Saturday June 19, 2004

I am going to keep this very short. After quite the wait, the new stock of fermented and unfermented Venezuelan Barinas Criollo cocoa beans have arrived. I will begin processing the back orders and get them out ASAP. If you have been waiting to order until they were actually in, here they are.

Also, I have been experimenting with the prototype mill from CrankandStein. It works like a charm. It looks like we will be adding a large hopper due to bottlenecking. I had 3 lbs of cocoa beans cracked in a little over a minute even so. With a good strong hair drier set on cool, they winnowed out in only a couple minutes. 3 lbs of cocoa from roaster to nibs in about one half an hour. Sweet!

Finally, we have begun discussing conch/refiner designs with CrankandStein. This could be it folks. The last piece in the Home Chocolatier's Alchemical Laboratory.

07:16 am : Posted to: General : Please leave a comment (5)

Posted Comments for this update:

[Sat 20:46] Julie email ~
A Question: Can unfermented beans be planted to grow a Cacao tree? I'm looking for some quality seeds.
[Wed 23:31] John Abbott email ~
Its been awhile since I've toured your Chocolate pages. The site is wonderfully done and the graphic design is excellent. My first bunch of cocoa beans didn't produce bad chocolate, but it didn't touch what I buy - so I'll hang in with coffee (which probably needs help too). Glad to see the site growing.
[Thu 07:10] Alchemist John ~ site
No, we are not quite up to "commercial" chocolate yet. That will take getting the conch/refiner manufactured (which is on the horizon). I have nailed chocolate syrup though, and that adds to coffee in a great way (if you want a mocha that is).
[Sat 00:38] fatimah ~
Hi, could you tell me what is chocolate liquer? Does it contain any alcohol? Sometimes I see this on the ingredients list of a chocolate bar, and was curious if this was a kind of alcohol, or maybe alcohol based. Thanks...
[Wed 09:33] MR.ISAAC ADJEI AMPONSAH (C.E.O.) email ~
THE CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER CHARTWELL VENTURES LIMITED P.O.BOX OD 515,ODORKOR,ACCRA GHANA,WEST AFRICA. EXPORTING OF 20,000 METRIC TONS OF COCOA Good Day, The above mentioned company has been incorporated under the companies code of Ghana (Act 179)1963 with a certificate of incorporation no.87061. Chartwell ventures limited was granted a license from the Gorvernment of Ghana ,Cocoa Board to operate as a cocoa buying/selling company with license no.035 .The company is engaged in the business of cocoa marketing/exporting. Chartwell ventures ltd. marketing performance in just ended 2005/2006 cocoa year was outstanding.We acheived the second best cocoa buying/selling company during the light crop season,amongst 18 companies in Ghana.we made a net profit of 900,000 u.s.d in the main crop and light crop seasons.,after injecting $4,000,000 u.s.d as a working capital in 11 months of operation.This investment capital was turned over 2 times within the same period to result in culmulative amount of $4,000,000 u.s.d. The company plans to achived a minimum purchased of 20,000 metric tons during 2006/2007 cocoa seasons in which an amount of $9,000,000 U.S.D will be turned over two times during the programmed period to result in culminative acheivement of 20,000 metric tons. which is equal to $18,000,000 in 11 months.our net profit will be 14% of 18 million u.s.dollars. The board of directors and the management team has unanimously agreed to invite foreign partners to come and purchase the Twenty thousand (20,0000) Metric Tons Of Cocoa here in Ghana COMPANY : CHARTWELL VENTURES LTD COMODITY : GRADE 1 COCOA BEANS FROM GHANA QUANTITY: TWENTY THOUSAND METRIC TONS.(20,000 MT) PRICE /TON : $900 U.S.D PER TON TOTAL AMOUNT: $18,000,000 U.S.D TOTAL NO.OF BAGS: 320,000 BAGS PORT OF DELIVERY: TEMA AND TAKORADI HARBOURS OF GHANA. All enquiries and informations/contact phone number should be directed to the C.E.O Mr Isaac Adjei AMPONSAH;

Email address;

