single origin chocolate bars

Chocolate Wine Fridge

A few weeks ago, we could no longer close the plastic containers where we stored our chocolate. We realize Rubbermaid containers were no longer a viable solution for the massive amount of chocolate we produce and purchase. It was time for a new addition to our chocolate factory!

So, we found a fancy wine fridge on craigslist that the owner said no longer cooled. Perfect! We hooked it up at home and determined that it is not easily fixed, but the light still works, the door still seals, and the shelves still slide in and out. In other words, we suddenly were in possession of a beautiful and well-organized space to store our chocolate!

chocolate fridge

chocolate fridge

The only hitch in the plan was that the drawers were made for wine bottles, not chocolate. Well, a quick trip to the hardware store and some creative tubing/wiring solved that conundrum! We now have seven shelves of chocolate.

lighted chocolate fridge

Here’s the shelf just for our own chocolate (not the prettiest, but definitely the proudest!):

Bags of Root Chocolate. Packaging soon to come?!

Bags of Root Chocolate. Packaging soon to come?!

And the shelf for our friends’ chocolate (Arete, Confluence, Cocoa Logos, Endorfin, Dandelion):

Chocolate from our friends

Chocolate from our friends

Our single-origin bars from all over the world (Askinosie, Fine and Raw, Raaka, Marou, Castronovo, Manoa, Amedei, Lonohana, Lillie Belle, Vintage Plantations):

single origin chocolate bars

single origin chocolate bars

And the flavored bars (Manoa, Elbow, Antidote, Mast Brothers, Patric, La Colombe Workshop, Cocacu, and Il Morso):

flavored chocolate

flavored chocolate

Some mainstream bars and delicious truffles from our friend, Belinda:

Mainstream chocolate bars and truffles

Mainstream chocolate bars and truffles

And finally, Mexican chocolate (Taza, Guelaguetza)!

Mexican chocolate

Mexican chocolate

Happy Saturday!

Happy Saturday, readers!

You may be asking, “Doesn’t she mean happy Valentine’s Day?”

The answer is sort of. I’m torn on the value of today’s holiday. On the one hand, what a wonderful concept – a day dedicated to reminding us of the love that surrounds us, both romantic and otherwise. On the other hand, I think every day should be a chance to show and demonstrate the love we feel for others.

The repercussions on the chocolate industry of this Hallmark holiday are clear – this is probably the busiest time of the year for many chocolate-makers and chocolatiers. And I welcome the almost institutionalized occasion for the general public to buy and appreciate chocolate. Then again, many of those Valentine’s Day chocolate gifts come in the form of Hershey’s kisses and other interesting shapes of mediocre chocolate.

So, here’s my call to action:

Sure, take today to shower your loved ones with love and if that love takes the shape of chocolate, I’m sure my fellow chocolate-makers will thank you! In addition to that, I have two requests:

  1. Don’t stop at midnight tonight. Continue to show your appreciation and love tomorrow and the next day and so on.
  2. Be intentional about your chocolate today and in the days to come. Don’t buy the prettiest package. Buy the chocolate that resonates with you – maybe from an origin that has meaning to you or your loved one, maybe a Rainforest Alliance bar, maybe a truffle with passion fruit for the implications of the name… Or even better, make chocolate an experience rather than a gift. Attend one of Dandelion’s Chocolate 101 classes or visit your local bean-to-bar chocolate shop with your partner. Let them choose their favorite bar or confection.

So, happy Saturday. Go spread the love (and the chocolate!)

Chocolate Business Models

How do we transform our experience with chocolate from a hobby to a business without losing the fun, collaborative, part-time nature of it all?

Honestly, this is a very difficult question and we don’t assume that there is an answer. This question goes much deeper than the surface question of how to start a business – it asks how we want to spend our free time, how we want to spend our working hours, how much financial risk we are willing to take on, how confident we are that our chocolate is actually any good, if chocolate bars are our ultimate product, what the future of our family looks like, and how permanent we are in our current living location.

