Greetings to you, the one wandering the road of tempering. If you are reading this «manuscript», then you probably already know what pre-crystallization is and chose to follow the «silk road», not «the teaching of the spatula & granite» or the «style of dissolution».
Pre-crystallization is very important and not the easiest of processes. Yes, there are many ways to temper chocolate, but they all require a certain amount of patience and skill level.
You want to do it the classic way on a granite table, beautifully waving spatulas a la nunchucks of ninja? Go ahead! Only practitioners know that, unlike medieval Japanese assassins, you have to spend a lot of time cleaning your work surface after tempering. And in order to successfully do the task via this method, you need to come through dozens of defeats. Real ninjas hone their skills for years. Tempering more than 5 kg of chocolate at once this way could be a pain in the ass.
Want to dissolve chocolate in a handy microwave? Sure, you can give it a try! Look out for it to not burn and aware your arm’s asleep by constant mixing. You can say: «Meh, I'm not going to do it myself — I'll hire people». Well, such people do not lie around anywhere: their experience and time have to be well paid for in minted coins. And the one that «lies around» will still require investment in their training. But not necessarily that they won't leave you later, like an old shogun, with a bunch of untempered chocolate.
We suggest you check a method that does not require special skills and thousands of hours of chocolatier experience. A method that will allow you to temper a really large amount of chocolate at once in minutes without any effort, without cleaning and dirty inventory.
Today we will talk about incubators for cocoa butter crystals a.k.a. easy tempering machines. Their direct purpose is to prepare a concentrate of stable (beta) cocoa butter crystals for instant pre-crystallization (tempering) of chocolate, spreads and candy fillings.
Incubator for cocoa butter crystals by KADZAMA
Mini incubator for cocoa butter crystals by KADZAMA
Concentrate of stable crystals is cocoa butter aged at a stable temperature of 32.7°C for a day or more. This butter has a pasty consistency our western colleagues elegantly call «silk» in oriental way. In fact, these are the same crystals that we create in chocolate while tempering, but in its purest form.
Using such a «silk» is very handy, especially for pre-crystallization of small amounts of chocolate. For example, to pre-crystallize 20 kg of chocolate you need only 60 g of cocoa butter silk and it will take only a minute. Cool? Sure thing! Read on for details.
In today's review we have 2 incubators from KADZAMA: the so-called «classic» and mini version. Both have bodies made of a low carbon austenitic stainless steel AISI 304 and a strict look inspired by laboratory aesthetics, so you can say that «you are something of a scientist yourself».
Now let's go over each device.
Stable crystals concentrate is cocoa butter aged at a stable temperature of 32.7°C for a day or more.
When unpacking, the first thing that catches your eye is the lack of papers, not like with industrial or household appliances. The manual is digitized, so you can reach it by scanning the QR code with your phone (the way you used to these days). The manual contains clickable links and also translated into English for the convenience of foreign users. Eastern sages could only dream of such a thing.
Let's move on to appearance. Don’t know about you, but we just get off such brutalism: strict sharp edges, clear geometry. This aesthetic can set a serious tone for any business.
The metal container is not removable and looks like a jet nozzle. Don't panic: there is an additional plastic container inside you can take out, wash if necessary and stuff like that. The plastic is strong and won’t crack if dropped. The whole structure is covered with a lid, which is tightly fixed with clip-locks. Tightness is very important here. We will tell you about it later.
The advantage of the incubator for cocoa butter crystals 2 kg is the ability to maintain the exact set temperature.
The manufacturer's logo is emblazoned on the front as well as power button and temperature controller with display, mode buttons and indicators, so you can track set temperature and deviation temperature.
At the back you can see a power cable input and an information board with specifications. By the way, the detachable power cable is a small, but very important feature. This solution makes it easy to replace the cable in case of damage (standard C13 connector — the one that powers most office equipment, so finding a replacement on the internet is not a tragedy) and avoid cable breakage during transportation — unplug-n-go.
This incubator model holds up to 2 kg of cocoa butter. «Silk» should be added in the amount of 0.2-0.3% (0.3% to be sure) from the total mass of chocolate, so there are enough stable crystals for more than 600 kg of chocolate in a fully stuffed incubator.
The next important thing is power intake. This incubator «eats» only 0.1 kWh — 3 times less than a regular juicer. Heating is in the range of 20 – 50°С, but a stable temperature of 32.7°С is needed to prepare the concentrate.
Dimensional size: 320 x 220 x 230. Weighs 5 kg.
It’s so easy to make a concentrate of stable cocoa butter crystals in an incubator, so there is literally no need to make it — the incubator will do everything by itself. All you need is to place the pieces of solid cocoa butter in the plastic container after weighing them.
By the way, here's a little hint: put the cocoa butter in a pastry bag and then put it all in the incubator. When solid butter becomes a paste it will be in the bag. It’s easier to pour concentrate this way than pick it up with a spoon. And as a bonus, the plastic container will always be clean.
Then just turn on the incubator. The optimum working temperature is already set by default. Some additional manipulations with the control panel will be required only if the cocoa butter remains too hard or, conversely, has become too liquid, since the parameters depend on the environment in which the device is used. Monitor, add or turn down 0.5°C to achieve a creamy pasty consistency. This would be the «silk» you need.
