The Chocolate Life

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Hello!  I am new on the list and enjoying reading all the posts on the forum.  I'm trying to put together a plan to start selling my chocolate in a small way (since my pottery business is full time) at farmers markets.  Does anyone do this and if so, how do you keep your chocolate from becoming a puddle?  I'm assuming coolers but... if the customer can't see the chocolate how do you convince them to buy it?  Good photos?  Thank you in advance! Tracy

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Something no one has suggested so far are thermoelectric coolers. They come in a variety of sizes, and unlike ice cooling, these units actually dehumidify, instead of adding moisture to the air in the cooler.
I built a 12-volt powered, LED-illuminated portable display cooled by a unit cannibalized from a cooler. A compact 12-volt car battery could easily power this unit all day, as it draws a measly 67 watts of power. It works quite well, usually giving a 15 degree differential between outside and in. Where I'm located there's no need for more cooling, but I imagine adding a second unit would do the trick in hotter places. Here's a picture.

Hey Cheebs! That is really nice! You built this? You could sell these like crazy! I have had to find the most inexpensive ways to do farmer's markets... I tell everyone that visits our booth to come to our shop...for the finer things that we create...it usually works. But maybe one day I could splurge and have this as an option. It looks very impressive. Thanks for the suggestion of thermoelestric coolers too! I actually have never seen one of these. When we decided to start doing farmer's markets...we toyed with the idea of getting a small wine cooler. But decided that it would be open and closed so much it wouldn't work. I will keep this in mind if I ever decide to change how we do things.
The cabinet was made by a professional cabinetmaker, who also had the curved glass made. I did all the electrics and lighting. It wasn't cheap either, with total cost coming in around $1000. Still very good compared to commercial units which sell around $3k-$5k.
I had considered selling a similar unit, but since I'm in Guatemala it makes it very expensive to ship just about anywhere.
BTW, most wine coolers actually use thermoelectric devices for cooling. If you can find a damaged unit you could use the internals to cool your display.
Good idea. My gears are turning. I will have to think about this for a while. Seems like we could really make something perfect for pretty cheap. I love to "MacGyver" new tools. My husband always says that we are in the wrong business...the people who make the equipment for chocolatiers are the ones making the money! Everything is SO expensive!
I am new in the business and ready to start selling, but need chocolate cabinets to place in retail areas. Could I obtain specs to give to my electrical engineering son? I need 2 cabinets now! For retail locations - one a zoo, and another a large gallery/antique mall. email directly: jackiejjjj@aol.com
Hey Wendy and Cheebs, thanks for the tips you both gave. I'm sorry to have replied so slowly but I've been traveling. Wendy, those are some great ideas for keeping the money coming in during the summer. Frozen hot chocolate? Fabulous!

Cheebs, that case is gorgeous. I suspect a custom cabinet maker here in New England would get a bit more than $1000. though. The 12 volt car battery is a good idea. I wonder if those small solar collectors would be good? I may just have to nab the one on our horse's paddock and play around with the idea!

Tracy
Search for "portable thermoelectric cooler" on Google. There are a number of different brands but "Koolatron" seems to be very highly rated. You can get a good-sized one for under $200 that runs off 12VDC - plugs straight into the "convenience" outlet of a car or optional 120VAC adapter. Vinotemp makes one (available at Home Depot) that is soft-sided and is built into a luggage cart. Not quite as large as some of the Koolatron units but it would seem to be convenient for some applications.
Koolatron manufactures about 30 miles from me - not sure if you still can, but you used to be able to go to their outlet and pick up seconds for just a few bucks. I see them occasionally at thrift stores too.
So just to clarify, these thermoelectric coolers actually dehumidify the cooled air? Sounds perfect!
My science brain is sputtering right now so let me ask another question... I'm assuming that there will still be the issue of condensation when the chocolate is removed from the cooler - correct? So you would still need to protect the chocolate from that rapid change when selling even if the cooler was set to a low room temp?
With the unit pictured above, condensation from the cooling fins on the cold (inside) section, amounts to around 1/2 cup daily. Here we have an average RH of around 70%, and I've measured a very respectable 50-55% inside the display.
The temperature differential is not enough (usually) to cause any significant condensation.
Oh, and at Valrhona's Ecole, they were using a thermoelectric dehumidifier in the crystallization room. Apparently they do work quite well, the chefs seemed pretty taken with it.
Thermoelectric coolers are all over Craigslist. I bought two last summer (one in May, one was in July) for $30-$35/piece
Can you explain to me what is Craigslist-sorry!

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