You should check the Chocolate Alchemy site, it's forums and archives. Using the search you can read back on the archives and follow through several good chocolatier's careers like Brad or Alan, who started with home chocolate making and moved on to larger operations.
That being said, it would be easier to learn from someone locally, so maybe you can find someone to help.
I am just going through the process and even without formal lessons, the results are way beyond my original expectations. I'd be happy to help.
Thanks for that Felipe. Hope I find something soon. B rgds, A
Might I first suggest the book The Science of Chocolate by S.T. Beckett who I believe teaches in York. His book can be very technical in places, but it is thorough.
The Web site 'chocolate alchemy' is fine, but they are selling gear for home bean to bar chocolate making -- and not all that cheap.
Small scale home bean to bar chocolate making is doable in all except maybe one regard. Washing, roasting, winnowing, making nibs, conching, tempering and molding can all be done small scale with reasonable inexpensive equipment. The hard part is getting the ground nibs into a liquor that has particles less than 30 microns ( a human hair is about 50 microns thick) . Sites like chocolate alchemy offer various grinders that were created to grind herbs and spices for Indian (UK would say Asian) food. The problem is that these machines just can't get chocolate down to 30 microns, and you end up with gritty chocolate.
The small scale chocolate lab solution is to use steel rollers spaced just under 30 microns apart. Easy peasey. Unfortunately, even a re-built bench type roller mill runs about 25K U.S. last I checked. Bay Area Scharffen Berger (now owned by Hershey's) uses a stone wheel like the sort you might see in a flour mill. If you are determined to make home bean to bar chocolate, I would suggest considering a stone roller grinder ( like the ones they use for olive oil extraction ). These should be available on the continent and for considerably less than $25K. Here's another suggestion: why not buy bulk chocolate or liquor and work on tempering? This is a valuable sub skill in chocolate making that you can start on without too much fuss. And you can temper by hand using a Bain Marie (water bath), seed chocolate, and a chocolate thermometer.
Hope that helps! Ricardo
I would disagree with your statement that the stone mills aren't able to produce a chocolate <30 um. I've had results as fine as 8um by micrometer, and that method measures the largest particle (meaning most of the particles are <8um). Now, the grinders are exactly standardized, so your results will vary from grinder to grinder, which may be why you're saying what you're saying. However, it is quite possible to make a fine particle size chocolate using one.
The Science of Chocolate is a good book for sure. So is Cocoa Chocolate & Confectionary by Minifie. My personal favourite is Chocolate & Confections by Peter Greweling. Peter's book is a great foundation for actually doing stuff with the chocolate you make.
Now, when it comes to particle size, I agree with Sebastian, and would also like to add that your claim about the modified home grinders on Chocolate Alchemy producing gritty chocolate is unfounded. I used a modified version of one of the Chocolate Alchemy machines for almost 3 years in my home kitchen until I purchased true commercial grade chocolate refiners, and with those little machines produced some of the smoothest milk and dark chocolate I've ever had. Following Sebastian's advice I actually kept chocolate I'd made in my little Santha, and occasionally go back to it for comparison. It's just as smooth as my commercial machines' product.
There is one thing to point out here, which I'm surprised nobody has touched on - and that's acidity and taste. Who cares if the chocolate is gritty when it hasn't been conched enough and is acidic and vinegary? Most machines I have used can grind cocoa beans down to the point where my pallate can't detect any grittiness at all in less than 12 hours. However I've found that to produce truly "great" chocolate, it can take at least another 36-48 hours of conching to round out the flavour.
I would have to say that if your chocolate is gritty to the point where you need a micrometer to test for size, you haven't refined and conched it NEAR long enough. When you get to the point where texture isn't an issue, and your focus turns to amazing, rich, deep flavour, THEN you're getting closer.
...but that's just my experience.
