Who wouldn’t want to make chocolate for a living?
Instead of a sad corporate job, you’d spend your days playing Willy Wonka. A chocolate factory would be your office, and with the magical power to turn cacao beans into chocolate, you’d be the hero of your neighborhood.
Except that you would need to have the skills of six different professionals, while getting only one paycheck.
This is what aspiring chocolate makers often don’t know. In order to make and sell chocolate successfully, they need to have the skills of a chef, a chemist, a biologist, a sales person, an engineer and a designer. All in one or very few people. The craft chocolate business might be a sweet one, but there is no space for laziness.
Among these abilities, knowing how to deal with chocolate machines is a MUST.
Makers spend more than 10 hours a day with these metallic friends. They need to learn how to cope with any break-down, fussy acting and uncooperative behavior. No wonders that many successful chocolate makers were once engineers.
But the talks about bean-to-bar chocolate machines don’t happen often. Or at least, they happen behind closed doors between chocolate makers who try to help each other.
This is why today Lorenzo from Packint Chocolate Machines will help us shed some light on the topic. Having been in the business for the past 40 years, Packint Chocolate Machines makes some of the most renowned bean-to-bar machines on the market for any company size. A trustworthy source (and a real life friend) perfect to answer the following questions.
What are some of the biggest misconceptions that new bean-to-bar makers have when it comes to chocolate machines?
“Given my small conflict of interest answering this question, I would say there are many misconceptions.
One of the most common is that several new makers confuse the qualities of the old technology (for example, two separate steps for refining and conching) with the need for old machines. Old machines are fancy, but they can have low efficiency and high energy consumption. New machines are designed to replicate the achievements of the old technology, while performing much better, being more affordable, and having an easier maintenance.
Size is also important. Starting up is always a matter of budget, but when it comes to scaling up, just keep buying small machines is not efficient in terms of productivity, costs and energy consumption. Even without compromising on quality, the bean-to-bar industry must be a profitable business to survive and grow.
Other possible mistakes can happen in the selection of the right equipment. Two machines with the same name are not necessarily the same. And the criteria to choose a machine cannot just be the price.
Our advise to any maker selecting machines is to see them, work with them (with his/her own ingredients), make the final product and take decisions only after that. This way, any risk is minimized. No investment is too big not to take the time to travel and put your hands on the machines. We have two productive show rooms in Italy and US just for that purpose.”
How can new bean-to-bar makers know how much money they should be spending on chocolate machines?
“In a time when many small makers are scaling up, the budget is a major point of discussion. Same goes for those who are starting from zero, either in industrial or craft bean-to-bar chocolate.
We found along the 45 year of experience of the company in this field that a good general rule is to allocate 1/3 of the total budget for the machines, and keep the rest for the working space, the ingredients, the packaging, the labor costs, the marketing costs and other general costs. In case of scaling up, allocating 1/2 of the budget for the machines is also a good practice.
We often have to cool down the enthusiasm of potential customers for our machines, because they need the capital to purchase the equipment, but also to run it continuously (and possibly invest more later). Sometimes it’s wiser to keep a lower productivity and remain financially solid.”
Since Packint Machines personalizes machines for its clients, what are the most common requests you get from chocolate makers? And are they all practicable?
“Being open to customize the chocolate machines is one of the characteristics appreciated by our customers. However, this is not always easy, especially with the challenges of the new bean-to-bar industry.
We have been lucky to find on our way smart people that give us many ideas, like Johnny Iuzzini, or the team of Dandelion Chocolate, and in particular their chief engineer Snooky Robins. Their wonderful two-ingredient chocolate is one of the most complicated products ever, and many improvements to our machines are now available to everyone thanks to him and to them.
An example is the new unclogging system implemented in our low speed ball mills, designed especially for extremely viscous chocolates. Another improvement in the ball mill developed with Dandelion is the pre-conching system, with programmable humidity/acidity extraction and hot air inlet.
