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Anybody have experience and/or hints on roasting and processing Mexican Tabasco? I have a new shipment of 5 lbs of beans and would like some input on roast levels and duration if anybody has experience.

Also, I have not tried a “split roast” blend with any of my beans as yet. Like a 50 % medium and 50% dark roast blended at the winnowing stage. Anyone tried this?

Also, I usually do a base process of 66% for the dark chocolate and then draw off 3 lbs of that from the wet grinder and add milk and more sugar for a 45%-50% milk chocolate on the remainder. Any suggestions on these additive levels? (I don’t like higher cocoa because I’m filling the chocolate mold shells with wine jelly and spirits creams—not to be overpowered by bitter chocolate )


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I have worked with them before, they are very acidic, I would suggest a roast a bit longer than I would for a Madagascar. As for formulation I think you will be ok with your dark (do a fairly long conche to drive off as much acid as you can) but for the dark milk choc you have proposed I would back off the cocoa and up the milk, I find that with the formulation I usually use (10% milk powder) it is too acidic for it. I would look at doing something like 40% beans, 15% butter, 30% sugar and 15% milk. Having said this I haven't tried this as I ran out but when I next get some I will try this formula. The previous one I used was 45% beans and 10% milk - very strange. I think my suggested formula will bring it more in line with say the Cluizel Madagascar milk choc. You may want to go even further. Keep us posted you might save me an experiment.
Thanks for the reference to Madagascar, Tom. That’s the one I just finished working with so it will be fresh in my memory. After this Mexican I’ll have one more, the Ghana, which will finish out my experiences with the offerings by John Nanci over at Chocolate Alchemy. Then I’ll start with the beans that Clay Gordon has to offer on this site. Will begin roasting the Mexican beans tonight and start processing tomorrow morning.

By the way, I built a winnower like the one you pictured here under “winnowing”, the photo with the little girl on the table, your daughter? We have Ace Hardware here and I bought a vent fan at Ace which I hope is powerful enough to float the shells off the nibs after running them through the Crankenstien. Have to play with pvc pipe lengths to get the proper heights.

So far, all my equipment from John N. is working well. I’m using the Ultra wet grinder and giving it a work out. Seems to be holding up ok.

Your suggestion on added cocoa butter is more than I’ve added in the past for either milk or dark chocolate. I have usually added 4-6 oz of butter to the initial batch of about 4.5 lbs of liquor at the beginning of conching. (Some of that I may have added during liquification in the Champion Juicer ) And then try not to add any more except to lubricate the batch if/when it begins to stiffen up during refinement. (I now know that heating the stiff chocolate in the oven for a few hours does a better job to get the rollers moving again. Better than just adding melted cocoa butter. My room temp is about 64 F in the workshop in winter).

The way I’m figuring your numbers, I might be adding another 4 oz of butter to a remaining 3 pound batch of milk chocolate (after taking off 3 pounds of dark from a 6 lb mass). I might just try this but I’m remembering the butter I bought is not de-oderized. That could add some flavor of its own but that may not be bad.

I’ll document my roast times and conching times as accurately as I can and let you know the details. I limit ingredients to about a table spoon of soy lethacin and a half, raw vanilla bean per 4.5 lbs of liquor. That’s been pretty standard for my process.

The only other twist that I’ve been thinking about is using some date sugar from a local health food store instead of cane sugar. Just to see what flavors might develop from that. It runs about $6.00 a pound here; I’d be looking at $20-$30 per batch for sugar alone if using date sugar. It might add some interesting flavors and I guess it would need to be dried in an oven prior to mixing in with liquor.

Thanks again for the information.

PS we have a local guy starting up a micro-distillery and I’ll be working with him to feature his spirits as fillings for my molded chocolates. So far I’m practicing with store bought bourbon , brandy and wines as fillers. The bourbon in a Panama dark milk chocolate ganache used to fill a dark (66%) Panama shell has come out really nice. I used 4 Tbs spirits in about one cup of ganache and then added another 1.5 oz of 55% milk chocolate to thicken the ganache back up to a near solid.
Sorry not to reply earlier, I've had computer issues. That is my daughter helping with the winnowing.

I too have worked my way through Johns offerings and want to try the stuff here, piss poor exchange rate and limited time are hampering that. The offerings have me salivating though. I am using a local supplier (Tava) I can get 15kgs for about $170 inc. shipping and their beans are incredibly different (from Vanuatu). They have a huge chocolate flavour note and if you let the chocolate age for a bit it tastes like chocolate pudding with a bit of booze in it - fantastic. It is my crowd pleaser chocolate.

