Sunday February 27, 2005

This is the kind of announcement that I just loathe making, but here is it. We are temporarily out off ALL cocoa beans. We have both the main crop Ghana Forastero and Organic Ocumare on order. They should well have been here by now (they were ordered before we ever ran out last month) but FedEx lost the shipment of Ghanans. How do lose that much cocoa? You tell me and we will both know! The Ocumare has hit problem after problem - bad quality that my importer turned down, floods in Venezuela, and more shipping problems. No excuses, just the facts. A good crop is on the way.

So this is how I guess it will have to go. I will tentatively take orders for the Ocumare and Ghana, give quotes for shipping amounts, and put you on a list to notify when they come in. I can not take any payments now for just cocoa beans as I do not know how much the beans will finally be until they actually arrive. I can and will accept orders on the Kits and Cocoa Mill as they are a set price regardless of the cocoa beans included, but of course the kits will not ship until the new stock is in.

Thank you for your understanding, and patience, and as my supplier said to me "hang in there, I will take care of you".

I apologize for the inconvenience folks.

05:36 pm : Posted to: General : Please leave a comment (11)

Posted Comments for this update:

[Mon 08:53] Mike email ~
I just returned from the Caribbean island of Dominica with several "logs" of chocolate(one dozen cigar-sized logs cost $3), which I believe is basically coco. They process their beans with very little equipment, short of an old fashioned meat grinder. How do I convert these logs of coco into milk chocolate?
[Thu 01:04] Greg email ~ site
Sorry this is a bit of a non-sequitor to the ablove threads, but I am considering having a bowl-and-wheels style conch made in a local shop. Can anyone recommend how I should determine the best rate of travel of the wheels around the bottom of the bowl. In other words, if I have a bowl that's about 12 inches in diameter, How many RPM should the wheels be going around? Cheers.
[Mon 07:37] Alchemist John ~ site
Mike, check out the recipe section. There is a milk chocolate there. What you basically have is cocoa liquer - but be aware, it is going to be more coarse than if you put it through the Champion.

Greg. Within reason, go for high speed. You want to develope some shear. That said, you of course don't want it to splash out. I would love to see pictures when you are done and find out how it works. What are you planning for the wheels to be made of?

[Mon 18:28] Greg email ~ site
I suppose it's all going to boil down splash out and to whether the motor can handle the load. I think I may brainstorm a bit with my engineer friend and see if there isn't some way we can figure out the load that will be created by pushing the wheels through the chocolate. Do you have any ideas about viscosity values for choclate liquer? I imagine some way to regulate the speed of the motor would be nice but those add ons get costly fast (so do gear boxes)-- I've been looking around-- so I'd want to try my best to get it right the first time out of the starting blocks. Cheers, G.
[Mon 18:52] Greg email ~ site
I just found this good site that explains the concept of viscosity and gives some examples of viscosities of choclate in standard as well as industry specific units--

I emailed the site author and asked if he knew how to convert between the industry units and standard units. I'll let you know if I hear anything usefull from him.

[Tue 07:38] scott ~
Very few folks use McM readings anymore for chocolate - the industry standard is % torque on a Brookfield viscometer. The 20 RPM reading on this equipment, multiplied by 250, will give you cP, which will be more meaningful to your engineer friend. Chocolate liquor at 40.5C will probably be in the range of 3000-5000 cPs.
[Tue 10:59] Christina email ~ site
I didn't know this site existed until today. I hope I can find an opportunity to try some of this out.
[Tue 13:23] Jane email ~
How do i make chocolate bars at home from cocco powder?
[Tue 20:40] Greg email ~ site
Thanks Scott. You mention that "Chocolate liquor at 40.5C will probably be in the range of 3000-5000 cPs." Which direction would you expect that change by adding sugar or cocoa butter to the liquor? I'm guessing more viscous with sugar and less viscous with butter... Is that correct?
[Wed 05:11] scott ~
yup. John, it may be time to add a discussion board section 8-)
[Wed 07:54] Alchemist John ~ site
WOW, don't visit my own site for a day or two and it goes on without me :0

The discussion board is in the works as I type this - it is coming integrated with the new shopping cart and product handling software. Within a couple of weeks I hope.

