Tuesday October 26, 2004

I finished to first two tests in my prototype conch and it is very promising. Let me say first off that the conch is nothing more than an inexpensive ice cream maker. I put a heating pad cushioned by a pad where ice would go, and set the whole thing at a 45 degree angle. Also, as most ice cream maker motors are only for intermittent use, it is plugged into a 24 hour timer that turns the motor off (but leaves the heating on) once an hour for half of an hour. It has run fine for two batches now, three days at a time.

The lesson from the first batch was two fold:

1) Don't use powdered sugar. The cornstarch combines with trace water and with the application of heat, thickens the whole mixture too much.

2) You don't need powdered sugar. This was a major surprise. Apparently 2-3 days at 110 F with trace water around dissolves the sugar and that portion of the grit is gone.

Thanks to the advice of Frederick of Dagoba, I added about 200 one quarter inch stainless steel balls to the second batch. In effect this made a ball mill. A day into the conch/refining I checked the batch and it was just starting to smooth out the extra grit. I then drop the motor and that experiment ended, but I would call it a partial success.

So give it a try. Get a $15 ice cream maker, a heating pad and some SS balls and you can give refining a try.

Also, I made a neat discovery about hiding the "grit flaw". Just take your chocolate (go ahead and conch it, but don't worry about the refining portion, i.e. no balls) and add nuts, fruit or even some ground coffee to the batch. The texture of those items completely overshadows the chocolate texture flaw and no one but you, me and everyone here will know how you made such great chocolate.

Give it a try and let me know how it goes.

07:42 am : Posted to: General : Please leave a comment (0)




Friday October 8, 2004

The second shipment of Madagascar cocoa has arrived and we are very pleased with it. All the same deep red fruit notes, same interesting red color. The Product and Review pages are all updated, and the price is a little less than originally anticipated. Please check it out. This is a very interesting and dynamic bean.

On a slightly different note, a number of people have asked about Fair Trade cocoa beans. The crux of Fair trade is that the farmers are receiving a "fair" price for their cocoa beans in the expectation that it is profitable for them to produce them, and that the farmers will prosper and continue to produce beans in the future. There are also some certification processes involved and some stipulations about the beans being from a co-op, note just single farms.

What I am attempting to get at here is to say, look at our prices. They are where they are not because we are making huge profits but because we are paying significantly more that the world market as they are "specialty" cocoa beans. By no means am I trying to imply that our cocoa beans are "Fair Trade" because they are not. Usually it is because the producers have not gone through the paperwork or they are from small farms (these Madagascars and the Barinas come to mind). What I am saying is that we do pay a "fair" price for these beans and that is making it to the farmers. Likewise, none of our beans (including the Ghana) were produced by any child slave labor. I know that has and does plague the chocolate industry. In addition, most certified Fair Trade cocoa that I have seen has all been general "hybrid" cocoa. What are the thoughts on this? Do you want any Fair Trade cocoa bean (that tastes good of course) or a Fair Trade Criollo or Trinitario?

What it comes down to is that along with Certified Organic, Fair Trade cocoa is next on the list. I hope with then present batch of Ghana (which is very low) is replaced, that will be Fair Trade Certified.

Please let me know your thoughts on this. It matters!

07:09 am : Posted to: General : Please leave a comment (4)


Posted Comments for this update:


[Wed 10:41] Bernie email ~ site
Hmmmm....very interesting. I'm growing a vanilla vine, although the chances of me actually producing vanilla (have you ever looked at that process?!?!?!) are pretty small. I did bid on one of those extractors on eBay, but I really can't justify another hobby just at the moment.... Wah. The site looks VERY cool. I did notice a screwy link. From the "Contact Us" page, the "Products" link goes to "All about Cocoa Beans...". I'd be glad to show you a couple alternative site-setups that'd make managing a little easier as well as allowing you to sponsor an on-line 'community' for cocoa-roasters... Much love! Bernie
[Sat 16:45] Irene ~
Hi John!

Re the fair trade issue. Personally, I think that the terms 'Fair Trade' and 'Organic' can be bandied about all too often as buzz words and an easy cover-all for every situation.

I think (as with everything in life) that this 'one size fits all' approach doesn't work for everyone - presumably in this case for cocoa farmers.

So if you can source beans under terms that give the farmers a fair deal, I see that as being far more important than sourcing them under a 'Fair Trade' banner if this doesn't add any value to the farmer.

You're doing a great job John - much appreciated!


[Wed 18:09] miKe mcKoffee email ~
Hi AlChemist, I'm fixin' to make another Kona Kahlua Cheesecake. (with only the best ingredients which is why I'm here:-) Have home roasted Top Estate Kona covered of course, but the recipe uses cocoa powder: 1/4C in the crust & 3/4C in the topping. I was hoping to figure out a way to use home roasted Venezuelan Ocumara somehow rather than SB like last time. I've done some researching and don't know of a way to press chocolate liquer to remove 3/4 of it's cocoa butter content. (which is what I read multiple sources how cocoa powder made) For the crust just fine ground nibs would work quite well me thinks since would be mixed with graham cracker crumbs and fine chopped macadamia nuts, but not for the top layer of the cheesecake, needs to be smoother for proper consistency. Any ideas? Could try processing the Ocumare to liquer and use it instead of cocoa powder and reduce sour cream (calls for 1&1/2C) in topping to compensate for added cocoa butter liquid content. But that could change the flavor ratio... hmmm, just thinking out loud! I'd hate to screw it up... but no guts no glory. MM;-)
[Sat 17:01] carl sajben email ~
Please tell me how I can buy 6 of your cacao beans.Thank you. Carl



Saturday October 2, 2004

Well, I finally finished putting a number of recipes together. They vary in skill level upon your path of Chocolate Alchemy. The first set uses primarily cocoa nibs. The next set uses cocoa liqueur that you make yourself. The final section has a variety of actual chocolate recipes, including some new thoughts and ideas about conching. I will get the permanent link done in a day or so, but in the meantime, just go to Recipes. If you have a recipe you would like to share, just send it or post it here and I will see about getting it included. Likewise, if you try some of the recipes out, I would love to know what you think of them.

11:43 am : Posted to: General : Please leave a comment (1)


Posted Comments for this update:


[Wed 19:07] miKe mcKoffee email ~
(Oops, already posted this above but this seems like a more appropriate place) Hi AlChemist, I'm fixin' to make another Kona Kahlua Cheesecake. (with only the best ingredients which is why I'm here:-) Have home roasted Top Estate Kona covered of course, but the recipe uses cocoa powder: 1/4C in the crust & 3/4C in the topping. I was hoping to figure out a way to use home roasted Venezuelan Ocumara somehow rather than SB like last time. I've done some researching and don't know of a way to press chocolate liquer to remove 3/4 of it's cocoa butter content. (which is what I read multiple sources how cocoa powder made) For the crust just fine ground nibs would work quite well me thinks since would be mixed with graham cracker crumbs and fine chopped macadamia nuts, but not for the top layer of the cheesecake, needs to be smoother for proper consistency. Any ideas? Could try processing the Ocumare to liquer and use it instead of cocoa powder and reduce sour cream (calls for 1&1/2C) in topping to compensate for added cocoa butter liquid content. But that could change the flavor ratio... hmmm, just thinking out loud! I'd hate to screw it up... but no guts no glory. MM;-)




Cocoa Beans
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