All that said, we are trying to follow the practices of The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses, in order to keep the potential business light and flexible. Some of the recommendations in the book are difficult to apply to a brick and mortal chocolate shop, since it’s mostly geared toward tech startups. However, we’re doing our best!

Let’s take a look at the different business model options for starting a bean-to-bar chocolate business (at least to our knowledge in California):

Cottage Food Operator (CFO)

In another post, we went into some detail about this business model. The basic idea is that this business model allows the food maker to prepare food in a private home and sell by delivery or pick-up. We don’t know of a chocolate-maker who has successfully done this.

Pros

  • We could set this up in our kitchen with limited financial input
  • We could work on chocolate at any hour of the day, in our pajamas if we want

Cons

  • We would have to deliver the product to our customers, since shipping is not permitted
  • Most famers’ markets do not allow CFOs, which would limit our distribution
  • Sales are restricted to our county, which is quite small and limits our growth potential significantly
  • Licensing is by county, so if we moved to another county, we would be required to start the process over
  • It would be very difficult (nearly impossible) for us to be profitable due to these limitations
  • We could not import (or store) large quantities of beans in our apartment

Private Wholesale Commercial Kitchen

This business model constitutes a private space in a commercial zone rented and outfitted as a legal commercial kitchen. With the wholesale model, the assumption is that there will not be customers purchasing products directly from the physical site. Instead, the product will be sold either online or through a third party distributor. This is what our friends at Arete have at the moment.

Pros

  • We would have full access to the space
  • Once we pay for the outfitting of the space, our cost of operation would decrease significantly
  • This provides the highest potential for growth
  • We could import beans and store them here

Cons

  • It is difficult to find a space small enough to be practical for small-batch chocolate-maker use
  • These types of spaces are few and far between, can be very expensive to rent, and are almost always very expensive to outfit
  • This is very location-dependent and would require the decision to permanently be located somewhere

Private Retail Commercial Space

This business model constitutes a private space in a commercial zone rented and outfitted as a legal commercial kitchen, like the wholesale space described above. Products could still be sold online and through other distributors. In addition, this model makes it possible for customers to come purchase products on site, like Dandelion’s Valencia Cafe.

Pros

  • We would have full access to the space
  • This can be incredibly lucrative, depending on the location, marketing, local foot traffic, and many other factors
  • We could import beans and store them here

Cons

  • It is a huge investment to build out a retail space
  • There are a lot more requirements, such as ADA bathrooms, to consider
  • This is very location-dependent and would require the decision to permanently be located somewhere
  • We would need to either quit our jobs or hire staff to physically run the store

Shared Commercial Kitchen

This model involves renting shared commercial kitchen space, typically by the hour or with a monthly membership fee. An example of this is KitchenTown, located in neighboring town, San Mateo.

Pros

  • This provides the lowest up-front cost of making chocolate commercially
  • The commercial kitchen has legal documentation and gear for producing and selling food
  • There’s a particularly amazing shared commercial kitchen about 10 minutes away from our apartment
  • The hours are usually flexible, so we could continue to do this on nights and weekends
  • This provides a community of food makers who we could get to know
  • We could import beans and store them here

Cons

  • Since cocoa butter is so susceptible to other scents, it’s possible that the chocolate could take on the flavor of whatever else is being cooked in the space while it’s in the melanger
  • It’s possible that we do so well that we would outgrow the shared space
  • Not all of the gear is provided, so we’d need to bring our own in
  • We would need to share the space with other chocolate-makers, which means coordinating times and machine usage

So, what’s the verdict? Good question. We’re not sure yet. We’ll keep you updated with our decision!

Where do you make your chocolate? What do you think the best option is for a chocolate start-up? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Dark dark chocolate

When I was in college, one of my closest friends told me that she only liked chocolate that was 80% or higher. I didn’t understand the concept at the time and was still a predominantly milk chocolate eater. I’ve since learned significantly more about the meaning of percentages and the virtues of dark chocolate.