Monday February 21, 2005

That wasn't the exact question, but close enough for a title. The exact question was

"why is raw cocoa so much more expensive than fully processed chocolate product? "

Well, at first I started coming up with "rationales" why they are the price they are; small lots, small business, big business, buying power, etc. Then I went by a couple stores, found out just how much various chocolates sell for, and discovered that I don't need to explain why the prices are like they are. I just have to answer the question.

Well, the answer is, they don't. It is cheaper to make your own from these "expensive" cocoa beans. Let's look at the numbers.

If we look what I consider the "cheap" chocolate on the market, you will find that a 1.5 oz bar of Hershey's is $0.55. Let's do a little scaling up. 3.0 oz is $1.10, 16 oz (1 lb) is $5.87 and 5 lbs is $29.33. (and sure, you might be able to buy 5 lbs for less than this. This is just a simple way to make some comparisons.) Hershey's chocolate has about 20% cocoa in it, so that 5 lbs of chocolate has 1 lb of cocoa beans in it.

5 lb Hershey's chocolate = 1 lb cocoa beans = $29.33
1 lb Ghana Forastero from Chocolate Alchemy = $12.00

You make the call which is more expensive.

It just the same for "specialty" chocolate from chocolatiers like Scharfenberger and Dagoba. A 3 oz bar of 70% chocolate is usually about $3.00. One pound is about $16.00 and 5 lbs would be $80.00. In this 5 lbs there would be 3.5 lb of Criollo or Trinatario cocoa beans.

5 lb specialty chocolate = 3.5 lb cocoa beans = $80.00
3.5 lb Criollo from Chocolate Alchemy = 3.5 x $15.00 = $52.50

Note as quite as far ahead, but there you go.

Finally, let's have a little fun with this Porcelano Criollo that I think spurred this question. Amedei and Domori list 50 g for about 6.00 British pounds or $10.50 US. This is for 1.5 oz of chocolate. At this rate, a pound would be around $105.00. I am saying the Porcelano beans may be $35.00 or so per pound.

I leave it as an exercise to the student to say which is more expensive.

Happy chocolate making everyone.

(side note: as with all hobbies, I know there are associated cost of equipment, waste and energy. I am just addressing the cost of the cocoa beans vs the cost of finished chocolate.)

03:46 pm : Posted to: General : Please leave a comment (1)

Posted Comments for this update:

[Sun 15:55] Ray Owen email ~ site
A horrible learning curve: First roasted coffee 25 years ago. Others went crazy over the brew- hints of excellence but no big Whoop to me. Six months ago, I read about first and second crack on the net, and I've resumed roasting.

I've never been a Chocoholic, just like coffee shop espresso never thrilled me.

Time to read and learn chocolate- hoping the difference is as great as the chasm between the Vile Sludge you're served as "coffee," and the real thing never experienced by most people.

Cheers - Ray Owen

Friday February 11, 2005

I purchased two rock tumblers a couple of months ago. With a day the larger on had stopped working so I was left to experiment with the smaller one. Well, it did the job somewhat, but not fully. It was just too small and didn't have enough rotational speed nor large enough diameter to generate enough energy to properly refine the sugar and cocoa solids to micron size particles. The chocolate was smoother, but not smooth enough. You could tell it was still homemade.

The new replacement tumbler showed up earlier this week so I set it up to refine some sugar. I put the about three cups of sugar and three cups of SS shot in a 2 quart glass jar. I had to put some larger diameter tubing on the rollers so the glass container would rise above the sides of the tumbler and not scrape the sides, but this had the added benefit of increasing the rotational speed of the drum. You can really see the sugar and shot moving well.

Oh, and someone asked about the glass. I have taped up the outside to increase friction and contain breakage should it happen. And no, I am not terribly worried about "grinding" the inside of the glass surface. Both the sugar and chocolate seem to create there own protective coating pretty quickly, so no glass bit show up in either.

I will report back how this new set up works.

03:27 pm : Posted to: General : Please leave a comment (5)

Posted Comments for this update:

[Sat 19:49] trent email ~
I have some friends who are mechanical engineers and may be up to the challenge to put together a home conching machine. If you could design anything, how would you like to see it work? I imagine something like a Kitchen-aid mixer with a paddle attachment (aerate and mix), a heat source in the bowl, and a motor that can go slow and steady for days. The bowl would need to be 5-6 cups or so. What do you think?
[Sun 08:34] Alchemist John ~ site
I have two refiner/conches in the works, but another mind and perspective would be good. I will email you directly and we can get this going.

