First of all, I would like to thank Clay for this wonderful website. It is a great source of invaluable information for chocolate lovers.
I am located in Toronto, Canada, and have been looking at different options to store finished chocolate truffles and pralines, for a small scale operation. It is not easy to find climatized chocolate cabinets, and if I find them, they are very expensive.
I think one of the options would be a wine cooler. According to Callebaut, the ideal temperature for storing finished products is between 12C and 20C, and the maximum relative humidity should be no more 70%. Here is the excerpt from Callebaut:
Chocolate must be protected against humidity. As a general principle, the maximum relative humidity in the warehouse should be 70%. Storage of chocolate products on floors or against walls should be strictly prohibited because this greatly increases the risk of absortion of humidity.'
Based on this, wine coolers manage the ideal chocolate storage temperature range, and their humidity is around 70%, making them an acceptable storage option.
Has anybody used or tried a wine cooler to store finished chocolate truffles and pralines?
If humidity is too high, how could be reduced? Maybe loading a try with rice or salt into the wine cooler?
Thanks for your feedback.
Hi I use several wine coolers to store finished chocolates as well as my transfer sheets.It serves as backup storage in the retail store and works great. Sometimes you get some condensation in the back of the wine cabinet (do not buy a cheap one) so inspect and wipe regularly. This may be due to it being an undercabinet model with not great air circulation. I also built a closet in my manufacturing area. Its not that big but accommodates 2 bakers racks plus extra space..it is cooled by a small room air conditioner set at 62 degrees.
It keeps all our bulk chocolate and work in progress in good condition and is not that expensive to run.
Thanks a lot for your feedback Melanie.
What price range for wine coolers would you consider cheap? I am looking at this two units (please follow link below). The first one is $755.00, and the second one, which has twice the capacity, $895.
How do these two wine coolers look compared to the ones that you have?
There are a couple of ways to control the humidity in wine (and other) cabinets if you have a cabinet that does not contain built-in humidity control. MOST inexpensive wine cabinets do not have humidity control.
One is to use a product called PolarFresh. It works a lot like a box of baking soda is supposed to. While chocolate fridges don't have the issue of ethylene gas production that is part of fruits and vegetables ripening, PolarFresh also absorbs humidity, keeping it in a more acceptable range.
A more "professional" product - and one that works over larger volumes more cost effectively, is from Avive Technologies.
Finally, you can use a CoolBot to use a conventional residential through-window air conditioner into a cooler for a walk-in style fridge. Most AC units won't go below 60F; the CoolBot will let you go down to just above freezing.
I don't see why not ... keeping in mind that they are really for converting a room into a "walk-in." You wouldn't use one in a cabinet. Keep in mind that you can also use the CoolBot on a split AC unit (not just thru-wall), where the compressor is physically outside and the blower unit is mounted inside the room. While AC units are also dehumidifiers, you may need additional humidity control (as in a real dehumidifier) not the PolarFresh or Avive products depending on where you are located.
The CoolBot site does have a page that gives the BTU rating for an AC unit for a given sie of room - assuming that the room is adequately insulated.
Many thanks, Clay! Am I correct in my statement about Wine Coolers? Or is there a type I don't know about?
There are many, many different brands of wine coolers, I don't know them all, and many have angled shelves. They tend to be expensive for what they are, and they're not made to handle chocolate, so they are expensive - and may not do what you need them to.
The real issue in cooling is moving heat away from the chocolate. With wine, we generally don't care how long it takes to get to temp from whatever temperature it's at when it goes in the fridge to storage/serving temp - usually overnight or longer is okay. Bottles already in the fridge have a pretty good thermal mass and are not likely to warm up by more than a fraction of a degree when opening the door of the fridge and adding a bottle or two.
With chocolate we do care about the speed of removing the "latent heat of crystallization" (the heat given up by the chocolate as it cools and crystallizes) - too fast or too slow can result in sub-optimal results.
Therefore, we do care about temp and volume of airflow and "recovery time" (how quickly it takes the fridge to return to the set temp after the door is opened) and other variables. There is a reason why cabinets made specifically for chocolate crystallization and holding (e.g., Irinox) as expensive as they are.
In general, the larger the volume of the cabinet, the better the recovery time is. Airflow needs to be controlled and directed to remove the heat added to the cabinet, which can vary widely. If you're molding 500gr blocks of chocolate and put 50 of them into the cabinet you have to move a lot more heat than if you put 20 bonbon molds in to crystallize.
General rule is make it larger than you need it so that you can use the volume of the room to help you. One confectioner I know in NYC set up a cooling/storage room in their facility that measures 10x20 feet. Everything comes in on trays on speed racks. The room is set to about 62F and airflow is relatively modest. Not everyone has this luxury, of course. But you can do use the same concept in a much smaller space.