensed home kitchen, so the conching is not practical yet, but is clearly the right solution. I read on the internet that there is confectioners sugar without starch in Europe, so maybe I will need to source that from there.

I read the conching article, very interesting, thank you. As I read the article it made me wonder if I can find a way to refine just the sugar, but by the end it seems like I would run into the same problems.

Thank you!

 

Well at first, we refined the sugar ourselves with a good processing machine, it worked but the chocolate needed a looong time to decrease the particle size due to the sugar crystals. 

Good luck :)!

if need any table top or small customized machine im ready to do one for you 

t'm specialist chocolate machine more than 150 models designed till today

If you are looking to keep your investment low, try a wet grinder from Premier. They are sold on Amazon for just north of $200. I have used the "Wonder" table top grinder for about a year, with no problems, even after a lot of abuse. That version is 1.5L and I have made as much as 8 lbs at once with it. They also have a tilting, 2L grinder for about $25 more. My guesstimate is that the 2L could make 10lbs at once. I can run tell a difference in texture between six hours and 48 hours after I grind, but I also don't notice any coarseness. The only mod I would make is to make some kind of window screen enclosure so that you can keep the lid off and get some airflow going.

Final note, I just dump table sugar in the machine and let it do the milling. You will a little crunching for a few minutes while the wheels crush the sugar, but not for long.

Hi Mark, thank you for replying. I had never considered just putting the only sugar in grinder. I want to make sure I understand what you are writing. I think you are saying I can put sugar in the grinder, dry, and let it run? That would be fantastic. If on the other hand this is not the case, then my next question is how long would I have to run a batch of chocolate (in other words wet) before the sugar crystals would become undetectable?

What I am trying to avoid at this point is running the machine for 48 hours. I work out of my home, and that would be disruptive.

 

Sorry, no, what I meant was, you don't have to pre-grind the sugar. Add it to the chocolate, right out of the bag. Where I live, the sugar is even more coarse than the sugar in the USA, but I still just add it straight...to the chocolate.

Conching aside, you can refine the sugar to a smooth texture in a few hours, but I usually let mine run for a day or two, in the garage, to try and accomplish a "conche".

Wow, this is great news Mark. A few hours of conching I can do. Depending on how noisy the process is, I might be able to let it run a day and get those conching effects too.

One more question: Does the machine have a heating system to keep the chocolate warm?

Thank you again!

No, there is no specific heating element, but... the grinding action will keep the temp pretty warm. Tighten down the wheels with the adjustable screw and the liquid will heat up depending on the viscosity. The thicker the mass is, the higher the temperature it will achieve. For this reason, I don't add the final dose of cocoa butter until I feel like it has had a sufficient time to conche. Once you add sufficient cocoa butter, the viscosity and heat will drop.

Before I had access to cocoa butter, my batches would get to 160F while grinding. Now I try to take it easy on the machine by adding some butter up front, which keeps the mass below 140F.

Hi again, well, a temperature of 140F presents a new problem. I am making "raw" chocolate bars ( I understand raw is questioned... ). I need to keep the temp at or below 115F. Do you think this is achievable if I add the cacao butter?

In thanking you again,

Mack

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