BTW, folks, the above tumbler froze up later in the day - the sugar was well on the way to powder, but it just didn't have enough time. I don't think the ball mill idea is dead, but this particular tumbler is history. I need to find one that is more robust and reliable.

[Wed 09:36] scott ~
The key to getting a functional ball mill will be to have the fat content high enough. If you're finished fat target is 34%, for example, you're going to need to ball mill at perhaps 45-50% fat to keep it fluid enough and to maximize particle size reduction. If you attempt to ball mill at your finished 34% fat, you're likely not to get the particles small enough, as well as experience the siezing that you're seeing. It'll start out very fluid, and as you reduce particles and increase surface area, you're viscosity will decrease. If you're very low in fat to begin with, the decrease in viscosity will result in the siezing you're seeing.
[Mon 16:07] Alchemist John ~ site
Scott, it is the mill motor that siezed up, not the chocolate. Thanks for the other information and input though.
[Fri 10:03] Scott B. email ~ site
John, I've been making my own chocolate now for a few months. I haven't had good success in the conching area either so I decided to grind my sugar extremely fine and then mix it with the liquor. I did this by putting a few cups of sugar in a blender and running it for several minutes on high. This made extremely fine sugar without the added cornstarch found in cornstarch.

The result was a pretty smooth chocolate. Not as smooth as a well conched batch but better than any I had produced before.

Friday February 4, 2005

It looks like January was a good month. We are presently out of both the Ghana Forastero and the Ocumare Criollo. Both are on order and will be here in a week or two. The new Ghana crop is the primary harvest this time, so the beans should be larger than the midcrop that we did carry. And really nice news for the Ocumare. This crop will be Certified Organic. In addition, the co-op has really been working on its fermentation, so expect some good flavor and consistency from this crop.

Now a little disappointing news. It does not look like we will be carrying the Barinas, fermented or unfermented, in the foreseeable future. What we have is it. I won't get into all the factors as to why I decided not to get them again, but a lot had to due with the high price and spotty availability. Unfortunately, it also means we won't have the two new regions (Tachira and Merida) that I had hoped to carry. Maybe next year. I am kind of sad because the Tachira had a really neat dry nutty flavor that I had not tasted in any other bean except Porcelana.

And finally, about Porcelana. I would really your (yes, you the customer) serious opinions on it. I might have the opportunity to make some available. The problem, per se, is that it is going to be a rather expensive bean. OK, very expensive. Possibly over $30.00/lb. This is because of its extreme rarity and flavor. It is an amazingly delicate, nutty flavored cocoa bean. Would you buy it at that price? Please let me know. E-mail me or leave a note here. You can read a bit about two different Porcelana chocolates. One from Amedei and one from Domori. Would you want the opportunity to make this kind of chocolate?

04:44 pm : Posted to: General : Please leave a comment (8)

Posted Comments for this update:

[Sat 12:12] Zachary ~
I'd be down for one pound.
[Sun 19:46] Roger Baronat email ~
Yes, I would be interested in purchasing this product at $30.00/lb. or higher.
[Mon 09:06] Alchemist John ~ site
Thanks guys. Please keep the opinions coming everyone - this will directly impact how hard I pursue this Porcelana Criollo.
[Tue 08:36] trent email ~
What do you think about conching using a mixer (like a kitchen aid) with the metal bowl in a heating blanket?
[Tue 14:44] Alchemist John ~ site
In therory that should work fine - with the caveat that none of the mixers are designed or warrentied to run for hours on end. That said, people have reported back to me that they have used kitchen aid and cuisinart mixers. Also, as I am learning (really, I don't know it all or pretend to know it all), conching is often at 50, 60, 70 and even 80 C. Much hotter than a heating blanket. I have not played with these higher temperature though.
[Fri 10:40] Greg email ~
I'll take at least a pound. send me an email when you have it or need my order!
[Thu 22:30] jerry hartman email ~
why is raw cocoa so much more expensive than fully processed chocolate product?
[Mon 16:06] Alchemist John ~ site
Greg, check my answer to this in detail in my post on 2/21/5. Basic answer; they don't cost more.....

Cocoa Beans
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Conching & Refining
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