Wondering if anyone knows if a conching or melanger is necessary to mix cacao powder, butter and sugar, or does it have to be liqeur? [ sic: liquor is the correct term and spelling. ]
updated by @beth-campbell: 04/13/15 03:04:37AM
I pressed return too soon, excuse my spelling.... I want to be clear that I am currently not a bean to bar maker, because of the immense cost and labour, but I am in another unknown category using powder, paste and butter to make my own chocolate. I am powdering coconut sugar in a vitamix, but find it still have graininess. I am trying to decide if I should purchase a conching machine as well as a temperer. thanks And also if a conching machine is the same thing as a melanger?
Idon'tknow if i'm qualified to reply or give advice considering how little experience i have with making chocolate compared to the others on this forum
I am experimenting with bean to bar currently and have discovered that a wet stone grinder(widely available here in India and not too expensive. I got mine for Rs4200 which works out to roughly USD80 ) does a very good job of both refining and conching.
You can certainly "reconstitute" cocoa powder and cocoa butter with sugar (and other ingredients) to make chocolate. You do not have to start from liquor or mass.
You will need something to mix the ingredients together, get the particle size down, make sure that any clumps of particles (called agglomerates) are broken up, and that the particles are completely covered in fat. Some flavor development may also be necessary.
I do know people who just melt the cocoa butter, mix in (by hand) the cocoa powder, and add a non-crystalline sweetener (e.g., agave syrup). In this case, they do not use a melangeur/conche.
However, if you are using a crystalline sugar (e.g., white, evaporated cane juice), then you will need a grinder to get the texture right.
Beth and Clay,
If you don't mind sharing, what's your experience with conch times for batches? I am using a friend's machine at the moment and at doing about 8lb batches I am conching for about 3 hours. Just curious as to what others are doing. Any and all input appreciated.
howdy, if by conching you mean grinding the sugar in and blending all ingredients then it takes around 3-4 hrs if all goes well. I am using coconut sugar and dealing with humidity issues which can make the sugar clump and slow the process alot. I am not sure if what I am doing is conching. I am not grinding the actual beans. I am also doing around 8 lb batches and using a cocoatown melanger. I am maxing it out and hope it won't hurt the machine over time. peace, Beth
Hi Beth, I had also made chocolate using coconut sugar instead of table sugar. The humidity issues must be dealt with before the sugar comes in contact with the cocoa or the shelf life and finishing of the final product will be compromised. Are you facing this challenge?
To really oversimplify things cocoa nib (what's left after roasting, cracking, and winnowing need to be:
on their way to becoming chocolate.
Nibs are ground into chocolate liquor and there are no other ingredients added. The result is a coarse, often gritty paste with a wide particle-size distribution with particles often in the 60-120 micron range, but this can vary widely.
The liquor then gets refined down to a point where the particle size distribution is in the 12-20 range. During refining other ingredients are added - sugar, milk, and vanilla. If you are using any form of crystalline sweetener you are going to need to refine it before conching.
Once the chocolate is refined, it is conched. Conching has both a physical component (improvement in texture) but also a flavor development component. There are two stages in conching. Dry (no added cocoa butter) and wet (after cocoa butter and/or lecithin are added).
A melanger (or melangeur) like a CocoaTown or Santha is technically being used as a "universal." Universals are called that because they handle all three stages - grinding, refining, and conching in a single device.
Devices like the CocoaTown were not developed for making chocolate originally. They were made for grinding soaked beans, such as lentils, into pastes. That's why they are called wet grinders. They look a lot like old-style melanguers and so they were adapted for that purpose.
You don't have to use the wet grinders as universals. You can pre-grind the nib and sugar to reduce the amount of time required to mix and refine them together in the wet grinder. Likewise, you can remove the chocolate from the wet grinder when it is refined and put it into a device that is designed specifically for conching.
The CocoaTowns and Santhas are used because they are relatively inexpensive (at least to get started) and relatively easier to understand and to use. They are not used because they are the best, or even good, ways to make chocolate. It is possible to get "real" universals of about the same capacity as a CocoaTown 65 for about the same price that will be able to go from nib to finished chocolate in under 24 hours.
It is (now) possible to buy a conche that will do in 2-4 hours what it takes a CocoaTown 65 48 hours or more to perform. The price is about 50% higher than a CocoaTown 65 for roughly the same capacity.
Clay - in regard to the conche you refer to at the end of your post, I have seen universal conches that look like a small Macintyre. I think Brad uses something like this. Is this what you are referring to? I had no idea that they were that much faster than a stone grinder.
Macintyre manufactures universals of many sizes with the smallest being about 45kg as I remember. There are many makers of this style of machine. They are not just conches - they are grinders, refiners, and conches and you can get them in sizes up to many tonnes.
And yes - they are fast, which is one reason chocolate manufacturers like them.
Challenge is, many people stretch to buy a single ECGC65 so even a small universal from Macintyre - starting prices well over $20k - is too much for most people. There are machines from China that are much less expensive but they have bad reputations for reliability. I am working with a company out of South America to bring a 40kg universal to the US for well under $10k - probably not until September at the earliest.