I am a little skeptical that the Santha grinder ( or any little stone grinder ) will produce completely smooth, under 30 micron chocolate. These cute machines look like an old phonograph. Material is milled between a spinning disk and one or two fist-sized "wheels" that revolve around it. Chocolate is odd ( a non-newtonian fluid ). That means, like cornstarch, the more you compress it, the more dense it becomes. This generates resistance and heat, lots of heat. Little machines are hard pressed to deal with this. Nothing wrong with the technology, just the scale. Also, if you grind too long, your chocolate may turn into a ropey, tar-like consistency.
Maybe Brad and Sebastian have some techniques that overcome these problems. Bottom line - I wouldn't buy any machine that did not come with a guarantee that it could grind chocolate to 30 microns or less. If you hear: " Well our machine wasn't made for chocolate per se, but it should..." don't walk, run away.
A note on micrometers: one reliable and economic way to get an objective measurement of particle size is to use a microscope. Retailers can provide a fliter with a line grid that fits into the eye tube. You make a thin smear of your chocolate onto a glass slide and the lines in your field of view will indicate the size of particles. You can preserve your slides by adding one drop of marine varnish. By preserving slides, you can see how various chocolate brands vary not only in particle size and percentage of sizes but also particle shape.
Bottom line on a grinder -- get a guarantee that is enforceable.
I have to agree with Brad and Sebastian on this issue.
Despite your skepticism, I have personally tasted many, many chocolates made with the modified stone grinders and most (though not all) of those chocolates had no detectable grittiness in them. I have also had chocolates made in expensive "universal" machines that did exhibit grittiness.
It's not the "fault" of the machines, they are both capable of producing good results. More can be attributed to the way the machines are used - the experience of the chocolate maker - and maintained (or not).
I also don't see 30 microns as an absolute number. I believe that part of the mechanical effect of conching is to coat all of the particles with fat. So - you could have a paste where the particle size was below 30 microns with extremely uneven fat distribution and it could taste gritty.
Brad also correctly points out that particle size is just one characteristic to consider.
Enjoy your "site". Ciao.
I've got a laser particle size distribution of chocolates made with the melanges somewhere. If i can find it, i'll post it. To be honest, when these first began to be used, i was inordinately skeptical. i didn't think it could be done either. What i've observed is that they're able to make chocolates that, from a particle size reduction standpoint, exceed almost everything that's commercially available via conventional processing. Now, that's not to say conventional processes can't do it - they can - but in order to get that fine, it takes a long time - same as with these machines. If time is not an issue for you, you can make exceptional product with them.
From reading your material, you appear to be at the same level of skepticism i was 10 years ago. Do this for me - there's any number of artisinal chocolate products available today that are made via this fashion. Select a few to purchase, and taste them. If you have the knowledge and resources, analyze them. Then make your assessment. If you've never used the equipment, and you've never assessed product made on the equipment, it may not be fair to judge it.
Disclaimer - I have no vested interest in the home chocolate maker, the equipment used to do it, or the ingredients that go into it. Quite the opposite actually.
Hey Sebastian, FYI: my conche/refiners go right from nibs and granulated sugar to chocolate with no pre-refining. You've tasted it. From a texture perspective what do you think? (I already know you think my 70%'s are too high in fat! haha!).
Oh by the way, I had Jean-Jacques Berjot and a few other Barry Callebaut execs in my shop the other day doing a tasting. He thought the Cuyagua 80% you tasted was amazing too. In fact I had to laugh. He crossed his eyes, did a couple of arm pumps, and ended up leaving with a couple of the Cuyagua 80 bars.
Your particle size is just fine. I admit i've not had a bar in a while, so i'm going from memory (and i eat far more chocolate than your average bear...) - but from recollection, i'd put the max particle size somewhere in the 20um range, which is a nice place to be. I do think you've got too much much cocoa butter in the last bars i tasted (which you already know 8-))
of course, always willing to give a sensory/phsyical analysis update on fresh samples 8-)