Friday January 28, 2005

As is the case in most subjects I know something about, I suddenly come across information that shows me just how little I actually know. In the last couple of weeks, as I work on the conch/refiner, I have been researching conching, and specifically the temperatures at which chocolate is conched. My understanding was 120-130 F at the most, and over that you can burn the chocolate. It would appear that is not the case in all circumstances. Read here about conching in detail. The biggest surprise is that conching is often at 70-80 C, much higher than I originally thought. I am now incorporating that into the proto-type conch design. That said, I do have to point out that I did notice that I could tell a difference in the chocolate conched at on 110 F. It was dark chocolate though, not milk chocolate.

Also, I have been meaning to put this link up. Wayne, is really big into chocolate, especially milk chocolate. He has a lot of just generally interesting stuff on this site, but what is really great is both that he has gotten into making his own and just how inventive he is. As one person put it, he is a real McGyver - duct tape! Anyway, he did not have the greatest go of chocolate making , but also used equipment he had on had, and not necessarily what I would suggest using. On the other hand, his section on tempering chocolate is absolutely wonderful. Please read it. In my spare time I will put that link in the tempering section here, plus incorporate a lot of his information.

So, I will leave you with this to ponder.

"The more I learn, the more I know; the more I know, the more I learn; the more I learn, the more I learn I didn't know what I thought I knew. I thought I knew a lot, but now know I did not. I do know that I don't know what I don't know so I must keep learning what I do not know even though I do not know what I do not know. In the end, it looks like I will know nothing because the more I learn, the more I know I know less than I thought I knew. I think I would rather know nothing, and be wrong about that than know I know it all and be wrong about that!"

I think that sums up the path of Chocolate Alchemy (and maybe life)

12:04 pm : Posted to: General : Please leave a comment (0)

Tuesday January 25, 2005

The new Apprentice and Alchemist Kits are now available. Please allow some extra processing and delivery time. I roast and prepare them as ordered, and only roast once a week. That way the beans are fresh.

Something kind of interesting has come up. I am getting requests for cocoa bean husks. Well, I have a few that I save from producing nibs, but in general, just don't have a lot of them. If you (who are buying beans) want to save your husks, I might have an outlet for you. They seem to be going into body scrub products. Let me know if you have some or want some and I will try to hook people up. Right now, I have none to sell.

Finally, as some of you may recall, I personally had a house fire about 10 months ago, so Chocolate Alchemy got displaced and turned into our living space. Well, I am just thrilled to report, we are back in our house ( a geodesic dome), and Chocolate Alchemy is back where it belongs. It is so good to have the laboratory back.

08:56 am : Posted to: General : Please leave a comment (0)

Thursday January 20, 2005

I completely forgot to post. Chocolate Alchemy's email is now back up and running fine. We've been working on getting our kits photographed and refined, and they should be up for viewing sometime this weekend.

08:11 pm : Posted to: General : Please leave a comment (3)

Posted Comments for this update:

[Thu 07:56] Trent email ~
I read about your home conching experiment, sounds great! Do you think that a chocolate tempering machine would conch? Also, I wonder if running the granulated sugar through a food processor before adding it to the liquor would help make it smoother.
[Fri 12:35] Alchemist John ~ site
No a tempering machine does not have the temperature requirements (see my post and links above) nor speed needed.

As for the sugar, yes, some form of particle reduction to the sugar is very helpful. I just use a blender, but a food processor should work just fine also. What does not work is a grain attachment to many of the food processors. The sugar just clogs and melts. What a mess.

[Fri 17:36] Kris Muller email ~

I'm looking to reconnect with Bart Frazee. I miss him. We used to work together many moons ago. If you could get my email address to him, I'd appreciate it.

Thanks, Kris

Saturday January 15, 2005

I can receive email, but can not send it at the moment. I'm not quite sure what's going on, but other accounts in our house have also had problems. So if you send me email, you may get a response from me (alchemist) at a different email address then you sent to. I hope this will be resolved fairly soon.

11:25 am : Posted to: General : Please leave a comment (0)

Monday January 3, 2005

Welcome back to the beginning of an exciting new year. I am hoping this year will bring a lot of progress to the Art and Science of Homemade Chocolate - Chocolate Alchemy.

Last year I learned quite a bit about chocolate making and made all of my year end goal. I am really pleased about that. We developed our Cocoa mill, have 5 cocoa bean varieties in stock and started our refiner R&D.

In particular, the rock tumbler turned chocolate ball mill refiner is working out very nicely. I took some particularly coarse textured, rough and sour flavored chocolate (I tested some purposeful under roasting), combined it with an equal portion of 3/16" stainless steel shot, and set it tumbling in the ball mill. Initially, I tried it without any heat and saw no change in the chocolate. I then made a very simply enclosure for the container portion of the ball mill, put a heating pad under it (you don't want to heat motors) and again let it tumble. A day later the chocolate is significantly smoother, although it does have a touch of sugar grit left, but so much less than anything to date. The biggest change was the flavor profile and how it melted in my mouth. Wow, what a change. The sourness has disappeared and has been replaced by a pleasant brightness. I really did not expect this as usually an open air conch is needed for these kind of changes. It was a nice surprise. I will start experimenting with different ratios of chocolate and SS balls, and will probably try some mixed media (SS cones, rods and triangles) to see if I can optimize the particle size reduction

I suspect in the end, this little tumbler (a quaint 4") will prove the concept, but a larger diameter tumbler will be needed to generate enough energy and grinding force to get the chocolate where we want it to be..

R & D materials are off to CrankandStien for some manufacturing work for a conch/refiner. I hope to have a working model in a month or so, and I will test that out and report back.

For this year, I expect to have a working refiner and/or combination conch to offer. The new crops of cocoa beans are starting to come in. The new Barinas is quite nice, with a few more aromatic than last year. I am hearing about the availability of some organic Ocumare and even some rare Porcelana. I have not tasted any, but I hope to carry a new Carenero Superior as the old crop runs low, and maybe a few new varieties as I get to taste them.

And finally, I hope to continue to meet more interesting and exciting people this year (yes, I mean you my customers, friends and fellow Alchemists), continue the quest for homemade chocolate and rediscover the Art and Science of Chocolate Alchemy and bring it to you!

Happy Chocolate making everyone.

12:45 pm : Posted to: General : Please leave a comment (0)

Cocoa Beans
Cracking & Winnowing
Conching & Refining
Tempering & Molding

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