Small-Mid-sized Tempering Machines

Hi Everyone! Would it be possible to get some recommendations for tempering machines? We’re hoping to produce ~1000 chocolate bars a week but split between dark, milk, and white chocolate. We’re looking into purchasing 2-3 machines in the lower thousands range each so that we don’t need to keep changing out the types chocolate in between uses.

Thank you!

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It is my pleasure. Tempering is, in my experience, one of the least-well understood topics in chocolate – which contains a lot of topics that result in brain hurt.

Ben is right in saying that saying that multiple smaller batch tempering machines (two at least with multiple bowls and baffles if they are available) like larger Chocovision machines are going to get you to your desired weekly production goal. However, the process of filling molds accurately and consistently – using ladles, syringes, or whatever method you land on – might prove to be the limiting factor in your production, tightly coupled with two other variables – the number of molds you have and how quickly and efficiently you can cool them, empty them, and reuse them. In general, having 10% more molds than you need is 100x better than having 10% too few so it’s worth spending money on them, assuming you have to scramble for the space to store them when not in use.

Ultimately it is a cost/benefit calculation you have to make.

Do you want to spend more now for the increased tempering capability (including the ability to dose molds) that a continuous tempering machine offers or do you want to pay more in labor for every bar you deposit because of the increased time required to temper and hand-fill every mold cavity? T

he number of molds you have/need and how you cool them do not go away as variables and it could be that the time/labor required to fill molds is not the gating factor. If you can fill the number of molds you have faster than you can cool and empty them for reuse, being able to fill 3x that number of molds in a given time doesn’t help you … until you increase your capacity in those other areas handling a large rush order – as well as another factor to consider, which is space. And then HVAC … and then … there are ripple effects to no end.

My analysis on the costs of production suggest that reducing labor costs (not equipment CapEx) is the single best way to reduce the total cost of goods and improve margins. But all of the other elements have to be in place to take advantage of any new machinery.

Finally NEVER EVER EVER introduce into production a category of machine you have never used before in the weeks leading up to or in the middle of a holiday production season. Wait until there is nothing critical that cannot be delayed for a couple of days so you can iron out the inevitable issues that crop up before you make a change.

thank you for laying out the info like that, very helpful 🙂

Ben – thanks for the follow up here.

All of the work I have done modeling the cost of production tells me that labor is a larger contributor to the final COGS of a finished bar than any other factor (within limits). It simply makes sense to spend more CapEx to reduce the time it takes to produce a bar as the payback is fast. Batch tempering takes a lot longer than continuous tempering and ladling or syringing chocolate into molds, especially if you are underfilling them (e.g., 80gr in a 100gr mold cavity), is tedious and slow.

As for budget, this is a lot harder to do on a continuous machine with two-ingredient chocolate simply because the lower fat content in most two-ingredient chocolates make the tempering process more finicky. In order to reliably temper two-ingredient chocolate in a continuous tempering machine, you need a long-enough tempering pipe and, ideally, a variable-speed motor on the pump as well.

Will you have multiple people tempering different types of chocolate at the same time? If not, you could use a Chocovision Delta for 1000 bars a week. You could get 3 bowls with holey baffles which would make changing chocolates just a matter of swapping out the bowls which takes about 30 seconds.

The chocovision will probably require molding by hand using either a syringe or ladle.

Clay’s right that a small continuous tempering machine would do the job and be more convenient than a Chocovision, but I’m not sure you can get one in the price range of the low thousands. He may know of one, though.

Another option is a Savage Bros table top tempering machine with depositing pump. It’s a batch machine that can do 50 lbs at a time. Not as easy to switch chocolates as a Chocovision, but not too hard. I think they’re maybe around $10k new and are built like tanks.

There are three general approaches to tempering:

  • Tabling
  • Batch
  • Continuous

As you state you want a machine, I am going to focus on batch and continuous methods.

With batch tempering machines, a specific quantity of chocolate is brought into temper and once that chocolate is used, a new batch needs to be brought into temper. The key advantage of this approach is that the machines can be very cheap. The key disadvantages of this approach are a) it is slow and b) mold cavities need to be filled individually by hand or by the flood and scrape method.

With continuous tempering machines the chocolate in the working bowl is out of temper. It is tempered in a pipe that is kept at a specific temperature and any chocolate that is not used returns to the working bowl where it is melted out of temper before before going back through the tempering pipe. The key advantages of this approach are a) you can add chocolate to the working bowl as you fill molds so you can temper a lot of chocolate without having to stop and b) by interrupting the flow of chocolate you can fill mold cavities with a specific amount of chocolate. The key disadvantage of continuous tempering machines – in the scenario you present – is that there are none available in the low-thousands (under 5) of $€£.

I do applaud your decision to go with multiple machines compared with trying to do everything in one machine as labor is a major aspect of the cost of producing bars. It makes sense, in the long run, to get more machines (especially if you can finance them) than to try to do everything in one machine and spend a lot of time in cleaning/changeover – a task you will come to hate if you have to do it regularly.

However, individually filling molds with a specific weight of chocolate is arguably just as frustrating.

If the goal is 1000 bars/week across three types of chocolate, it would be my first instinct to get a small continuous machine for the dark and milk bars and a batch machine for the white bars. Unless your are advertising “dairy-free” bars, it’s not all that time consuming to go back and forth between dark and milk on the same machine. In most cases dark and milk make up the bulk of production and the comparatively small quantity of bars that are white chocolate can be done in a batch tempering machine.

You also need to consider sales growth into your plans, buying not only what you need for today but for tomorrow and to meet peak demand.

It’s also fair to say the scheduling production is key to getting the work done. With a continuous tempering machine you could do all the dark one morning (say Monday) and the milk on Wednesday. White bar production could happen in the afternoons of those days, with wrapping on Tuesday and Thursday. Of course, that’s a purely hypothetical scenario but it gives you an idea of how production scheduling can help you meet your target throughput requirements.

If this helps, let me know and I can perhaps offer some specific equipment suggestions.

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