Yours faithfully,

MR.ISAAC ADJEI AMPONSAH (C.E.O.) TEL; +233 24 919 6123

Friday June 11, 2004

I had the opportunity to sample an organic cacao bean the other day. It was from one of the other cocoa bean sellers on the web (no I won't name names) and I was thrilled to have the chance to evaluate someone else's stock. It was not Criollo (a hybrid from what I could tell), but it was organic. Well, that thrill ended almost as soon as I opened the sample bag. These smelled like someone had sprayed old wine in the bag. It was so sour. Talk about first impressions. Well I continued on, trying to give this bean a fair chance, especially because I had heard such good things about it. I peeled a few, noting the interesting purple interior (and oddly one light tan one) and tasted them. Ack! Again sour. On top of that they were waxy, and terribly astringent with an aftertaste that just would not go away. And other people liked these and ate them as "health snacks". Huh? To be completely fair, I went ahead are roasted them up. I nib (remember that term from a while back?) all of my samples roasted so they are on an even playing field. I popped them into my sample roaster, and turned on the heat. 100 F, 200 F, waiting for the "brownie" smell, and only getting hot sourness. 250 F, still nothing. 300 F. Sourness was going away, but no odor of chocolate at all. Finally a few beans started cracking at 325 F, a bit higher than "normal". That usually occurs at 300 to 310. I turned off the heat, let them completely cool and tried one. Most of the sourness had disappeared (thankfully) but nothing had taken its place. It was just this rather bland, cocoa-less, astringent "nut", with a "offness" that made me want to rinse my mouth out. Unfortunately, that did not help, and 10 minutes later I was still tasting it.

My conclusion: Organic is not everything, nor does it guarantee anything taste wise. I will continue to carry my "transitionally organic" Barinas cocoa beans, and look for other organic and Fair Trade cocoa beans, but I won't buy them or sell them if I don't consider them good quality. You have my promise on that! After all, Chocolate Alchemy is about making something that sets your taste buds dancing and excites your senses. Alchemists of old may have been trying to make gold from lead. We are making chocolate from cocoa beans, but they knew enough not to try and make gold from manure.

If in doubt about a cocoa bean's flavor (especially if no description is given), ask for a sample. I will send out samples if you are having trouble deciding between a couple of different cocoa beans. I see no reason other sellers would not do the same.

10:59 am : Posted to: General : Please leave a comment (5)

Posted Comments for this update:

[Sun 16:32] redbeard email ~ site
Cheers to that. I was having an argument with a friend recently who buys conventional on principal to "suppoert scientific advancements in food" I told him I buy organic, but not for any ethical reason really - it just tastes better! Scientific advancement of food is too often about getting more bang for a farmer's buck and more shelf-life, but oh so often at the cost of taste, which in my opinion should never be scarificed. There's actually a wonderful article on this topic from the last issue of Gastronomica.
[Wed 13:09] Tia Ghose email ~
Hi There. I really like the way that unsweetened, but roasted cocoa beans taste. I was wondering whether i can buy roasted but unsweetened cocoa beans at your website, and if so, how much they cost? Smiles. Tia
[Wed 22:10] Alchemist John ~ site
I do not presently offer them as an all the time item but will custom roast on a case by case basis. That may change in the future. Email me and we can talk.
[Sun 18:58] Mic email ~
Hello-I was just reading about how good and tasty cacao beans were-and I was wondering about trying them and possibly buying some-I heard they were good for your health-particuliarly for your hair and that they were also pretty good in flavor as well...Where can I buy these if not from you-I only want to try them first...Please Advise-Thanx-Mic
[Tue 07:39] Alchemist John ~ site
Where can you buy "these" if not from me? huh? Are you meaning sour organic beans or roasted beans or nibs? You can buy the raw beans here, oven toast/roast them and hand shell them. For small "eating" quantities, it is pretty easy. Does that answer your question?