The formulations I suggested are just the ones that keep people happy here, I range my formulations from around 40% beans to up to 70% depending on what I want. The formulas I suggest give a texture and flavour release similar to Cluizel (the only decent choc available to me readily in Australia). I did try and emulate a 75% Madagascar from Pralus with what I thought was with some success I used 70% beans, 5% butter and 25% sugar - it packs a punch.

Good luck with the date sugar, sounds interesting.
Will respond in full soon, Tom. I'm wanting to get feedback from tasters on the "lighter Mexican Tabasco milk chocolate" before I answer you back. I may have over-roasted one tray (20 %) of the beans. Dark is very nice. 66%. Will try the Date Sugar on the next batch of beans when I can buy another pound of it. Health food store is out of it now.
Do you normally "treat" your sugar when adding it to the liquor, Tom? Like by blending it with cocoa butter or something to make it less dry in the conching machine?

Here are my notes:

Mexican Tabasco Three level chocolate: Beginning January 30th, 2009

Roasted 5 pounds of beans in a standard electric oven (not convection) at 300 degrees F. for about 25 minutes. This was in 5 layers of pierced pizza pans on a circular pizza stone with one inch tall metal supports between pans for air circulation. The beans in the top pan were over-roasted but still useable . (the metal supports are actually paint roller metal grates, with short feet that set in a paint roller pan; cost about $1.95 each at WalMart.

Jan. 31st 2009 Began processing by running roasted beans through Crankenstein and winnowing. Ended up with 3.5 lbs of nibs; cleanest so far.

Processed nibs through Champion Juicer and ended up with 3.33 lbs of liquor. Added ½ vanilla bean through juicer then put liquor, one Tbs. lethicin, 4 oz of melted cocoa butter and 1.64 lbs sugar into Ultra wet grinder to begin conching. This will be about 5 lbs of 66% dark chocolate when finished. Machine ran from 12 noon Jan 31st to 5:30 PM Feb 1st 2009. About 29.5 hrs. Stopped conching then at temperature of 122degrees F.

Pulled off 2 pounds of 66% dark and added:
At 5:30 pm Feb 1st 2009, 4oz. dry goat milk dissolved in 2 oz. cocoa butter and added 8 oz of sugar. This works out to about 43% “dark milk” chocolate. Conched until 5:30 pm Feb 2nd 2009. 24 hours.

Pulled off one pound of dark milk chocolate (43%). Wrapped in saran wrap to store.

5: 30 PM Feb 2nd 2009 added 8 oz. of sugar, 4 oz of dried milk to make 3 pounds of “light milk” chocolate at about 29%. Conched until 6 pm Feb 3rd, 2009. About 24 hours.
Comments from friends and thoughts:

Dark chocolate did seem to have a slightly ‘burnt’ taste but seems to have lost that over a period of days following processing. Dark milk has a very nice flavor, strong chocolate, but more acidic than usually expected, this acidity seems also to be fading with time. (but then again, maybe we are just getting used to it)

The light milk chocolate gets good reviews from people who prefer milk chocolate; but this is to be expected as this is the lightest milk chocolate that I have made so far. These people were somewhat dissatisfied with my earlier “milk chocolates” which were in the 50- 60 % range. The light milk chocolate is useful to me in making spirits based ganaches. It does not overpower a sherry or brandy or port ingredient.

The down side of this light milk chocolate is the length of additional time needed to run the Ultra machine and stress on its motor due to dry milk added and resultant thickening of chocolate. May just need to add several more ounces of cocoa butter and heat the metal conching drum full of chocolate in the oven for several hours during every 8 hour period.

Next up: Ghana. When I get back from a vacation trip. Will try date sugar with that one. Any advice from anyone?
My process is to grind the nibs first until very fluid, then I add sugar, usually as powdered sugar (we can get that without cornstarch quite cheap in Australia), this does cause quite a bit of thickening. I alternatively add my cocoa butter with the sugar additions with a significant portion of cocoa butter added last. I have found that if I add the cocoa butter to the liquor and then start adding sugar it ends up thicker that when I do alternate additions. So perhaps that technique will work with your milk powder. After it has ground for a while it becomes fluid again it is just the initial additions that add the stress on the grinder.

Thanks for the detail on your processing, I too found the bean very acidic which I find makes dark milk chocolate a little strange. Your lighter milk choc would have mellowed that out nicely I would think. Keep an eye on your dark choc batch with the roast I did ages ago it started to develope a 'blood orange' flavour note which was really nice - it had to age a while though.


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