I've been doing well with small (1-2kg) batches of chocolate, but the one problem I run into is that the chocolate cools and thickens before I manage to mold all of it. I've tried using a (DIY) chocolate melter (sous vite + a cooler), but I think I need something that can both hold a constant temperature and stir the chocolate.
The ChocoVision mini rev is at the right price point (around $200), but the reviews aren't great and the batch size is too small. The ACMC tabletop machine looks perfect but the price is too high (over $800). I am on the lookout for a used ACMC but haven't seen any at a reasonable price yet.
I don't really need the tempering feature of these machines - I just use the silk method - but I do need something that both holds a constant temperature and stirs. Maybe there's a way to adding a stirer to a melter? The MARTELLATO Mini Meltinchoc is also at a price I can afford and would probably work better than my DIY approach (no water, less counter space and I could fill molds directly from it). But I think it won't work well if I leave it alone for a while and come back...
I also consider getting more molds, clearing more fridge space and doing the whole batch in one go. Any insight or suggestions would be great!
fred, For a melter you would have to stir it yourself. The only other way I could think of is to make your own stirrer out of an electric paddle mixer, like a Kitchen Aid and put it on an intermittent electronic timer.
For a 1kg batch to temper, pour and mold is doable. Once you get over that it is a little difficult because of space needs, needing to tap out bubbles, etc. You can get more molds but again time constraints dictate smaller batches.
If you are doing a larger batch, you can always just pour off what you can temper and mold efficiently and leave the rest in the melange. If you are worried that you are over-grinding you can always just take the tension all the way off the stones, that way the melange basically becomes a stirring pot with not a whole lot of grinding actions since there is no tension on the stones, just gravity.
The last thing is getting glass bowls and a microwave. I use large glass bowls and if my chocolate goes below a usable temp, especially if I'm dipping caramel or graham crackers, then I just put it in the microwave on 40% power for about 10 seconds and it goes up to a usable, still in temper, temperature.
I use the Pyrex glass bowls and bought them in a set from Amazon (big to small) and just the bigger ones at Walmart.
I work in my kitchen so a microwave is very accessible. I think switching from metal to Pyrex bowls will have two benefits: slower heat loss and the ability to use the microwave to pump a little heat back into the mix.
I'm actually leaning towards getting a "melter" which I would just need to stir periodically or build a stiring gadget for. I like the idea of keeping half a batch in the melanger except that I'd like to run the batch through a metal sieve only once.
I saw an ACMC on Ebay just now - I'll have to keep thinking... =)
fred, I think you will enjoy it a lot! It's pretty easy to use, and the fellow who makes them is just a phone call away and extremely friendly and helpful! You can get any spare parts through him as well.
Chip - that is awesome - definitely the kind of thing I was hoping for! I'll let you know how it goes - I'm going to try it out with some "Guatemala - Monte Grande - 2017" roasted nibs in a few weeks =P
Chip, Am I correct in understanding that this ACMC tempering machine uses light bulbs for heat and a computer fan to cool? Is there much fluctuation in temperature? I see the probe is in the center; What are temps at the side of the bowl? (I would expect they are more extreme.) Just curious, really. Right now I'm using 32oz. squirt bottles to mold. What I could use is some kind of heated "koozie"! (For now, I rest one in a warmed coffee mug - Wilbur's Chocolate - that fits perfectly!) Really low-tech, but works for my small batches. If I scale up, I'll have to make some changes!
Fred, Yes, it uses a light bulb and computer fan. It works quite well actually. The rotation seems to be a good speed and the baffle works great for stirring and adds just a little bit of shear to it as well. It is not a coaching machine by any stretch of the imagination. . I am interested in seeing what Ben made.
I added a second thermometer to the machine. I have or am going to try to attach photos for you to see what I mean.
I also made a heat-gun setup for my melangers. Since I'll have my phone out down there I'll take a picture of that setup as well and pass it along. it works quite well in not allowing more than 1 degree (or less if you set it that way) of heat fluctuation during the grinding process.
Chip - maybe I can ask you this. I noticed the bowl doesn't get completely scraped clean - as it rotates there is some chocolate that remains on the bowl. Do you think this is a sign that I need a new scraper? Also, I had the temp set at 95F and there was a solid piece of chocolate that formed at the top. When I measured the temp using a hand thermometer it was 95F near the bowl but it dropped quickly as I measured near the surface. Do you think the temperature probe should be raised a bit so it's not to close to the bowl?
Chip - So far I'm having pretty good luck with my ACMC tempering machine, but I do have some questions. I notice that the scraper doesn't completely wipe the side of the bowl clean - I end up with a streak of chocolate along the edge that doesn't seem to come off. Is this a sign I should get a new scraper part? Otherwise the machine seems to work pretty well so long as I don't go above 95F and I don't leave too little in the bowl (so using up the last small amount quickly is important since the temp control isn't so reliable). Part of the problem is that I could use a few more molds I think. I tend to make 1.2Kg batches these days.