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"The very, VERY simple guide to Tempering/Seeding"

Jul 7, 2020

We received the following question :

[Paraphrased]

"Guys, I'm confused. I'm a professional chocolatier and I have your Choc Creator V2.0 Plus. You mentioned I need to seed the chocolate, but I've never heard of 'seed/seeding' or any kind of chocolate seeds, and I use a microwave to blast my chocolate until it's melted. I've never heard of 'tempering' either, and it looks like it takes time so I skip that part. Unfortunately, my 3D prints all fail, and my chocolate turns all white after a few hours, so I'm wondering if it's got something to do with this 'seed/seeding' thing or 'tempering' thing you keep mentioning. Can you help me?"

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"As always with every customer, we will try to assist you to the best of our ability, but we feel we should firstly state that, as professional chocolatier, you will most certainly be familiar with 'tempering' and 'seeding', so we assume that English may not be your native language and the terminology has simply confused you. However, the fact that your 3D prints not only fail but also discolour from a fat bloom makes us curious as to whether you are indeed familiar with the tempering/seeding of couverture chocolate - Perhaps you are using compound chocolate, which we do not recommend. Can you elaborate on this for us? (Please see your Choc Creator V2.0 Plus User Manual for instructions on how to temper/seed couverture chocolate.)"

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In light of few similar enquiries this week, we have decided to write a short article about tempering / seeding, and rather than present it in the same academic way as the literature in our instruction manuals, we have decided this will be a simple explanation for complete novices and non-chocolatiers, entitled ....

"The very, VERY simple guide to Tempering/Seeding" :

Any kind of couverture chocolate you purchase has already been tempered once - the "virgin tempering" - to turn raw cocoa beans into chocolate in the shape of a bar, block, buttons or callets, which is retailed with the expectancy that it will be melted down again by chocolatiers to pour into their own moulds (or Choc Creator users to fill their syringe). If chocolate has not been tempered once, it will still be in the form of large raw beans or a raw bean powder, neither of which are in an edible state and certainly not ready to use.

So it could be said that when we temper chocolate, we are actually tempering it for the second time, and only the harvesting company can perform the "virgin tempering process" using special equipment, as this is when other ingredients are added to the raw bean powder.

Tempering is all about solving the following issue: When chocolate is melted, the process adversely affects the structural makeup of the chocolate and it loses a lot of its properties (or "goodness"), but we need to melt chocolate in order to pour it into moulds or (in the case Choc Edge) use it for 3D chocolate printing.

When the Choc Edge team mention seeding, they are not referring to any kind of special seeds. Seeding, which takes place halfway throught the tempering process, is the simple act of adding another handful of chocolate to what you have already melted - You only need one type of chocolate, and the seed comes from the same bag. Seeding basically means "add more of the same chocolate".

Here is how the tempering process works :

(1) Any chocolate in the shape of a bar, block, buttons or callets has been tempered once - The raw cocoa beans needed to be processed and liquified to pour into moulds to create the bars, blocks, buttons or callets we have. Choc Edge uses Callbaut 811NV in the form of callets, but it can also be purchased in blocks.

(2) The chocolate bar, block, buttons or callets have been tempered once from raw bean to edible chocolate, and it has all of its qualities and properties intact - Nothing in terms of "goodness" has been lost. However, we need to melt the chocolate into a liquid again because we need to transfer it into a syringe for 3D printing - It cannot be transfered as a solid. 

(3) We melt the chocolate, and when we do so, the heating and melting process of solid-to-liquid destroys many of the chocolate's properties and "goodness", but the result is that we have melted liquid chocolate, which was the intention.

(4) We can, however, "replenish" the properties and "goodness", by adding more of the same chocolate (straight out of the bag) to the hot melted chocolate, and forcefully mix it together (which is done automatically by an ATM - Automatic Tempering Machine). This process is called seeding. The seed (the same chocolate straight from the bag) has not been subjected to the melting process, so it has all of its properties and "goodness" intact. When adding and mixing the seed, the liquid chocolate begins to thicken, and the seed spreads its properties throughout the chocolate, which replenishes all of the properties that were lost due to the melting process.

(5) Despite having been melted into a liquid form, the seeding process will enable to the chocolate to harden with perfect taste, perfect colour, perfect shine, etc - Basically, it returns the chocolate to its "virgin tempered" state almost as if the melting process never happened, leaving no telltale signs. Without seeding, there will be many obvious signs - the chocolate will have a scorched taste or smell, it will soon discolour (fat bloom), and it will not harden but instead remain soft and greasy.

In simple terms, this is how we operate an ATM - Automatic Tempering Machine :

STEP 1 : Place a few handfuls of chocolate into the Automatic Tempering Machine.

STEP 2 : Set the machine for dark chocolate by pushing the dark chocolate icon, and the machine will start running.

STEP 3 : The machine starts to warm up quickly and melt the chocolate - It gets warmer and warmer until it reaches 42.5°C , at which point it makes a 'beep' noise, and you will see a pool of liquid chocolate has been created.

STEP 4 : The 'beep' noise is the signal to push the seed button and add a handful of seed (which we now know is the fancy name for the very same chocolate straight from the very same bag). Pushing the seed button starts a very gentle cooling down process, and the machine will gradually cool down to 31.5°C for dark chocolate. During this temperature drop from 42.5°C to 31.5°C, the seed will be mixed in with the liquid chocolate. Not all of the seed will melt away - The majority will melt between 42.5°C and 38°C, after which the heat will not be enough to fully melt the remaining seed. That is why you will hear a second 'beep' telling you that it is time to manually remove any unmelted seed.

STEP 5 : On the second 'beep', quickly remove any unmelted seed using a spoon or similar food-grade tool. (Keep this excess seed in a plastic food container as it can be reused when you next refill the tempering machine).

STEP 6 : When the temperature reaches the finalized tempering temperature of 31.5°C, a third 'beep' noise will be heard, which means the chocolate is now tempered and ready to use.

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We receive a great many emails and calls about tempering and seeding, which many people seem to believe to be a process we at Choc Edge created for the purpose of 3D printing in chocolate. We can assure you that tempering (and the seeding process) is as old as chocolate itself, and is practiced by every chocolatier, no matter their level of skill or position in a kitchen or studio. Tempering is a fundamental part of chocolatiering which needs to be understood if one's intention is to use couverture chocolate, particulary for 3D printing.

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