Our chocolate creations have ranged from 70% to, at the highest, 85%. Well, we’ve tasted the ridiculously dark 100% bar from Dandelion and Endorfin’s 98% bar (2% vanilla). Personally, I think such high percentages taste more muddy than chocolatey. But, Richard is a huge fan. And more importantly, our neighbor, Jude, has personally requested a low-sugar bar to mimic the high percentage, bitter chocolate she knows and loves from her hometown of Barcelona. And given her current pregnancy and her self-proclaimed (and incredible) heightened taste buds, we’re excited to comply!

So, we set out to make a truly dark chocolate. We know it’s important to consider the cocoa butter content of our beans. And we have not measured the exact percentage of our Madagascar beans, but we’ll assume 50% for now. They seem pretty oily and our 85% was successful (though quite strong) when we tried previously.

We started, as usual, by measuring our initial cocoa bean batch (after sorting, before roasting). It came in at 1128 grams. We roasted in our beautiful Behmor, indicating 1 pound on the P2 program minus 2 minutes (as recommended by John Nanci). We took the beans (and nibs) through 4 passes of our homemade winnower, reducing the mass to 943 grams on the first pass (when we noticed lots of big shells), followed by 836 grams on the second pass (when we noticed that the nibs and shells had a lot of static energy), followed by 756 grams on the third pass (when it looked pretty good despite a few shells), followed by 722 grams on the fourth pass, which we deemed finished enough. In other words, we had a 64% yield on winnowing. Richard is still working hard on improving our winnowing process and tools!

We took some advice from the Industrial Chocolate Manufacture and Use book and immediately winnowed the beans, rather than waiting for them to cool. Then we tried a new step in our process: we put the nibs through a quick pre-grind in our new Vitamix 5200 Series Blender, when it turned the discrete nibs into smaller chunks with a slightly oily finish. We heated the stone wheels and reheated the beans, then started the melanger with the 722 grams of nib mush and 100 grams of sugar.

Vitamix

This resulted in an 87.5% dark chocolate with no added cocoa butter. We let it conche and refine for 24 hours, then tried the Chocolate Alchemist’s suggestion for tempering. We poured about a third of the chocolate onto plastic wrap and let it cool slowly in the oven, while the melanger continued conching. This created an effective “seed” chocolate. About an hour or so later, the seed had cooled, and we introduced it back into the warm liquor (at that point around 99 degrees). As the chocolate chunks mixed with the liquid, the temperature dropped significantly, and when we turned off the Premier Wonder Grinder, the temperature of the chocolate had just hit 90. We quickly doled it out into molds with our quick refrigerator pass to complete the tempering process.

And now our dark dark chocolate is ready for gifting!

What’s the highest percentage chocolate you’ve enjoyed eating? Any recommendations for low sugar, high percentage chocolate-making?

Chocolate-struck at FCIA Weekend Activities

We started the year off right with some serious chocolate schmoozing!

This past weekend, San Francisco hosted the FCIA Winter Event, the Good Food Awards and the Winter Fancy Food Show. Quick congratulations to the following chocolate companies for their big wins in the Good Food Awards:

While we did not attend any of the official events this weekend, we were present at two more intimate gatherings of chocolate makers. We feel very fortunate to be friends of Dandelion and were able to attend both an informal chocolate-makers’ meet-up on Friday night, hosted at Four Barrel Coffee, and the post-FCIA brunch Sunday morning.

At the Friday night event, I arrived a little late, but in plenty of time to hear some great tidbits from the experts. It was packed with people sitting high on bags of coffee, on the floor, and anywhere there was space. When someone asked how to work with cocoa farmers, I was excited to hear some of the panelists expand on my favorite topic! Greg from Dandelion talked about wanting the farmers to be as excited about their product as he is, and expecting to not just buy something but to also build something together. Jesse, sourcer of Cacao Vivo talked about the importance of transparency, direct trade, and feedback. In the meantime, Hugo Hermelink, a cocoa farmer from Costa Rica, spoke up about the financial troubles of running a cacao operation. I met many of the Dandelion staff members, people from Raaka, indi, and Videri, among others.

