Roast test + Taste test

I know you all must be biting your nails, waiting for the taste results of our roast test last week. Well, I won’t make you wait any longer!

First a quick note on the process… We made 4 batches of chocolate, differentiated mostly by the roast profile, but also partially by grind time (purely due to circumstance). This was the first time we had both of our Premier Wonder Grinders going at the same time, which was quite an experience. Together, they are significantly noisier than one on its own, and they have slightly different frequencies, resulting in interesting table vibrations all night.

two melangers of chocolate

We also left the liquor in the melanger for less time than usual. This worried us at first, but upon tasting the chocolate, we’re pleasantly surprised that our micron size seems to have reached the point where the tongue can no longer distinguish them. After melanging, we also left each batch in a container for a few days before tempering the whole lot. We usually temper immediately, so that was a bit of a change from our typical process as well. Our tempering method was mostly that of heating the solid batch slowly to about 90 and pouring quickly then. If we accidentally raised the temperature beyond 90, we carefully dropped it again to 80 before reheating to 90 to pour.

Though we’ve successfully avoided bloom since we learned the refrigerator method (thanks again, Thomas, for your tip!), we still have some white markings on the final chocolate bars. We think it’s related to one or more of these issues: watermarks from the molds, the shape of the original pour before we shake the molds, or the way we pop the chocolate out of the molds when it’s done hardening. Any thoughts, readers?

What are these white circles?

What are these white circles?

Keep in mind, these are all Madagascar beans and each batch started with 1 kilo of beans in the Behmor 1600 Plus. My notes below begin with the basic stats on the batch and end with our comparative tasting notes on the final chocolate of each. The notes come from the tasting palette of Richard and me, as well as Dan & Sarah, who shared a picnic in the park with us yesterday (thank you California weather in February!). A quick disclaimer: Richard thinks these are all too sweet – he prefers dark dark chocolate!

4 batches of roast tests

4 batches of roast tests

Batch 1: P2

  • Roast Profile: P2
  • Roasted & winnowed cocoa nibs: 500 grams
  • Sugar: 166 gram
  • Percentage: 70%
  • Grind/conche time: 11 hours and 30 minutes
  • Flavor notes: toasty, less fruit flavors

Batch 2: P4

  • Roast Profile: P4
  • Roasted & winnowed cocoa nibs: 500 grams
  • Sugar: 166 grams
  • Percentage: 70%
  • Grind/conche time: 11 hours and 30 minutes
  • Flavor notes: quite fruity, bright pop, lots of interesting flavor highlights, cherry, Landen’s favorite

Batch 3: P5

  • Roast Profile: P5
  • Roasted & winnowed cocoa nibs: 500 grams
  • Sugar: 166 grams
  • Percentage: 70%
  • Grind/conche time: 14 hours 30 minutes
  • Flavor notes: almost too sweet, slight acidity at back of throat

Batch 4: Blend

  • Roast Profile: P2, P4, and P5
  • Roasted & winnowed cocoa nibs: 522 grams
  • Sugar: 164 grams
  • Percentage: 76%
  • Grind/conche time: 14 hours 30 minutes
  • Flavor notes: slight bitter on the back of the throat

New ingredients

One of the areas of innovation in chocolate where we have not yet ventured is that of ingredients. Well, that’s not totally true… When we first started out, we tried a bacon batch, but we added way too much bacon. Another time, we tried a salted chocolate batch, but we added way too much salt. (Noticing a trend?) We’ve strayed away from new ingredients since then.

However, our visit to John Nanci in Oregon taught us many things. One of them was the appropriate use of cocoa butter and soy lecithin. Cocoa butter is the fat of the cocoa bean. Most beans have about a 50% cocoa butter content compared to cocoa mass, though the percentage varies by genetics, origin, and even roast profile (which can dry out the beans). See John Nanci’s post on cocoa butter percentages here.

The percentage you see on many chocolate bars is an indicator of the amount of cocoa butter + cocoa mass in the bar. That means a bar that advertises 70% could have 20% cocoa mass and 50% cocoa butter or the opposite: 50% cocoa mass and 20% cocoa butter. It is not required for chocolate makers to publish the amount of mass vs. butter on their bars. You can read more about this complicated practice in Clay Gordon’s post on The Chocolate Life.