The conche I was referring to in the last paragraph is not a universal. It's a new machine I helped shepherd through the design and manufacturing process with FBM. It's a 50kg melting tank with integrated pump with a conche attachment that fits over the bowl of the melter. When conching it has a capacity of about 35kg (you need head space in the top of the machine for air flow). You can pump in a lot of heat and air and generate a lot of shear force (through counter-rotating stirrers not grinding) and the pump moves the chocolate from the bottom of the bowl to the top the entire time.
It's really quite effective and it gives small chocolate makers a lot of control they don't have now over the flavor development process. It's not a grinder or a melangeur - it's a small, fast, conche that is also a melting tank so it has a lot of applications in the craft chocolate workshop.
It's name is Kleego and I will be making a formal announcement to ChocolateLife members - and the world - in the next couple of weeks.
thanks so much for all you share Clay. It is very informative and I get alot out of this website. I look forward to hearing more about this machine. As my business grows I would love to upgrade to a larger capacity, quicker method. I have sooo much more to learn about making chocolate, but seem to be making many people happy in the meantime. If you don't mind explaining, I am trying to understand if I should be dry conching first. At this time I melt alot of cacao butter, and half that amount cacao liquor, and pour it into the cocoatown melanger, and then quickly add the powdered sugar. This I grind for up to 4 hrs before adding any other ingredients. Would I benefit in this case by dry conching, just letting the liquor grind by itself, or has this step already been done by the company who produces the liquor or paste I buy? (Or is this up to the producer?)
Taste the liquor. What's the texture? How much acidity is in it? That will tell you if the liquor has been conched at all - or just refined. There's no standard procedure for this, but I would guess that most liquors are not conched though they may be ground finely enough so that the texture is okay ... but not all are.
Both sugar and cocoa butter tend to grab on to aromas - good ones and bad ones - making it harder to drive them off. A general strategy would be to work with just the liquor for several hours before adding any other ingredients (e.g., sugar) and then grind/refine/conche until you get the flavor you want and then add the cocoa butter.
Question - commercial powdered sugar or sugar you are powdering yourself? Most commercial powdered sugar has cornstarch in it and you don't want that in your chocolate bar.
are you grinding in the sugar and if so what machine do you use? I am struggling with my cocoatown melanger and it can't seem to keep up with my small batches of 10 lbs. I am trying to figure out what to invest in and don't have many other people to discuss the use of that sugar and get the equipment I need.
I am just getting started. Im not sure that I can offer much. I am currently in the market for a tempering machine and cocoatown melanger.
Until this point, I have made chocolate by letting the cacao powder, butter, sugar and other ingredients sit and warm together for a half hour or so. Then I put them in my Vitamix, then temper. Its not the smoothest, but the Vitamix does help. I am hoping that the Melanger will create a better consistency. But it sounds like you are having issues with the Melanger?
My suggestion would be to put the sugar through a Vitamix. They have a special canister to turn grain into flour, which might be effective with the sugar. Its an investment, but you can buy refurbished models online that are discounted and still come with warranty. Or maybe a Champion Juicer? Or pre-grinder?
In the sense that you would use it for pre-grinding, refining, and conching - yes. It's is very small, though, and I wonder if it would be able to be run for 24-72 hours at a stretch, which is what it can take to convert nib and sugar into finished chocolate.
Hi there Jessica,
just wanted to let you know about another option for melangers than cocoatown. I am not happy with that machine and am about to reinvest in a Spectra, which also offers more affordable larger capacity machines, which I need at this point. Check them out at chocolatealchemy.com
I have not used them yet, but in talking with him I am more clear about the weak points in the cocoatown machine and that I can get an all stainless steel center, which hopefully would last alot longer. If you use any alternative sugars, I would be careful to only add a little sugar at a time. I do use a vitamix to pregrind the sugar and I am learning through my mistakes what not to do with the melanger. i am happy to share them with you to save you $ lost. Beth
Yes! I am all ears. I am happy to learn anything that will help me save time, learning and money along the way. I am going to the Specta Page now.
I have come across a lot of you posts on chocolate life over the last few months. I have been making "raw" chocolate, which I dont even know what to think of now. Its a long road to mastery Ive appreciated your posts. I feel like they have been directed to the areas of learning that I am trying to uncover. Any insight you would like to share is absolutely welcome.
Hi there Clay, I am wondering if you have gotten the 40 kg universal from South America yet and if so, how can I find out more about it? Also do you know of any other brands that have them under $10k. I have asked Brooklyn Cacao for a quote on theirs but I am not too optimistic that I will be able to afford it. thanks, beth
Hey Clay - curious to see - you mentioned before that you were working on a 40KG South Am universal? Any progress on that? Would you be willing to share contact details. Located in South America so maybe I could help.
I am working with a company out of South America to bring a 40kg universal to the US for well under $10k - probably not until September at the earliest.