Eight-five percent

Last week, we finished another batch of delicious chocolate. This time, we tried four distinctly new ideas: a new roasting profile, a higher percentage cocoa, a longer refining time, and finally, a different temperature range for tempering. And the result? Smooth deliciousness!


Rather than our typical 400 degree hit, followed by 15-20 minutes at 250, we tried a roasting profile inspired by some comments Chloe made when we chatted at Dandelion a few weeks ago. This time, we let the initial 1249 grams of Madagascar cocoa beans roast at 225 F for 45 minutes. That’s the longest we’ve ever roasted beans, even for our first roasting test, when we came up with the Xtra Toasty chocolate! We quickly cooled the beans on our quartz board and let them sit there for about 15 minutes.

After passing the beans through mock 2 of Richard’s fancy winnower (see the beans in their hopper below) and a quick pass through with the hairdryer, we were left with 878 grams of nibs.



Now comes the second experiment. We added only 155 grams of further refined cane sugar. The result is an eighty-five percent bar. This diverges from the seventy percent bar that many consider the most optimum way to experience chocolate. Dandelion did an eighty-five percent bar last year with Rio Caribe (Venezuelan) beans, and we really liked it! Dandelion even has gone so far as to develop a 100% chocolate bar – that’s no sugar added. Their cafe manager, Jenna, writes about her experience with the 100% bar here.

Our final eighty-five percent bars are definitely intense with a lot of really interesting flavor notes. We’ll continue to experiment with higher percentages, taking our chocolate even closer to its roots!

Refining Time

This time, we let the Premier Wonder Grinder run for a full thirty-three hours, nine hours longer than we’ve ever done before. We added the refined sugar about nine hours into the refining process, to let the nibs refine on their own first. Since then, we’ve learned more thanks to comments from Robbie of Ritual Chocolate on a previous post. We’ll continue to refine our sugar refining process and will try adding it sooner next time! Either way, these thirty-three hours made the chocolate quite smooth and creamy. I think we’ll aim for these longer refining periods moving forward.

Tempering Temperatures

The final experiment has to do with tempering temperatures. We tried to follow Mr. Van Leer’s advice and initially raised the temperature of the chocolate to 105 degrees. We brought it quickly down to 84 on the quartz, table tempering the chocolate liquor. Then, we raised it up to 90 degrees in the microwave. The result was a failed knife test. Clearly, this is still the most challenging part of our chocolate-making.

We tried again, taking the temperature up to 112 in the microwave, then dropping it to 82 on the quartz table, then bringing it back up to 92 before pouring into the molds. We still had a small amount of bloom, but it looks better than previous batches.

root chocolate poured into molds

We’re improving and learning so much! Please let us know if you have any advice for us, particularly around tempering!

Just a quick note of thanks to all of our readers – please let us know if there’s anything in particular you’d like us to look into, investigate, or experiment with. We’re open to ideas and very invested in keeping this a genuine and honest source of information for chocolate makers and afficionados everywhere!

14 thoughts on “Eight-five percent

  1. I also try to add my sugar as soon as possible, usually within the first hour of putting my liquor in my refiners to get the particle size as uniform as possible as well. One interesting note, I’ve tried many different sugars and even amongst just the plain refined cane sugars the particle size amongst different manufacturers is different.

  2. I forgot to add. Try to start with the smallest grain size of sugar as possible. Just a heads up, the 10 lb bags C&H sugar you can get from Costco have very large grains of sugar.

  3. What a wonderful site you have! One of the very best I have seen from a small batch chocolate maker. If your chocolate is anywhere as good as your site, you’re well on your way to success! I would love for you to send me some samples. You’ll find me at http://chocolatour.net. Thx for finding me on Twitter!

  4. For best results, I run my sugar through a blender till it is close to dust.
    If the grains of sugar are too big, all it does is adding to the conching time.
    I now finish my chocolate in a maximum 24 hrs. Smooth and up to flavour.