It was that discovery that led us to stick with just two ingredients up until now, for the most part: cocoa beans (natural combination of both cocoa butter and cocoa mass) and sugar. However, John asked us a tricky question as we stood in his workshop, waiting for a batch of beans to roast: “Which will taste more chocolatey – a bar with 55% cocoa butter or a bar with 50% cocoa butter?”

Richard and I looked at each other, understanding this was a trick question. I ventured, “They taste the same amount of chocolatey?”

John laughed and informed us that cocoa butter actually provides more chocolatey flavor than the chocoa mass! We were very surprised, which is why we’re making our very first batch with the addition of cocoa butter now. Cocoa butter also should help smooth out the cocoa liquor, making it easier to temper and pour into molds.

50 g of cocoa butter

50 grams of cocoa butter

The other ingredient, soy lecithin, has the effect of reducing the viscocity of chocolate liquor, causing similar results as cocoa butter – making the chocolate easier to pour and temper. Its added benefits include preventing bloom (related to its tempering improvements) and increasing the shelf life of the final chocolate. All of this has to do with improving the tempering process. There’s some controversy, since it’s basically a soy byproduct and not a natural part of chocolate, but we decided to try it out to see how it really works…

After some research, we’ve noted that most people recommend adding the cocoa butter and soy lecithin an hour or so before refining is complete. Since we started at 7:45pm on Wednesday night, we added the melted cocoa butter and soy lecithin around that time Thursday evening, and pulled it out of the Premier Wonder Grinder shortly afterwards. We read that the soy lecithin should only be in the melanger for up to 2 hours, or else it will grind out all its properties.

The result? A delicious and creamy chocolate with a slightly more chocolatey flavor, as John Nanci promised! The jury’s still out on whether these ingredients contribute toward reducing bloom and improving temper, since our chocolate still has the telltale streaks of fat bloom. What do you think about using these extra ingredients? Are we diluting the final product or are we adding functional benefits? Comment with your thoughts!

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!

Roasting

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.

winnower

Percentage

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!

Siriana Cacao

About a month ago, Piper reached out to me through The Chocolate Life. (Have I mentioned how much I appreciate the connections I’ve made to the local and online chocolate-making community?) She let me know that a dear friend of hers moved to Costa Rica this year, purchased some land and began farming. His plot is surrounded by farmers who having been doing the same for hundreds of years. His goal was two fold, to save the land from developers (tourists attractions), and to help other farmers move their beans at good prices.

That caught my attention. Saving the land, working together with farmers to promote their economic well-being… I was sold. And I’m glad I was!

Piper told me that “the cacao is grown in Matina conton in the Talamanca region of Costa Rica. The trees are indigenous to the area, so these are considered Fine beans. All the practices are organic and sustainable. The beans have been fermented, and sundried and are considered Raw. They are considered one of the best tasting beans in the world by the ICCO and the Tasting salons in Paris. And this year, they had a good spring harvest and the fall harvest will be incredible because of the rains (they thought El’nino would cause a drought). It should be a vintage year.”

Well, we purchased a 2 lb sample from Piper through Siriana Cacao, and made a new batch of chocolate this week. We have a few new tools that helped us along in the process, and the result was both delicious and fun!

Siriana Cacao cut test

First of all, we did a cut test on the beans and they looked a little purple but overall flaky and dark and good! I’ll go into the details of cut testing in another post, but suffice it to say for now that it means they were fermented well – not too much and not too little. Goldie-locks, style.Champion Juicer, modified

Then, after a solid 5 minutes at 400 degrees and 20 minutes at 250 in the oven, we pulled out our first new tool, the Champion Juicer! Chocolate Alchemy sells this for $265, but we found a refurbished one on Ebay for $99. This tool serves as both cracker of beans and later as a way to create the first crude liquor before setting the Premier Wonder Grinder to work. Ours is a littler older than we expected, so we don’t quite trust it to create the liquor. For cracking, though, (and with a few creative modifications to keep our kitchen relatively clean) it was amazing!

wide winnowing basket

We then tried another interesting tool for winnowing – the wider, shallower basket, thanks to a suggestion on our Winnowing Woes post. It worked marginally better at first, then the nibs started flying away along with the husks. So, we returned to the large bin method. We ended up with a 76% yield from full beans to winnowed nibs. We recently learned that a perfect winnowing process would result in a 88% yield, but that almost doesn’t exist in the industry. So, we’re still working on a solution for this portion of the process.

