Thursday March 24, 2005

In between everything else, we finally have a E-mail list and Newsletter set up. You can check it out on the Subscription Page. Basically, the E-mail list is where we can actually hold some conversations that are not in these comments. The Newsletter is a one-way email from me (Alchemist John) about new products, beans and other items of interest. I don't know how often I will produce the Newsletter yet, but I expect not more than once a month.

BTW, like everything new, I expect a few bumps ahead in this. We will work them out. The first bump is that the Subscription page does not actively tell you you have been subscribed. It just resets. If you get an email confirming your subscription, then you are subscribed - if not, you are not.

If anyone has questions, comments or suggestions, please feel free to e-mail me at

So, please go Subscribe today and let's start talking chocolate!

07:32 am : Posted to: General : Please leave a comment (2)

Posted Comments for this update:

[Thu 17:31] Theresa email ~
Here's a link for a 15 lb capacity rock tumbler, with steel hexagon barren. It's fan-cooled, overload protected and able to run 7 days continually. It is also reasonably priced at $145.09 without rocks and stuff.

Do you think the hex shape will increase kinetic energy enough to do the job?

Also, I found that Ebay sometimes has deals on chrome and steel shot.


[Fri 15:31] Alchemist John ~ site
I think that one would work, but there are two major drawbacks that make it not perfect. One is that it is just steel, not stainless steel. We really want food grade material long term. For a proof of concept, I think it would be fine. The diameter looks good. I don't really know of the shape would help or hinder the process. The 2nd major hurdle is that for a ball mill to be productive, it really needs to be 1/2 to 2/3 full, half of which needs to be media. In this case, again we want stainless steel, and that kind of media is expensive. This is purely an estimate, but I would not be surprised if that tumbler took 30-40 lbs of media. You are talking close to $500 in media. I ran these numbers some time ago when I was experimenting. My final conclusion was that even if it did work, expecting people to by $600-800 worth of equipment just for refining was asking a lot. I did not pursue it much past that due to that line of reasoning. You tell me, what do you think? If you do want to give it a try, I have a good source of media (the least expensive around). As for chrome and steel, they rust and really are not recommended for food. Again, maybe for proof of concept, but not much more. At least, that is my take.

Thursday March 17, 2005

The full tasting review is up for the new Organic Ocumare. It is an interesting Cocoa bean! Lots of bright fruit flavors - virtually a perfect example of what a Criollo can be. In addition, the new crop of Ghana Forastero arrived right on time, and that Review is also up. It is a big chocolatey bean that I am going to continue to sing my praises to.

07:17 am : Posted to: General : Please leave a comment (5)

Posted Comments for this update:

[Sun 20:48] Theresa email ~
Wow! Just when I thought I was the ONLY person who MUST delve deeply into the fundamentals of a given art, I find YOU - Chocolate Alchemy!

I'm new to the homemade chocolate scene. Started out with Baker's chocolate and graduated to 11 pounds of Bernard Calibaut unsweetened, because I wanted better results with a sugar-free blend. I'm still not satisfied and I believe I've found the answer at Chocolate Alchemy. The solution is chonching. The problem, as you know, is finding the appropriate equipment.

I am trying to make a silky milk chocolate with Xylitol replacing sugar and no matter how long I simmer down the cream, Xylitol and powdered milk, I still feel grit from the milk.

I think conching will remedy this, but I would appreciate advice on setting up the make-shift conch from mixer and heating pad.

I have a KitchenAid mixer. Should I use the dough hook and steel balls? Should I pass the chocolate, cream, powdered milk and Xylitol through the Champion juicer first? How many steel balls should I use and what size should they be? Please let me know what I need to make the finest textured milk chocolate possible.

Thanks, Theresa

[Mon 07:13] Alchemist John ~ site
Just a note everyone - I hope to have a mailing list set up with the week, so we can start and have some actual conversations.

Theresa, I am glad you found us! OK, a few things. If you are using cream, what you will get is more of a truffle, not a "real" chocolate. Do not put this through your Champion as the shear will cause it to separate about 2/3 of the time. OTOH, if you want truffles and are using cream, there is no need to add the milk powder - the milk solids are already there in the cream.

Now just a clarification - what this needs is refining, not conching per se. Refining is the reduction of particle sizes, i.e. the grit. Conching is a separte item (although can occur at the same time). In conching, volatiles are driven off, various oxidation reactions occur and in milk chocolate, the lactose is converted to its amorphos form., going from crystals to glass-like (not sharp ) particles.

So, your Kitchen aid mixer will work fine as a conch, and the dough hook is fine - the SS balls do not help in this case. Like you are thinking, just put a heating pad under it, and insulate it (although, keep the motor out, motors don't like heat).

To be honest, until I or someone comes up with a small scall refiner, we are not quite there with fine textured chocolate - superiour flavor, just not texture. I do have a design at my manufacturer and expect to have a prototype in a month or so to test out.

[Tue 19:53] Theresa email ~
OK. So I need a method of refining. How about a ball mill? How about a ball mill that is small and low cost?!

I found a supplier who offers ball mills from $70 and up at this unlikely site:

Do you think it would work to get that silky texture we're all after?

