Chocolate processing, refining

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As it is processed in a practically anhydrous environment (chocolate), the purpose of this processing will consist in reducing the particles that compose the various ingredients – sugar in particular – into a size that should be “welcomed” by our palate. Refining can be performed with different equipment and procedures; here we will focus on the most typical system, called “traditional” that uses cylinder refiners. As for the other phases, also this one is closely related to both previous and subsequent. To better illustrate the idea, it is appropriate to proceed with a brief description of the process that comes before refining: dosing and mixing of ingredients. Once we have defined the product’s recipe and its processing technique, we can start production by dosing all the ingredients. At first glance, this operation seems to be technologically less important than the others, but it should be noted that if this were not accurate, neither the obtained product nor the processes used to derive it would be correct. In general, dosing devices are such that we can consider absolutely negligible the 1% more or less variations of the quantity foreseen for each single ingredient. Dosage will be normally made by weighing the ingredients directly in mixers supported on scales. Use of electronic devices can assure precise dosage to a considerable extent. During mixer loading phase, the liquid components are entered first – Cocoa Liquor (cocoa mass), Cocoa Butter, possible Fats, all pre-melted – followed by the solid components. The mixing process consists in making a homogeneous mass from the union of the single ingredients. Normally, it is carried out in containers heated by a thermostatic coat for water circulation, with variable capacity according to the demanded potentiality and equipped with very strong shakers.  In order to obtain good mixing of the ingredients to be processed in the pre-refining machine, if we use granulated sugar, 5-10 minutes will be sufficient, while if we use grit sugar, 15-20 minutes will be necessary. The differences are due to the diverse consistency of the dough and to the fact that when we mix compounds with grit sugar, besides mixture homogenization, we also need to laminate the dough itself, so as to facilitate the next refining line.

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