We heated the beans and stone grinder in advance, at the suggestion of some local chocolate-makers, and left the chocolate refining & conching for 24 hours in the wonder grinder this time. The result was beautifully dark (70% again) rich chocolate.

infrared thermometer

Once again, we struggled with the tempering process, though this time we had some extra help in the form of an infrared thermometer as well as a food thermometer. Our first attempt at tempering did not pass the paper test, so we left it overnight and remelted the next day to try again. The second attempt wasn’t perfect, either, but we think it was closer that it has been in the past. There’s still some bloom on some of the bars, but the largest one is beautifully smooth and shiny!

Siriana chocolateSiriana chocolate flakes

The result, 813 grams of delicious Siriana chocolate. Richard’s new favorite part are the flakes or shards that come off the tempering table when we’re done. And I’m actually enjoying our ice cube tray molds, even more than the official bar molds we bought online!

Thank you, Piper!

Tempering and bloom

Tempering has been the most magical, elusive part of the chocolate-making process for us. For the newbies of our readership, tempering is the final step in the chocolate-making process before setting the mixture in a mold. Successful tempering results in glossy texture and a clean break in your chocolate bar. Scientifically, it crystallizes the chocolate correctly, ensuring that the Beta crystals remain and the other five kinds of crystals melt away. In order to do this, the chocolate-maker must be able to determine the crystallization structure by temperature, sight, and touch. And let me tell you, it’s not easy!

Unsuccessful tempering results in fat bloom (the white streaks in the bars in the picture), very low melting temperature of your chocolate so it starts to melt as soon as you touch it, a short shelf-life, an unsatisfying break when you try to tear off a piece of your finished product.

So, what has our experience been like? Well, the more we think we know, the more fat bloom we’ve discovered in our final products. Frustrating? No! Science? Yes! Here’s what we’ve learned, so we can continue improving the shiny surface and clean break of our chocolates:

  1. There are many “right” ways to temper chocolate. Every home brew chocolate-maker has their own method and most of them work! So, like Clay told us, don’t believe anyone who says “this is the only way.”
  2. Despite that advice, there are smart guidelines to follow regarding temperature and movement. We’ve learned that exact temperatures are very important (and quite difficult to measure without a good thermometer, which will be our next chocolate purchase). We now understand that we should initially melt our chocolate liquor to at least 114 degrees, some say 122 to melt all the cocoa butter, and some even say 131 F. The next step is rapid cooling down. At this stage, we can either add some existing tempered chocolate (in which case, our cooled chocolate should reach about 88 degrees), or lower the temperature of our chocolate to about 80 degrees. We’re stubborn and want to try to get tempering right without adding any “seed” chocolate, as it’s called, so we always try the latter. The final step is to reheat the chocolate to the high 80s again. And as long as it doesn’t go above 94 degrees (or 90), when the beta crystals would melt and reset the whole process, the chocolate should be melted.
  3. Stir. 
  4. Let me rephrase. Stir constantly. Movement is key! It helps keep the temperature of your chocolate uniform and exposes the chocolate to the forming beta crystals.
  5. Additives that emulsify (imagine shaking up mustard in your homemade oil & vinegar salad dressing) make it easier to temper chocolate. The most common emulsifier for homemade chocolate is lecithin. Lecithin helps coat the tiny chocolate particles with fat, evening out the texture of the chocolate.
  6. Finally, believe it or not, our chocolate still tastes good, even though it has fat bloom (and occasionally sugar bloom, which occurs due to condensation among other reasons). So, we’re not too hung up about this, but we intend to continuously improve our chocolate, which should, given our scientific process, eventually eliminate fat bloom!

There are some great resources online to learn to temper chocolate better. As usual, The Chocolate Life and Chocolate Alchemy are among the best:

For those experts out there, if you have any suggestions to reduce bloom and temper better, share your magic!