I'm wondering if, while using the same machine, folks increase their refining times linearly proportional to increased chocolate batch sizes. I use a Santha Spectra 11 melanguer. For the last year, I've been making 2-5 lb batches of chocolate and have observed that my best chocolates from a taste and texture standpoint have been in the Santha for about 5-6 hours per pound of chocolate. I recently refined my first 9 lb batch of chocolate for 41 hours, which is about 4.5 hours per pound. This chocolate has a noticeable bitter bite at the beginning/front-end of tasting it, but fortunately finishes quite nicely.
I'm questioning myself as to whether I should've melangued it for 45-54 hours (the 5-6 hour per pound range) as maybe it didn't conche long enough (or whether it was simply the beans.) I think I roasted the beans quite well as the nibs were tasty, slighty crunchy, and not chewy, but there was some bitterness.
I haven't forked out the cash to read the $200+ Minifie or Beckett books so I'm not sure where else to learn this info.
What have any of you observed? Would you scale-up, in the same machine, linearly as a function of refining time versus weight of chocolate? Have you observed something not so linear to successfully make larger batches of chocolate in the same machine?
Any guidance, feedback, or advice would definitely be appreciated!
I have been working 4-8 lbs. batches and never really thought of hours per pound. I generally do around a 24-30 hour conch-grind and have gone as far as 48. Jacques Torres once told me the chocolate turns as it get closer to 3 days and a friend who uses a larger machine talked about up to 5 days. I have been using different Dominican beans and liquor and one source of Ecuadorian liquor. The Ecuadorian was much softer and needed a little less time in the melanger.
Thanks for the response Thomas! Yeah, after awhile I started using hours per pound as an initial idea for my refining time per batch. I recognize that each origin is very different (for instance, more cocoa butter in beans grown further from the equator), so I don't follow this as a hard rule. I usually taste my conch-grind every 4-8 hours or so depending on the batch weight to see where it's at flavor/texture-wise.
This last batch being significantly larger than any previous batch I'd made left me flying a bit in the dark. What threw me off was at around the 34 hour mark, it tasted pretty darn bad. Kind of an odd chemical/plastic flavor with quite a bit of bitterness while still more gritty than I usually prefer. At the 41 hour mark, it tasted considerably better and the texture was about where I like it so I stopped the melanguer. I remember reading somewhere that chocolate can start to taste gummy if the particle size gets too small (I think around 10 microns...I don't have a micrometer BTW...it's all just by taste for me.) So, I stopped the conch-grind mostly because I was worried about it getting gummy. From your response, it sounds like I could've taken a fair bit longer (72+ hours). Do you think that perhaps this batch still has some of the volatile acids (acetic acid, etc) in it giving it that bitter taste? Note, it's also a slight bit astringent. Someone told me on the Chocolate Alchemy forum that that could be from under-fermentation of the beans. This why I'm perplexed a) not melanged long enough or b) it's just the beans?
I have had issues with astringency with previous Dominican liquors. I recently purchased 1500 lbs.+ from Conacado and it has a very nice taste. After I conch-grind, I am now letting the chocolate sit for at least 30 days before I temper and mold. I also found that the bars got better over time and the astringency almost disappeared three months later. The Ecuadorian bars made a year ago, have also improved.
Agreed about the Conacado!! Great taste!! I purchased some from John at Chocolate Alchemy. That's actually my favorite chocolate that I've made over the last year. I plan to buy more in the near future. Unlike you, I've only bought a maximum of 10 pounds of any single origin so far. (1500 pounds...wow!! Are you in business then?)
Anyway, I'll save a bar from this current batch and try it out in about a month to see if the astringency lessens. Note...I aged this batch of chocolate for 11 days before tempering and molding.
Have you ever done a taste test where you had tempered & molded a partial conch-grind batch right away, aged another part of that batch for X weeks, and aged another part of the batch for X+Y weeks? Then after X+Y+Z weeks you taste tested all three.
How did you choose one month to post conch-grind age your chocolate? I did the above study on one origin once using a) immediately tempered, b) aged 1 week, and c) aged 2 weeks choco. I had 8 people taste test all three ages a month after conch-grinding and it was resoundingly in favor of the aged 1-week group. I've never aged longer than 2 weeks however. I'm curious how the taste profile changes through time. (I saw on a Mast Brothers video once where they mentioned they aged between 3-8 weeks.)
Yes, quit my day job and doing chocolate full-time. I have not done any organized saving of conched chocolate and bar chocolate over different periods of time. I will be doing some grinding and molding this week and will set aside some bars for taste tests. As far as time for aging, there was a little discussion under the $100 bar discussion about extended aging time. When I visited the Mast Brothers a few years back, they told me they age for a month and a friend who runs another chocolate shop also ages for 30 days.
That's good to know. I may try another aging test in the near future now. Maybe something like a) fresh tempered, b) 1 week, c) 3 weeks, d) 4 weeks, e) 6 weeks, and f) 8 weeks. And then let them all sit together for a couple weeks and do a tasting.
Again, thanks for responding Thomas! I really enjoy discussing/learning about chocolate making. Also...congratulations on cutting the cord from the day job!!!
Oh BTW, what's your business name and are you currently selling any of your Conacado bars? I'd be up for buying and trying some!
La Chorena Chocolate, and we have a facebook page. email your address and a send you a few. firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks! Every little bit of info helps. Yeah...I've decided that I need to bump up my refining/conching time to at least 48 hours. I'm using a Santha Spectra 11. Basically, I'm going to run with my original refining metric of X hours for Y lbs. For my machine's case, it was between 5-6 hours per pound to produce the texture that I like. For 9 lbs, that would be 45 - 54 hours. Maybe I should just say 5.5 hours per pound. Either way, thanks!!