Chocolate-maker meet-up at Four Barrel

Chocolate-maker meet-up at Four Barrel

Sunday morning, with an even larger group, I was almost starstruck (chocolate-struck?) at the names of people in the room. Some had written books or articles I have poured over. Others make amazing chocolate or source beans from ethically responsible co-ops or connect chocolate-makers to beans or educate the public about the bean-to-bar industry. It was amazing to meet Steve De Vries of De Vries Chocolate, Sunita of The Chocolate Garage, Jose of Mindo Chocolate in Ecuador/Michigan and his cacao farmer friend of an Ecuadorian co-op, Clay Gordon of The Chocolate Life (see posts on our previous phone interview on “living the chocolate life” and on making chocolate at home), Brian of Northwest Chocolate Festival, Adam and Matthew of Mutari Hot Chocolate (locals in Santa Cruz!), as well as many many others.

We also got to connect with old friends – Dave and Corey of Letterpress Chocolate, Eli of Bisou, Greg of Dandelion, and Brian of Endorfin, among others. Check out Dandelion’s picture of the event in their Valencia Cafe.

It was such an adventure to learn from these experts and hear suggestions for our own chocolate activities. We’re looking forward to trying a few new experiments in the near future. Keep an eye out for more fun in the world of Root Chocolate!

Chocolate Covered

Welcome to my new favorite 100 square feet in San Francisco, besides maybe Dandelion’s cafe with a cup of Mission hot chocolate… Chocolate Covered. Thanks, Dave Huston, for the recommendation!

This tiny hole in the wall in the Castro/Mission is packed to the gills with chocolate and reminds me of a more crowded, cozy, and even more extensive Cacao in Portland. Jack, the owner, introduced himself and let me know that he’s been selling bean to bar chocolate since the concept began over 18 years ago! He used to sell every bean to bar chocolate available, but he told me that now there are too many for him to fit into his tiny store. We chatted about homemade chocolate, where we buy our beans, the upcoming FCIA event and Good Food Awards, and the additional activities put on by Dandelion that week.

As Clay Gordon informed me way back when, people in the chocolate industry are awesome. It’s impossible to be a grouch when surrounded by so much deliciousness!

chocolate covered 1 chocolate covered 2 chocolate covered 3

As I walked around the store, I spotted all the big names in small batch chocolate, and more that I had never seen before. I picked up a couple Marou bars and some Askinosie bars and promised to come back another time. Oh yes, we will be back!

Bay Area Chocolate Makers’ Meet-Up

Over the break, we had the incredible opportunity to gather with a group of Bay Area chocolate makers for the first of, we hope, many occasions to get together and share our ideas.

We were delighted to have a group of nine other chocolate makers, in addition to ourselves, gather at Dandelion Chocolate one afternoon in December. Though Richard and I had set out an agenda for the gathering, we quickly realized that the highest priority would be getting to know each other. After a brief meet and greet, Pearl of Dandelion, graciously gave us a tour of the space, including the bean room, the kitchen, and the cafe. Most of the makers present have much smaller operations than Dandelion, so it was a treat to walk through the process that we all know and love, though on a bigger scale.

chocolate-makers' meet up at Dandelion

chocolate-makers’ meet up at Dandelion

Then, we each explained whatever chocolate we had brought along with us, and conducted a tasting of a whole line-up of delicious bars.

chocolate tasting

chocolate tasting

The group has a wide range of experience and expertise, so the best part of the afternoon’s activity was simply learning about each makers’ work and focus. In particular, we learned about the techniques linked to neuroscience and sensory experience of Endorfin Chocolat from Brian Wallace. We discovered the unique business model of Cocoa Logos by Brent, sending messages through chocolate. We listened to the precise and scientific methods utilized by Leslie and David Senk of Arete, whose dedication to creating the best chocolate bar is surely starting to pay off! (It was great to see them again, after our visit last year). We tried the chain of different roasts on the same bean by Kane, who told us he was inspired by the advice that Tad Van Leer provided in this post. We shared business plan ideas with Dave of Sacramento. We met Zeina, who encouraged us to visit The Chocolate Garage again, and get to know the bars from up and coming makers available there. And we connected with Jay of Origence, who gave us new ideas about collaborating with other makers to import beans.