Cheers, Theresa

[Tue 21:40] neo email ~
great site hope the world finds it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
[Wed 17:17] Alchemist John ~ site
I have tried the smaller ball mills. The size is actually the problem. They can not generate enought kinetic energy to do the job. I am trying to find a larger diameter one that does not hold 20 lbs of chocolate. That is the thing with ball mills - they have to be at least 50% full to work, and half of that is media, which is very expensive. check out the archive from last month - you should see some of my work with the ball mill. Soon it will go onto the refiner page...

Friday March 11, 2005

The Certified Organic Venezuelan Ocumare has arrived. For those not familiar with it, it is a good Criollo example, and a rather fruity and lively cocoa bean. The pricing is in place now. Since we were able to purchase in a larger quantity this time, we are able to pass the price savings along. You will notice the price has dropped nearly $3.00 a pound. The detailed review will not be up until next week. I need to roast it up this weekend and give it a full taste and review then.

05:17 am : Posted to: General : Please leave a comment (8)

Posted Comments for this update:

[Mon 18:21] scott ~
you're killing me here - where' s the review? 8-)
[Tue 16:38] Josho email ~
I'm very interesting in getting these and starting to make my own chocolate. Two questions: first, how long do the raw, unroasted beans stay usable, and how should they be stored to maximize that? Second, in the tests you ran on mills, did you, by any chance, test a Vitamix? I don't have a Champion Juicer, but I do have a Vitamix...

Many thanks, Josh

[Wed 15:27] Alchemist John ~ site
Scott, the reviews (the Ghana is in too) will be up tonight. As a tease, this new Ocumare has some neat sublte biscuit aromas that remind me of the porcelano, a nice sharp tangy citrusy twist, and a very narrow roast range. More later...

Josho, I have easily stored the beans in a cool, dry place over a year. Don't make them air tight or molds can grow, and do refigerate them as there is too much moisture there. I did indeed try the Vitamix, and it did not work. It just doesn't have the mechanism to keep the cocoa moving. Don't get me wrong, I love mine, but when all is said and done, it is just a very very strong blender. Someone (wayne of did use a food processor where I could not get one to work, but the product was not as smooth. My suggestion, save the headaches of trying to make something else work and check out e-bay - usually lots of $100 Champions there. They last forever.

[Fri 05:18] Josho email ~ site
Thank you, John, I'll see what I can do about getting a good price on a Champion on eBay.

One other thought occurs to me. There exists an appliance called a soy milk maker. These devices can make "milk" from soybeans, almonds, and pretty much any bean or nut. Starting with soaked beans, the device holds the beans (or nuts) in a filter cup in a quantity of water. The water is brought to 160 degrees, and the beans in the filter cup are then pulverized by a device that looks essentially like an immersion blender. The heating and grinding process occurs several times, and the milk is done. I'm wondering if this has been tried with cacao beans; if not, I believe I'll give it a try (with both roasted and unroasted beans). --Josh

[Fri 15:57] scott ~
Wouldn't recommend consuming unroasted beans - there are significant micro loads on unroasted beans. Do so at your own risk 8-)
[Sat 08:57] Alchemist John ~ site

I could not agree more about the unroasted beans. There is presently this large raw food movement that are consuming raw cocoa beans. I always recommend peeling them at the least, and really do not advocate eating them raw. There are a few sources out there that claim it is safe, or "they" have a special treatment that makes it safe, but seriously, it scares the *(&* of me.

Aside from the micro load, trying to use unroasted beans is going to be problimatic due to the moisture content of the beans. Just that much extra water can cause the chocolate to clump and seize when ground - experience talking here :-) It does not always happen, but well over 50% of the time.

Aside from that, the soy milk maker sounds like a nice idea. There is also a "wet grinder" used in indian kitchens that is on my list of things to try.

[Sun 16:08] Josho email ~ site
I'll restrict my experiment to roasted beans, then. I've been bidding on used Champions for a couple of days now. Thanks!
[Tue 14:10] john ~
i would like to know before buying cocoa beans does grinding the nibs just turn it into the liquer or does it need heat???????

Wednesday March 9, 2005

I have been working with a sweet person who is doing a great thing - making chocolate to raise money for cancer. I will just let her tell you about it.

"As many of you know, I am training to run the Boston Marathon this year as a charity runner for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. As a means to collect donations for this charity I've decided to learn how to make chocolate from the bean.

My website is The Chocolate Cure. It enables people to donate to the Claudia Adams Barr Institute for Innovative Basic Cancer Research and consequently, to reward themselves with a box of my handmade chocolate truffles.

I know it sounds like a strange combination--chocolate and running--but please go and check it out. Share it with your friends, family, and co-workers. I promise you, my chocolate is delicious.



p.s. The site is still under construction, so expect a few changes. Thanks for your patience!"

There you go. So if you would like to help a good cause, please make a donation and get to taste what homemade chocolate truffles can be like.

BTW, the Organic Ocumare are due in tomorrow (March 10) and will be available soon after.

07:27 am : Posted to: General : Please leave a comment (1)

Posted Comments for this update:

[Thu 16:46] ruby email ~
how long does the total chocolate-making procedure take?

Cocoa Beans
Cracking & Winnowing
Conching & Refining
Tempering & Molding

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