    Regarding tempering :
    1) only use metal bowls. Glass or ceramic bowls store too much heat and will un-temper you chocolate, Always giving streaks and blooming.
    2) heat chocolate to 120F ….Yes that’s the temp our machines use.
    3) cool to 82F by pouring 2/3 of the batch on the stone. Stir it continuously with a triangle or other kind of scraper. Do NOT let it just sit there. We never use thermometers here at this point, waste of time. We measure it by chocolate feeling slightly below body temp. At this point add it back into bowl.
    4) stir, stir and stir some more. This is the point where you actually temper your chocolate. Now test your temp and take a sample.
    5) I usually have a small ‘bain marie’ ready to keep chocolate at the right temp when I’m working with it,
    6) If chocolate is too cold, microwave it ever so slightly and stir like crazy.
    7) Did I mention to keep stirring ?
    8) Only use the rigid molds. Any flexible ones will give you problems with solid bars.

    IF you need more tips or info, I’ll gladly answer all your questions,

  5. Thanks, Dave and Olivier, for your tips on sugar! We’ll try adding it much earlier in the future. And we’ll take your tempering advice, Olivier. That seems to be our biggest challenge still!

    Doreen, thanks for your kind words! Please stay in touch!! I don’t think we’re quite ready to send out chocolate samples, but stay tuned…

    • No problem L & R. After re-reading what I wrote last night, I was appalled about my horrible English. I was pretty tired, VERY hungry, and in a rush.

  6. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences! My wife, Kristin, and I have been improving our chocolate each attempt thanks to your postings. We’re going to try again soon, and we have a lot of ideas we need to try out. Tempering seems to be our biggest challenge as well. The two areas that we’re trying to figure out is the the bloom streaks we get after molding (Oliver’s tips may help (thank you!)), and the fact that each batch seems to have a strong bitterness to it. Maybe that’s due to our roasting? Not sure. We’ll keep at it!

  7. Tempering is a tricky thing. But practice makes perfect.
    Even badly moulded chocolate can be melted over and over again. Try it a couple of times with a so and so batch of chocolate till you get it right.

    Bitterness can come from a wrong roasting profile or from not conching long or high enough. If you give me more info, I can give you more tips.

    I will share one more tip for users of the premier wonder grinders or other machines.
    Refining/conching in these machines can be finicky. First rule : Never overthighten the tension, but never take it off either.
    Second rule : temperature. Make sure you run the machine with chocolate at 50/55 celsius (120 to130F) for best results. This helps brake down the sugar faster and also helps evaporating the nasty acids. I wrap the bowl with some insulation material and have no problem reaching this temp and maintaining it.
    All industrial conches use temps of 130F or even higher for a reason.

    Kindest regards from the great white north.

  8. Hi Oliver,

    Thanks for the offer to provide some advice! We just finished up a batch that we hope turns out well. Here’s the process we’ve been using:

    Roasting: 5 minutes at 400 degrees, then reducing the oven temp to 250 degrees and leaving in for 10 minutes. After the 15 minutes, we take the beans out and cool for 5-10 mins.

    Cracking/Winnowing: Outside of tasting, this is our kids’ favorite part. We put the beans in a zip lock bag and allow them to roll them with a rolling pin and whack with a meat cleaver. Then, we use a hair dryer against the cracked beans in a bowl for winnowing. The result has usually been around 352 grams of nibs.

    Grinding: Since we don’t have a Champion Juicer (yet), we’re using our trusty KitchenAid coffee grinder to reduce the nibs to a paste. While we grind, we’re also putting in the sugar. We’ve been using 30% of the nibs, so about 106 grams. For our past several batches, we’ve used regular table sugar ground in the coffee grinder, but this time we used organic cane sugar. Oh, and we put a 10% amount of natural cocoa butter to the mix (46 grams). What we do is put the cocoa butter in a metal bowl on a hot plate on warm, and add the ground nibs/sugar mix. It ends up being around 130-140 degrees, even with the hot plate on warm (this last batch, it actually got as high as 150).

    Refining/Conching: We’ve been running our Wonder Grinder for about 24 hours. Based on your suggestion, for this last batch, we set the tension around half tightened. We had to head out to an obligation right at the 24 hour mark, so we reduced the tension as loose as we could and kept the machine running. When we got back 9 hours later, we started our tempering. We haven’t attempted to have the chocolate stay at 120-130 degrees during the refining/conching yet. What kind of insulation material do you wrap the grinder in?