We hope that other makers will join us next time for focused discussions on tools, ingredients, process, and sourcing! We’re hoping to get to know Jonas of Firefly Chocolate, Dave Salowich of The Double Monkey & Bittersweet Chocolate Cafe, Steve of Sacred Chocolate, Nancy of The Oakland Chocolate Company, and Eli and Tracey of Bisou Chocolate! We have such a great group of makers in the Bay Area and we’re looking forward to regularly gathering this group for discussions in the months to come!

Are you a chocolate maker in the Bay Area? What would you like to discuss next time we meet up?

Sorting Cocoa Beans

This step in making chocolate does not usually get a lot of attention. Perhaps that’s because it’s such a tedious, manual process in most cases. Perhaps it’s because until recently, it seemed uncontroversial.

Well, let me try to make this topic as exciting as possible for our readers. I promise it’ll involve threat of violence, betrayed trust, and the potential for incredible flavor variety… Here we go!

First, When does this even happen in the process? Sorting is the very first step in making chocolate for most bean-to-bar makers. It happens as soon as we pour the beans out onto a surface to visually inspect them before roasting. Ok, now let’s dive into the intrigue around sorting!

The case for sorting

Let’s say your adorable 5-year old niece, Peggy, (let’s include a frilly dress and pigtails in this image) opens the wrapping of a high quality bar of chocolate (assuming you give children expensive chocolate bars…) and as she brings the bar of chocolate toward her mouth, you notice that one corner of the bar is shiny, and before you can run over and rip it out of her hands, her teeth are sinking into a piece of glass.

Ok, maybe that was a bit dramatic, but you understand the danger and violence in this example? Sorting would eliminate the threat of dangerous foreign objects in the chocolate far before little Peggy tries to eat it. Besides foreign objects, like this one found (and thankfully sorted out) in a batch of beans Dick Taylor intended to roast, sorting can also remove other undesirable items that could be included in your bag of chocolate beans. This image on Dandelion’s blog provides a useful list. We have some friends who are also testing the flavor of the germ (a tiny stick-like part of the bean that supposedly contributes either a bitter or woodsy taste to the chocolate).

My biggest concern, and not one included on Dandelion’s list, is actually bugs. Think about where the cocoa beans are coming from. In most cases, they sat out in long wooden trenches, in a farmer’s backyard, for days. That’s right – outside, subjected to the elements and whatever other living things wanted to check them out. Specifically, there’s a species of small moths that love to live in fermented & dried cocoa beans. They burrow into the beans, eat the cocoa mass, build a web, and lay eggs inside the husk. Ew, right?! That’s right. It’s actually pretty easy to see the beans that have moths in them, since they have big holes along the side of the husk, where the moth crawled in (not to be confused with a tiny hole at the tip, which we learned means that the bean has partially germinated and is not nearly as gross).

Moth-infested bean

Moth-infested bean

Many people believe that sorting cocoa beans leaves only the best beans and therefore makes better chocolate. You can read more on Dandelion’s blog about a machine they’re considering to do this for them.

Ok, pretty good reasons to sort. Why would anyone NOT sort? Good question… let’s discuss.

The case against sorting

To put it bluntly, there are two reasons: sorting reduces some of the flavor variation and sorting means you don’t trust your supplier. Let’s start with the second. If you have a wonderful working relationship with your cocoa bean supplier, you would hope they would provide you with beans that would make the best chocolate possible. We learned from John Nanci, Chocolate Alchemist, when we visited him in Oregon, that he screens his suppliers carefully before selling beans to his customers. He believes that any beans he sells you shouldn’t need to be sorted. Maybe he’d recommend a cursory glance for any obvious foreign objects, but other than that, we should trust him on the rest of the beans. He writes more on his opinion on sorting here.

Ok, what about flavor? Here’s where I start to understand the case against heavily sorting. I will say that there’s no doubt we will continue to remove the foreign objects, coffee beans, and anything that could be dangerous to the health of the eventual consumers (see Peggy above). However, jury is still out on whether we’ll sort out the abnormalities in the batch of beans we receive. This is for two reasons.

