Monday, June 14, 2010

Chocolate Making: From Conching to Tempering to Molding - then Eating

Things have been crazier than usual lately so I haven't had much time to keep up with this blog. But I want to finish the chocolate making process I started writing about. I left off at the milling stage. After milling (or juicing as Julie from Cotton Tree Chocolate called it), the chocolate paste is transferred to a conching machine which kneads and smooths the chocolate, improving the texture and flavor. Here's what a conching machine looks like sans the chocolate:

But of course it looks better with chocolate in it:

Chocolate is typically conched for 2-3 days at a temperature between 140 - 167 degrees, depending on the company's process. ETA: oops, forgot to note that this is the step where the other ingredients are added to make the final chocolate product: emulsifiers, sweeteners, milk products for milk chocolate, etc. It isn't just pure chocolate that gets conched.

After conching, the chocolate must be tempered in order to work with it properly. Tempering refers to bringing chocolate to a certain temperature in order to stabilize the crystals. From conching, you'd need to cool it down to 104 degrees. If you're starting with solid chocolate bought from retail, you'd need to melt it first, get it to the proper temperature then cool it down to its working temperature. Dark chocolate has a higher working temperature than milk and milk higher than white. When I was in culinary school, we would melt the chocolate and heat it to the proper temperture then stir it to cool it down and add the "seed" chocolate which was a solid piece of the same kind as the melted chocolate (i.e. semisweet chocolate seed into melted semisweet chocolate). The melted chocolate "copied" the stable crystals in the solid chocolate and aligned themselves correctly.

Chocolate has to be tempered correctly in order to keep its smooth texture and avoid bloom. If you ever see a grayish-white film on chocolate, it's not mold but likely the chocolate has bloomed, meaning it melted at some point and when it hardened again, the chocolate was out of temper so the fat rose to the top - that's the grayish stuff.

At Cotton Tree, they had a small tempering room that was kept chilly and boy did it feel good to be in there out of the heat and humidity. Annika (pictured below) works at Cotton Tree Chocolate and showed us what to do with the tempered chocolate.

This is the melted chocolate in the chocolate tempering machine. The machine keeps the chocolate in motion by stirring a paddle through it and keeping it at its working temperature. It's at the right temper for it to be molded into bars without blooming when it solidifies.

Annika gave us a "syringe" that we plunged into the pool of tempered chocolate in the chocolate tempering machine and once we filled the syringe, we emptied it into the molds. Each syringe had to contain a certain amount so that each bar is made with the same amount of chocolate. The molds are placed on a vibrating machine so as they're filled, the vibrations even out the melted chocolate so the molds fill evenly.

Once the molds are filled, they're left to cool then are packaged up. As part of our tour, we each got to fill 3 chocolate bars worth of molds which we marked with our names. Annika packaged them up once they were cool and we got to take them home with us.

The finished product - Cotton Tree Chocolate. I was hot and sweaty so clearly I wanted to go back into the tempering room :).


  1. hi chef
    could you provide the recipe for chocolate that is the cocoa pdr,butter,emulsifier,ect,.
    i have searched many and i couldn,t find one.
    thanks in advance.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Hi chef,
    I'd like to know where to buy this conching machine.
    How much it?

    1. I don't personally have one but you can try starting at and click on the link for "shop" near the top. CocoaTown carries conching machines. There's also a forum on The Chocolate Life where you can ask more specifics as some of the members have their own conching machines.