Some chocolate makers understand that this whole thing is new. We are learning too, and our machines are growing and getting better in every new model. Also, the fact of using our own machines every day in our productive showrooms makes us understand the struggle of the every-day’s life of a chocolate maker and helps us improve.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE: The Daily Struggles Of Chocolate Makers
What we cannot replicate with automation is the perfection of the human touch, but we tend to it as much as we can. And this is one of the most common requests of small makers scaling up.
An example is the winnower: while the law allows 1,75% husk in the nibs, those who hand-make the winnowing process want 0%, and when they scale up they demand the same purity, which is impossible with automatic machines. Our winnower achieves 99.9% pure nibs, and sometimes this is not considered enough, although it is a really good result.”
What are some good maintenance practices you would recommend to keep the machines in good conditions?
“Our machines are robust and designed to be handled and maintained easily. During all installations, we train the personnel and we keep a constant after-sale service active in case of need. Still, our machines are not for home-making or artisan purposes.
They are industrial machines just in small scale, designed from our big industrial models. Therefore, we strongly advise our customers to have or have available technical people that alone or with our support can solve quickly any issue.
Scaling up brings more efficiency and productivity, often a better quality too, but it requires also a change in the approach. An example is programmed maintenance, implemented by the industries and disregarded by some growing makers: cleaning the heaters of the double jacketed machines from water hardness is a quick job that can prevent electric failures and stops of production.”
Are there any interesting trends/new technologies in the chocolate machine field that bean-to-bar makers should be aware of?
“I would say that it is happening the opposite. It’s the big makers looking at the bean-to-bar trend.
We have the privilege to be suppliers of any size of makers. From that point of view, we see that the big guys and the giants too are looking to the new wave, sometimes scared and sometimes trying to surf it. Talking about machines, the industrial technology helps the productivity, but has to be adapted to be used in the bean to bar industry.
Take for example our partners of Technochoc in the alliance Rockgate Group: they make molding lines up to 1200kg/h. It’s big stuff, but they designed a small and versatile molding line for up to 150 kg/h handling the two-ingredient chocolate, and able to even make bars with inclusions, filled pralines, chocolate chips, covering any need of a small-medium maker in a very small space.”
What is your best selling machine and why do you think it sells so well?
“Our best seller and also the very first machine we made 25 years ago is the low speed ball mill.
This kind of refiner for chocolate achieves perfect fineness and particle size distribution. The applied technology of low speed together with building materials prevents overheating and, as a great maker in Kailua HI says, achieves a “better chocolate”. The improvements and the adds-on to this machine in the last years have been impressive.
Another machine that I need to mention is the winnower. Not because it achieves 99.9% nibs, or because it is silent and never stops. But because designing it with the help of the great chocolate master Guido Castagna 10 years ago opened us the doors of the bean-to-bar world.”
Are there new machines that Packint is about to release or has just released?
“More than introducing new machines frequently like some makers do, we focus our R&D resources on improving the existing ones. All machines are upgraded so often that I would say that there is a new version of a machine every month!
The last new machine we introduced is the cocoa butter press. It is something unique that allows the production of up to 8kg/h of cocoa butter.
We believe it is better to do well few machines than just do a lot of things. For this reason we founded with Rollermac, Gami and Tecnochoc the Rockgate Group: all together, like the 4 musketeers, we can provide any machine for chocolate at any size, each company focusing on what it knows best, keeping a dynamic structure and at once providing a better and turnkey service to all our customers.”
A big THANK YOU to Lorenzo from Packint Chocolate Machines for these precious insights on bean-to-bar chocolate machines! If you are attending the Fine Chocolate Industry Association conference in New York this Summer, you can visit Packint Chocolate Machines headquarter in Deer Park, New York (only 40min from Penn Station) during an official open house on June 23rd.
What advice do YOU have on bean-to-bar chocolate machines?
I did NOT get paid and did NOT receive any kind of favor for writing this article. These are my honest opinions at your service.