Following is a recent post from our "Shared Journey" discussion in the Start-up Central Group:
Still struggling with the texture of our chocolate. It's better since we started using the micrometer to make sure the max particle size is sub-25 microns, but still "powdery" (not actually gritty, but definitely not smooth like it should be). Seeking the wisdom of the crowd and those who have gone before. We're doing our conching/refining in a Santha 11, if that helps. We're running some tests on (improvised) conching after refining, improving our tempering, adding cocoa butter (some of our chocolate is a lot more viscous than others). Any thoughts for which rocks to turn over first??
Since posting this I (think) I've figured out that our "sub-25 micron" chocolate really isn't. Using a micrometer to measure the maximum particle size is not incredibly precise -- and the biggest variable so far has been....me. If I stop at the first sign of resistance I'm measuring more like 30 microns. Up until now I've been using the micrometer the way I always have, but it appears that with chocolate you can very easily crush a 30+ micron particle and get a reading quite a bit below what you really have.
I'm also interested in hearing what you think about sugar as a factor (or not) in final texture. We've tried several different organic sugars, as well as highly refined table sugar, and I'm wondering if the organic sugars behave differently because of what isn't removed.
Would love to hear your thoughts, trials, and tribulations!
Simple solution: put more pressure on the wheels and conche longer.
Remember: The Santha was never designed to make chocolate. You may need to leave it in the machine a lot longer than you would expect. 48-72 hours is not unrealistic.
Thanks, Brad -- I like simple solutions! Good point on the Santha. I've enjoyed the challenge of learning to make chocolate from what I could reasonably cobble together, but along with doing it that way comes learning the hard (and sometimes slow) way what compromises you have unwittingly signed up for.
We do have some room to tighten the wheels down more, and we've only been running around 30-36 hours on most batches, so we have still go longer, too.
Thanks again for the help -- I'll let you know on this thread how we make out.
Dave - a micrometer can be a very precise tool, but you have to know how to use it, and have to have one that is accurate enough. I can make any micrometer read 8um if i turn it hard enough (it'll crush whatever's in there) - adding a pressure gauge can help rectify that. Also, dispersing your chocolate in 3 parts mineral oil will also give you a much more accurate reading on it.
Regarding sugar, the biggest impact will be on the starting size of your sugar. Organic refined sugar is going to chemically be identically to non-organically refined sugar (almost always). The larger the starting granulation, the more problematic. The second most important element will be the color of the sugar -sugars are measured with what's called an ICUMSA scale. The higher that ICUMSA number, the more 'dirty' the sugar is, and the greater the impact on your product. White table sugar is somewhere between 20-50 ICUMSA, for reference. "Turbinado" and similar sugars may have ICUMSA ratings of over 400.
I'm afraid I've been guilty of measuring my chocolate with the same delicate touch I've used for years to measure steel pin gauges -- time to un-learn / re-learn. I wasn't aware that you could get a micrometer with a pressure gauge -- I'll dig into getting one of those for sure.
On the sugar, the finest I've been able to find here without starch is bakers sugar. I haven't been able to find powdered or icing sugar without starch. I've played with pre-grinding it in a blender or food processor, but it's not something I could easily scale. Is there anything finer than bakers sugar that is widely available?
Thanks for the education on the ICUMSA scale -- I wasn't aware of that -- and thank you, as well, for taking the time to share on this forum with those of us still on the steep part of the learning curve.
Here is what I have found using the Spectra 10. Refine your cocoa liquor first down to desired size, this is quick as nibs are soft in comparison to sugar. Then add your other ingredients, I find this produces a better chocolate texture. Using this technique I find using large crystal raw sugar is best, using powdered sugar makes a thick paste and slows your grinder down and extends grind time. I would like to explain more but I shattered my dominant side collar bone and this typing one handed lark is irritating. Just do it, it works, test for yourself. Cheers
Thanks for the suggestions, Tom. Let me give that a try on my next test batch. Agreed on the powdered sugar not being a good choice -- the added starch alone is a show-stopper. Best wishes on your broken collar bone -- wishing you a speedy recover.
All the best,