First of all, the really bad stuff should get winnowed away. The flats, moth-infested beans, and large pieces of shell should fly away with the husks, so it’s possible that sorting them out would be a waste of time.

Secondly, the flavor variation loss is a legitimate concern. Who would want to deny our consumers the potential for such incredible flavor?! Those doubles that are clearly unevenly fermented, the cracked beans, the partially germinated beans… these all contribute to the overall flavor profile of the batch and therefore, are integral to the ultimate quality of the chocolate. I’ll take it one step further, to market analysis. A fellow chocolate-maker did A/B testing with a group of consumers on their preference between chocolate whose beans he had sorted and chocolate made from unsorted beans. Unanimously, the consumers preferred the unsorted chocolate.

Sorted beans

Sorted beans

The Root Chocolate Conclusion

So, what’s our conclusion? We haven’t decided yet. This goes on our list of ideas to try. Maybe we’ll hold onto all the doubles for a while and make a batch of just doubles! Maybe we’ll do two some A/B testing ourselves. We’ll keep you updated on our findings either way!

Chocolate Labels, Part 1

“Organic”

“Local”

“Single Origin”

“Fair Trade”

“Rainforest Alliance”

“UTZ”

“Direct Trade”

What do these all mean and which ones should you pay attention to when you’re choosing your chocolate? Good question! Some relate to labor practices, others relate to the environmental circumstances surrounding the farming.

Here at Root Chocolate, we’ve discussed where cacao farmers fit into the picture, the complications of importing cocoa beans, the benefits of slowing down our interaction with food, and the importance of supply chain, and the relevance of genetics. Now let’s talk about the external certifications that can factor into your decisions around chocolate purchases and consumption.

I’m not going to claim that one certification is better than another or that any one of these means your chocolate is sustainably produced and sourced, but let’s go into what each of them mean.

Organic

“The organic standards describe the specific requirements that must be verified by a USDA-accredited certifying agent before products can be labeled USDA organic. Overall, organic operations must demonstrate that they are protecting natural resources, conserving biodiversity, and using only approved substances.” Read more about the definition on the National Organic Program page of the USDA.

There are quite a few regulations involved in obtaining and maintaining this certification, including fees, inspections, and a waiting period, among others. The processes can be onerous for very small family farms, which is where most fine chocolate is grown. That said, many small farms refrain from using expensive pesticides and are considered “de facto” organic, even if they do not have official certification.

Learn more about organic chocolate and organic processes here:

Local

Eating local chocolate is a difficult concept for those of us who do not live within 20 degrees of the equator. Cocoa beans traditionally come from tropical places close to the equator. The only US state that naturally produces cacao is Hawaii. For chocolate to truly be local, its beans must grow in the same place as the chocolate production, which would all be the same place as the consumer taking that delicious bite of chocolate. You can find truly local chocolate at a few places, including the following:

Alternatively, you can buy chocolate from local chocolate-makers, even though the cocoa beans may come from halfway around the world. For example, if you live in Portland, Oregon, buy local chocolate from Cocanu, Woodblock, Treehouse Chocolate, Pitch Dark, or Mana Chocolate.

Single Origin

Single origin chocolate is another label that you may find on your favorite chocolate bar. This means that the cocoa beans that constitute the bar you’re eating all come from the same country. They may even come from the same region or co-op or farm, but those parts are not guaranteed. Remember that the genetics vary even within the same cocoa pod? Well, there’s also wide variety among beans from a single country, not to mention region.

Valhrona made this concept popular more than two decades ago. The trend is still going strong! In fact, one of our favorite chocolate-makers, Dandelion, makes purely single origin bars. The logic behind single origin bars comes from the concept of terrior, borrowed from the wine industry. Beans take on a flavor based on the environment in which they grew, fermented, and dried.

Learn more about single origin chocolate here:

Look for Chocolate Labels, Part 2, coming out later this week, where we’ll go into depth about Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance, UTZ, and Direct Trade!

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!