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chocolate display cases

Edward J

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Shut the shop down for a week over Christmas/Nwy's and found a "surprise" waiting for me when I came in today. The display case for the chocolats was at -12 C and, needless to say, what I hadn't sold on boxing day was now ruined.

The cases are over 2 years old now, so the warranty has run out. This thing happened before, but we noticed it and turned off th compressor immediately, and had no incidents for almost a year.

It might be a few months before I can swallow and "ante up" for new cases, but I'd like to know what everyone else out there is using. My options are: Regular display cases with the thermostat turned down low (+ 18C), OR I have the luxury of a custom display case mnfctr near by (Coquitlam) who does cases for specialty shops all over the world, but which are selling at roughly $2,000 per linear foot (I.E. $4000 for a 4 ft and so on) I currantly have 8 linear feet....

What is commonly available for "regular" pastry display cases in Vancouver, is, to put it mildly, crap. Either Butt-ugly with s/s and flat glass panels, or made of particle board and laminate with gravity coil refrigeration, or the "good" types from Europe that are almost expensive as the custom guy. The only good thing about "regular" disply cases is that I can convert them back for cakes and pastries in the summer when chocolates don't sell as well. The custom guy has very specific refrigeration for chocolate cases that can not handle colder tmps needed for cakes and the like.

Any suggestions out there?

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Even if your ambient room temp is 22 C, you stil have to calcuate in:

Sunlight (heat as well as those pesky UV rays)

The amount of customers

The amount and type of other appliances in the immediate area like Espresso machines/coffee machines, bar fridges or other types of refrigeration.

Type of cieling lighting (I've got halogen lighting)

All of these factors will bring up the ambient temperature, and if you're south-facing, like I am, Mr.Sun is the biggest factor

And then there's the case lighting. You WILL sell more if your display case is lighted. Even with my display case turned off in the dead of winter, with flurescent lighting in the case, the temp in the case is over 24 C--warm enough for some of the molded bons-bons to "sink down" or to melt slightly.

I've got over 25 varities and aprox 48 of each varieity in the case, not to mention "to go" boxes. I can not and will not take chances.


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Either Butt-ugly with s/s and flat glass panels,

Knowing nothing about refrigeration - couldn't you buy a butt-ugly unit (assuming it works well) and just have a carpenter "glam" it up with a wood finish? Maybe even stain some wood yourself? Would that be a cheap option at a smart looking unit?

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It's the flat glass. Flat glass gives off a lot of reflection. The better ones have curved glass. That being said, most of thse types of cases have gravity coil refrigeration. That is, the coil (which gets very cold and will have ice/ frost form on it) is mounted at the very top of the case, and ol' Ma nature does the rest with cold air naturally moving down. Unreliable at it's best and prone to water condensation or dripping--not good scene for chocolate

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No - when you explain the refrigeration process like that its not good for chocolate. One of our local cafe uses excellent couverture for their pralines, but they have moisture droplets on them each time I look in the refrigeration unit (so I haven't even bought any).

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I've converted many refrigerators and freezers for brewing which requires more accurate temp control and often at temps above typical temps. You can either wire a temperature controller into the display case or you can get a controller that has an outlet attached so the case plugs directly into the controller. One of the most popular versions for homebrewing is the Ranco 1110 controller. Here is an example pre-wired for US outlets for $75. http://www.rancoetc.com/ranco-etc111000000-prewired-digital-temperature-controller-p-87.html

You can also get a PID-style controller many of which look quite nice. Here is an example of one, this can be mounted such that the display looks like an original part of your case. http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=200422738471&ssPageName=ADME:B:EF:US:1123

The problem with your system is almost certainly just a bad thermostat and if you have a friend who is good with electricity they can easily wire either of these directly into your system circumventing the existing thermometer for less money and with better control than the original.

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The humidity problem is related to the "power" of the coils the fridge/freezer as well as ventilation. Since Edward's cases were made for display and have worked well previously just adding a new temperature controller wouldn't be a problem, the compressor is doing the same work no matter which thermostat is turning it on and off.

What typically happens in a fridge or freezer pressed into less-cold service is that the refrigerant coils in the walls get very cold compared to the rest of the storage area whenever they are turned on. This brings the walls by the coils below the dew point of the air and causes condensation. In my beverage fridge they use coils mounted inside the case rather than in the walls like my regular fridge and freezers. The system turns on a fan to blow air across the coils whenever the compressor is on. This helps keep the temperature differential between the coils and the air minimized and therefore reduces condensation problems. On my freezer I typically just wipe down the interior walls a couple times a day if I'm using it heavily.

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Thanks Dan. Yes, I have confirmed that it is the thermostat. Either I will get an original replacement or a suitable replacement as you have described. Oddly enough many of the HVAC supply stores won't even sell me a screwdriver if i don't have a refrigeration ticket......

My temps don't have to be very precise, for the last two years I was very happy with +17 to +20. One of the only good things about this case is that the glass is double glazed.

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New replacement thermostat is installed.

Now with my left hand firmly resting on wood, I wonder what will go wrong with the case in the next few months.

It's really quite frustrating, other than the European and Asian imports, there ARE no new cases to be had.

So it's either the custom guy at almost 12 grand for a 5 foot case, or suck it up and keep on fixing up this one. Currenty I am a "reluctant student of refrigeration".

The wierd thing is, this case (made in China) has a welded steel chasis, marble cladding, double glazed glass, and decent lighting and shelving. No other brand can compete with the quality of the case itself, it's just that the refrigeration sucks.......

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