Tuesday June 8, 2004

Prototype CrankandStein Cocoa Mill
Mill Cracked Ocumare

Ok, not quite, but very very soon and hopefully I got your attention. A number of you have asked why I don't sell cocoa nibs. Well, frankly, they are a lot of work, and I don't see the point in that they are only an intermediate step in chocolate alchemy. And I want you to be able to make your own from any cocoa bean you find. So instead of roasting and peeling pound after pound of nibs for sale, I have been pursuing a cocoa mill that will crack the beans efficiently and then let you blow the husk away effortlessly. To that end, I roasted up a few pound of beans and sent them off to a couple of mill designers and builders. So far the best results have come back from CrankandStein (I really love that name!). They have modified their standard grain mill. The gap is now larger to accommodate cocoa beans instead of grain and is a dual drive, three roller design that cracks the husk very nicely I am told. They said it best:

"I got the mill to feed like mad by gearing the rollers together. There will be some differential in the roller speeds due to some design requirements on the gaps between rollers and clearances for the gears, but the fines are being kept to a minimum using a light knurl on the surface. The best setup produced almost no nib flour and husk removal was nearly complete, which I assume is the goal. The chunks of nib haven't been too large, but the winnowing doesn't require screening since almost all of what you would get coming through the screen is husk flour and that blows off easily. The overall crush is showing big improvements with each design change. "

Once again, stay tuned. You will be able to make your own nibs in the near future. The estimated price of the mills will be around $130.00.

12:33 pm : Posted to: General : Please leave a comment (9)

Posted Comments for this update:

[Wed 10:32] muD ~
Great news, but I take it we'll still need to pick out the other material by hand (the twigs and what not)? I've been shelling them by hand, I time it at one DVD equals twelve ounces of roasted beans. Which is the quantity I use as it makes a nice amount for my 3oz-24oz tempering machine which I also use as a Conch (it mellows the flavor though maybe not as good as a real one would?) $130 will be well worth the time it saves. Now all we need is a refiner. I powder the sugar in a mini-prep, but while it reduces the particle size, when mixed with the chocolate liquor and cocoa butter it is still a little grainy. Passing it through the Champion doesn't do much, it just comes out of the mesh as grainy as it went in.
[Thu 15:59] Alchemist John ~ site
You really don't need to pick it out by hand. We designed in a differential to the rollers so there is a shearing action that mimics the hand motion you go through when you hand peel. What you end up with is a much smaller piece of husk that blows alway quite nicely with a fan.

The refiner/conch is next on the list to make. Design is done. Just have to get it implimented. I want to combine it to save on equipement and make the whole process more efficient.

Have you tried using a brewing sugar or a malt sugar? It is next on my list to try. (Hopefully this weekend. Chocolate and truffles.) The brewing sugars are known for caking and clumping which is a sign of a fine powder. Better than powdered sugar with cornstarch added.

[Fri 12:12] muD ~
By picking out by hand, I was referring to the non-cocoa bean matter that is mixed in with the beans. It is a very small amount by volume, and denser then the nib - the nib would blow away first. They look like petrified twigs, but they are not bean.

I haven't tried anything but superfine sugar processed in my Cuisinart mini-prep. It's been a long time since I brewed at home, but I don't remember the priming sugar to be anything but superfine in size. I don't want the cornstarch either but I was going to try powdered sugar to see if the graininess is reduced or not. The results of that experiment will tell me if I need to concentrate more on reducing the particle size of the sugar or if the ground chocolate liquer still has a particle size issue that only shows in the finished product. The straight chocolate liquer doesn't taste grainy on the tongue, but once it is mixed with the sugar it is grainy. As I temper my chocolate, when I break it I can see some very fine particles that could be sugar enrobed in cocoa butter, but could also be cocoa solids. It is possible the cocoa solids are small enough liquid to not feel grainy, but do feel grainy in the tempered solid stage. At any rate, the powdered sugar experiment will hopefully tell me more.

[Sun 08:08] Alchemist John ~ site
Oh, those. Yes, either you would have to pick them out by hand or see how the Champion separates them out. I have to say I have yet to remove any non-cocoa material (not that I have really seen any or been looking) but have not noticed any particular negative flavor impact. What beans are you using?

I just picked up a number of brewing sugars. All the cane and corn sugars are superfine and don't clump with humidity. The malt sugar does seem finer. I will see how that goes this week and report back.

I think what you are feeling post temper is the sugar. Those crystals are much harder than cocoa. I definately have to get work started on the conche/refiner.

[Mon 13:38] muD ~
I'm using the carenero superior. In my twelve ounce batches I only find a couple pieces of flotsam (so to speak) and some strands of what look like coconut husk (obviously not that, but it's what they look like). I also pick out an ounce or so of anorexic beans because I know I can't get much nib from them after roasting. With a CrankandStein I would leave the skinny beans in.