The advantage of the incubator for cocoa butter crystals 2 kg is the ability to maintain the exact set temperature. The special design of the cover with rubber strip and clips securely locks the butter inside, ensuring tightness. The diameter of the inner plastic cup is smaller than the diameter of the container, so the cup does not touch the metal walls, creating an air gap, like in a thermos.
What about money? It’s February 2022 and an incubator for cocoa butter crystals costs 750 €. Is it expensive or cheap? We like to say that in business not the cost matters, but payback. Just imagine how much time and effort «silk» can save. Here watch this video.
If you are impatient, we have a way to reduce cocoa butter silk’s making time, but we will talk about it at the end of the material.
And now we move on to the younger brother, the mini incubator.
Mini incubator has the same straight edges, angularity and controls. The only main difference between it and the older model is the container.
It’s great for taking it with you to exhibitions and master classes, where it is not so important to prepare a concentrate of stable cocoa butter crystals from scratch, but to maintain a certain temperature of an already prepared «silk».
It’s small and removable with a metal lit that does not have a rubber seal and locks. Looks like a small pot from a doll set. Unfortunately, no tightness like in a classic incubator. So the question is «Why do you need it though?».
Mobility! Mini incubator is a portable device that touring rock stars of chocolate performance love. It’s great for taking it with you to exhibitions and master classes, where it is not so important to prepare a concentrate of stable cocoa butter crystals from scratch, but to maintain a certain temperature of an already prepared «silk». Put it in a bag, and its size and weight will be even less than the equipment that any professional photographers easily carry with them everyday.
Despite its design features, «lil» still remains an incubator — the «heated pot», so you can also make cocoa butter silk in it if you decide to use it as a stationary device, but for this you will have to mess with the settings and always think about the temperature in the room, because there is no «thermos effect» in the container so the air outside will affect on the microclimate inside the cup and, as a result, on the process of ripening of the crystals concentrate. The machine will be set to 32.5-33°C by default, but this temperature may not be enough for the transition of the cocoa butter from a solid state to a paste. You will need to find the temperature you need, taking into account the temperature in the room (yep, it’s still less hassle with the classic incubator).
Regarding the technical details, something has obviously decreased. You can load up to 250 grams of cocoa butter into such a «baby», which is enough for about 85 kg of chocolate. Dimensional size is 220 x 125 x 135 mm now and the weight is 2 kg. Power supply, input method (we mean power cord), intake and heating are the same in both models.
The price at the time of this writing is 550 € (200 € difference from the classic model). If this gap seems significant to you, remember that these machines are designed for different use cases. So choose according to your preference, not the cost.
If you want us to tell you what to buy, then we will say something like that: a classic 2 kg incubator is a stationary device. Basically, it’s installed in one place and always stands there, like an old wired telephone (mmm…nostalgia). A great working stiff for manufacturing, which frees from issues with pre-crystallization. So, if you always work in the same specific place, then we recommend you grab the classic one.
The mini incubator is more of a mobile solution for touring and, rather, an addition to the classic one. If you are often invited to give a master class, then you take some cocoa butter silk from the classic incubator, throw it into a small cup of the «lil» one and go. Connect the incubator when you arrive and store the «silk» there during the entire master class until needed.
As we said earlier, cocoa butter silk ripens within a day or more. If you need to pre-crystallize in the morning of the next day and now it is 11 pm, no Zen will help you. Only white magic can. Here is a way to reduce the making time of «silk» to 4 hours. First, take solid cocoa butter and weigh it (how much you need).
Next, you need to melt this butter in the microwave by half. To do this, put a bowl of cocoa butter in the microwave for about 3 minutes at a power of 700-900 W.
Then blend the cocoa butter to a smooth paste with an immersion blender. It is very important not to go beyond the temperature of 33°C during all these processes. Measure the temperature with a pyrometer. It’s handy.
Put the cocoa butter paste into the incubator’s cup.
Turn on the incubator. By default, the set temperature is 32.5°C — perfect for making a concentrate of beta-crystals from the prepared butter without any issues. Wait 4 hours till it’s done. Leave it in an incubator and go get some sleep. Continue working in the morning.
There is one more not obvious «relative» of incubators among KADZAMA devices — frosting container. Yeah, we can already see how you frowned. First of all, let's look at its technical design. In fact, this is a tall metal electric pot with a lid that can heat up and keep the set temperature for a long time. You see? Some slick mind plus playing a bit with the temperature and now you have it — a whole big incubator. Without a sealed lid, but, again, learn some simple settings, and the «silk» inside will feel great. Just keep in mind that 7 kg of cocoa butter silk is more than two tons of tempered chocolate. Well, if you are such a Sensei that you need so much «silk», then you should think about purchasing some serious «guns». We are talking about automatic tempering machine. Buy it and you will forget the word «pre-crystallization», it will turn into a button for you. By the way, we have already compared it with a wheeled chocolate molding machine and explained which one is more suitable for whom. We recommend you read it! We also hope our other articles and videos about tempering will be interesting to you. You can find them right here below.
Find out more about incubators on the manufacturer's website.