    Tempering: We poured the chocolate into a metal bowl on the hot plate and stirred while the temp got up to about 122 degrees. Then, we poured 2/3rds onto our marble board and started our folding. We’re not experienced enough to go with texture yet, so we’re using our thermometer to get the chocolate to about 82 degrees (we noticed that this happened pretty quick). We added that back to the bowl and (per your suggestion) stirred, stirred, stirred. It’s been taking about 10 minutes to get it down to about 92 degrees. Then we started our moulding.

    Moulding: We (finally) received our Tomric polycarb moulds the other day, so we used that for this last batch.

    Hoping this turns out well. Thanks again for offering your advice! Greetings from the sunny south!

    Tim & Kristin

    • Hey Tim and Kristin,

      Lots of info, so I’ll do my best to give some ideas.
      email me at codico.2007@gmail if you need more precise info.

      Roasting :
      All depends on the oven (convection or not, drum or sheet roast, how well the temp control works etc.) the beans themselves and the result you want to get to.
      Your roasting profile is short and high temp, probably resulting in a toasty flavour with a lot of acid. Might work for some beans, certainly not all.
      Anyways here is one of my roasting profiles for use with a convection oven with perforated baking sheets.
      Preheat oven to 325F, lower to 300F
      Roast for 10 minutes at 300F (depending on type of bean and batch size)
      Lower heat to 250F and continue roast for 12 to 15 to minutes.
      Makes sure you hear some popping and have a nice chocolate smell.
      Chocolate flavor does develop just fine at these temps and the main thing is to lower the moisture content.

      If the beans are well roasted and dry enough , they’ll crack nicely and the skins will come off easy. blow dryer winnowing should give you around 75% of nibs.

      Grinding :
      I use a champion juicer to crack the beans giving a more uniform size for easier winnowing, but I do NOT use it to grind the nibs into liquer, waste of time.
      I used to use a grain mill to grind the nibs into powder, but found it to be labour intensive and now just put them into my kitchenaid food processor and pulse them into small pieces, NOT paste. The sugar however I blitz as fine as possible.

      Refining :
      I really do not like the stove top heating thing as its very uneven and burns.

      Do NOT add cacao butter till the point the beans and sugar are fully refined.
      This way it will increase temp in the grinder and grind down faster.

      I usually put the ground nibs and sugar in a 110F oven on regular baking sheets while I heat up the premier with a blow dryer. I insulate the bowl with some foamy type wrapping stuff. The material is not really important, it just needs to keep the heat in.
      I slowly add a bit of the nibs at a time,let them grind down into mostly paste, then add a little more. Takes a bit of time, but is so much less messy. Once fluid, I start adding the sugar. It’s harder for the premier to grind down the sugar than it is to grind the beans.

      conching ;
      My batches are rarely in the premier for over 24 hours….
      Temperature is key. use a blow dryer to heat the chocolate as it runs.
      If your beans are roasted properly and grinded down fast and manage to have enough heat in your premier bowl you are basically conching all that time already.
      Letting it run without pressure…I don’t see the point, it’s almost impossible to overrefine in these machines.

      Tempering :
      The whole idea of tempering on a slab is to undercool a part of the chocolate batch in order to create a proper crystal structure (remember I wrote that the choc needs to feel BELOW body temp) . So I don’t understand why it takes a further 10 minutes to get to the working temp. If you are still way off working temp you should just pour out some more on the slab or leave it on the slab longer in the first place.
      You should be, give or take a couple of degrees, be close to final working temp

      Remember, chocolate can easily be remelted and retempered, so don’t sweat it, just practice.

  9. Tim, Kristin & Olivier, thanks for sharing your process and your ideas. Keep an eye out for post in the near future with updates on what we’ve learned about tempering, roasting, and refining! And keep the conversation going!

  10. Oliver, thank you so much for your comments! We truly appreciate you helping out a couple of beginners. We are going to start our next batch soon and will definitely take your suggestions into account. We’ll let you know how it turns out and send over more questions. Our last batch turned out great (our best yet), but we know we have a long way to go. Love the journey, though! Landen, thank you so much for your articles! We’re looking forward to your updates!

    Tim and Kristin

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