I used the powdered sugar this weekend and it is in the tempering machine spinning around on the melt cycle. As I said before I use this as a conch, letting the wave action of it mix and work off some of the stronger flavors. In this melted stage, it is smoother then my last batch where I tried to powder the superfine sugar in a mini-prep but it wasn't perfectly smooth.

I'll know more Tuesday after I temper it. I taste it then, but I also let it cure until Friday because I read on Chocophile that new chocolate should age 72 hours. I haven't noticed any difference between just tempered and 72 hours of aging, but I am also not a super taster.

I have yet to use lecithin. I know it is an 'emulsifier' and you reported a better tongue feel with it, but I'm still a bit unclear on the whole emulsifier bit. An emulsion keeps water and oil in one piece (can you say mayo), but I don't see any danger of my chocolate separating. I do notice a lower melt point in what I'm making. Your fingers come away with a chocolate stain by the shortest touch. Would lecithin slow this down?

By the way, my last batch had the flavor of a fine chocolate - now for the texture.

[Wed 08:17] Alchemist John ~ site
I finished up a two pound batch yesterday, experimenting with the malt powder. All I can say it DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME. It was smoother BUT the maltose apparently is way to hydroscopic. The additional water combined with the high action of the Champion started crystalizing, carmelizing and burns the chocolate to such an extent the Champion's thermal switch cut in and the whole thing locked up. No damage but it took an hour to get it all clean as I had to chip off chocolate brittle :-( That said, I did not lose the batch. It tastes great, but agian is not as fine as I want it as it only passed through one time. I really did not expect anything different, but it looks like there will be no real shortcuts to smooth chocolate. I will have to develop that home conche/refiner. A real post and pictures (both the carmel and finished dipped truffles and molded chocolates) later.
[Tue 15:39] muD ~
The batch made with purchased powdered sugar is pretty smooth. I'd say 99.5% smooth. So the grittiness was definitely from the sugar. I'm not sure where the remaining grains are from. It has to be one of the following: Cocoa solids, vanilla solids (I scrape the inside of a vanilla bean - add to sugar and process in mini-prep) or large grains in the powdered sugar. The cornstarch from the powdered sugar didn't seem to have an effect positive or negative. This is the way to go until a home refiner is developed.
[Wed 07:49] Alchemist John ~ site
I did not notice really any effect from the cornstarch either, it was more of a principle item. As for the remaining grittiness, I believe that is just "statistics" of what makes it through. Powdering in a blender also gets you into the very smooth category. Enough for the refiner in any case.

And we are finally in the real planning stage of the refiner. I hope for a prototype in a couple of months. In the mean time, a number of people have thought about using a Cuisinart mixer. What I have told everyone is that I thought of this also (great minds think alike :-) and checked with Cuisinart. They say the mixer would not hold up to this kind of continuous use. It is meant for "intermitant duty" only. My thought is that if someone does want to try it, get a timer ($10 or so) that can turn it on and off every 15 minutes. May take a bit longer, but it should not burn out the motor that way.

[Tue 14:15] email ~
I am harvesting,fermenting, sundrying right now. Who wants samples of our reg. organic criollo.? I would like some advice on my alchemistic attempts to be tempering choc. by using organic choc. powder, raw cane sugar, cacao butter, lecithin, vanilla. I am reducing the sugar in my organic carob honey to add to the mass . have played with the amounts of each and am close to a smooth, rich what I think a fine chocolate should taste like . Anyways I am double enrobing my fine roasted beans with this idea. Why ?you may ask, well because you cannot get dark choc. in Costa Rica. I don't have a conching machine. I have neighbours who need work and so all my beans are hand peeled. I want to create a co-op and start this new venture. Looking for ideas, offers, visitors to help us. cheers K

Tuesday June 1, 2004

I have been updating a significant portion of the site. Most notably are all the navigation links at the top and the Our Philosophy section. It explains a lot about where we are, where we are going and how we are getting there. Please check it out.

And the Barinas crop of beans are on time and still on the way. Prices and tasting notes are now on the Cocoa Beans page.

Alchemist John

07:19 am : Posted to: General : Please leave a comment (0)

Cocoa Beans
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