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Beginner Chocolatier Investment


EmmMax
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So I seem to be doing the thing where the more I find out and learn about chocolate the more I realize I don't know.  

I'm wondering how little I can get away with spending in the very beginning. My husband is back in school and I'm wondering if chocolate experimenting is even feasible right now or if its something I should wait on. 

I figure I can practice tempering and molding at a low cost, but from there does it get steep? 

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Do you have any self control? Some of us don't. If you do, you can do as little or as much as you want. It just makes you want more toys, especially when you see how much easier it is with some equipment. Some, like Kerry, set the bar very high for us mere mortals.

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Ruth Kendrick

Chocolot
Artisan Chocolates and Toffees
www.chocolot.com

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4 minutes ago, Chocolot said:

Do you have any self control? Some of us don't. If you do, you can do as little or as much as you want. It just makes you want more toys, especially when you see how much easier it is with some equipment. Some, like Kerry, set the bar very high for us mere mortals.

 

No, none. Its not one of my talents. I went and loaded up my tiny online shopping cart on several sites before realizing what I was doing. 

And yes, I have been reading about the EZtemper.....

Must....have....

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What is your goal here?  Have fun and break even, part time job that makes a little money, support the family and pay the mortgage ... ? 

 

I would say don't spend too much until you figure out what actually sells and what actually makes a profit, then re-invest and grow the old fashioned way. 

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whilst an ez temper is helpful, it's definitely classified into the "expensive toy" category for me (sorry @Kerry Beal). But that's mostly because Australia is a long way to ship one and the exchange rate is horrible. 

 

I think if you want to experiment, you'll need a few polycarbonate moulds. You can temper in the microwave or by seeding, I did that for a year before I invested in a large piece of stone to table my chocolate on. I didn't have melting tanks for a year, I just did everything in bowls with a heat gun and as fast as I could. It's possible :) All the toys just make it easier. If you're looking to actually create things to sell, then you'll want some of the things that make it easier, because time is money. If you wanted, you could also enrol in an online class, there's a few around with a relatively low month to month cost which will provide you with heaps of info on the basics.

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7 hours ago, keychris said:

whilst an ez temper is helpful, it's definitely classified into the "expensive toy" category for me (sorry @Kerry Beal). But that's mostly because Australia is a long way to ship one and the exchange rate is horrible. 

 

I think if you want to experiment, you'll need a few polycarbonate moulds. You can temper in the microwave or by seeding, I did that for a year before I invested in a large piece of stone to table my chocolate on. I didn't have melting tanks for a year, I just did everything in bowls with a heat gun and as fast as I could. It's possible :) All the toys just make it easier. If you're looking to actually create things to sell, then you'll want some of the things that make it easier, because time is money. If you wanted, you could also enrol in an online class, there's a few around with a relatively low month to month cost which will provide you with heaps of info on the basics.

Totally agree - EZtemper is not a first level purchase. When you are established and tempering is slowing you down then we can talk.

 

As @keychris mentions - start with a couple of polycarbonate molds (why struggle with hobby grade when you don’t have to), a hardware store taping knife and a few other inexpensive items. 

 

Perhaps with the advice here assemble a starting kit list.

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36 minutes ago, Kerry Beal said:

start with a couple of polycarbonate molds (why struggle with hobby grade when you don’t have to), a hardware store taping knife and a few other inexpensive items.


Exactly that... and make those couple or few initial molds one design that you like and then, if you want variety, add more later. One thing I learned very quickly is that not having enough molds for the batch size you want to do sucks. I have enough of my primary mold to do the batch size I like to do but now I'm wanting enough of them to be able to shell batches in 2 or 3 different chocolates all in one shot so I can just fill + cap it all in another round and be done. I've already accepted that the correct amount of chocolate equipment to have is always going to be whatever you have now +1. And at whatever level you're able to add the EZtemper to your arsenal, you'll be glad you have it. 

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It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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11 hours ago, EmmMax said:

So I seem to be doing the thing where the more I find out and learn about chocolate the more I realize I don't know.   

 

Better get used to this feeling, it will just keep growing.

 

Costs depend on what you are aiming to achieve. Personal hobby? Full time job?
If you write you need to practice tempering and molding then I assume you are at the beginning. So it's better to put some more practice under your belt before committing to a financially expensive choice. Try all the manual ways to temper chocolate (tabling, seeding...) until you have a feel for it. No matter how much you read and how much you spend on equipment, working with chocolate will be always based on sensibility. Best way to develop your sensibility to it is while tempering it manually.

Buy some policarbonate molds, go for the useful and easy ones (demispheres and domes), avoid fancy shapes. Practice making filled bonbons that taste great. The average person does not care if there are 1 or 5 layers, if it was technically difficult or else, he/she just cares that it looks nice and tastes good. A simple coffee bonbon will always be a hit.

Practice with decoration methods. Just start with the most basic techniques (no airbrush). There are plenty of threads with lots of explanations. Start with them and then try to be creative. Having technical restrictions (no equipment) is the best way to develop your creativity and your personal style.

To do the above you just need few money for your equipment (I'd say less than $200), but don't under-estimate the biggest costs: chocolate and the other ingredients.

After you feel confident with all these sides, ask yourself what road you want to take. If you want to make it a job, then plan carefully and take this road only if you are 100% sure you can commit for 5 years or more, otherwise it has no sense.

When deciding what equipment to buy think about it not twice, not thrice, but 17823 times. You want to spend money once and well, you need to buy something that you will really use and that will suit your needs for the next 5 years at least. In few words: if you decide to committing to airbrushing for decorating bonbons, then buy a big air compressor. It has no sense to buy a small one, grow your business, then buying a medium one at the 2 years mark, grow your business, then buying a big one at the 4 years mark. Buy a big one at the beginning and only, repeat myself, when you are sure you want to commit yourself for many years.

If you don't want to commit yourself then it's not a tragedy, absolutely. You can have a lot of fun even with the most basic equipment.

 

Another important thing: if you want to sell chocolates then you must consider the licensing costs, this depends on the laws of the country where you live. It can vary from humanely affordable to almost impossible (this is the case here in Italy).

 

 

 

Teo

 

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Teo

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2 hours ago, Tri2Cook said:


Exactly that... and make those couple or few initial molds one design that you like and then, if you want variety, add more later. One thing I learned very quickly is that not having enough molds for the batch size you want to do sucks. I have enough of my primary mold to do the batch size I like to do but now I'm wanting enough of them to be able to shell batches in 2 or 3 different chocolates all in one shot so I can just fill + cap it all in another round and be done. I've already accepted that the correct amount of chocolate equipment to have is always going to be whatever you have now +1. And at whatever level you're able to add the EZtemper to your arsenal, you'll be glad you have it. 

 

To add to this, many quantities of one type of mold can get you far in the beginning. 

 

I am like you EmmMax in that I am currently trying to bootstrap a chocolates/pastry business.  I filled an online cart the other day with all types of fun molds with 3 of each type.  Like I do many times, I will fill a cart and then wait a day or two to give me a chance to step back and think about such a large purchase.  It occurred to me I would be stuck doing small runs of each mold ( <100) at a time) which feels like a waste of my time.  Something such as a tall dome polycarbonate mold can be decorated in so many ways that customers will probably not even notice they are all the same size and shape.  I still want all those other molds ( I think I must absolutely have a set of heart molds haha), but they can wait until after I have established a strong business.  One or two types of molds will be easier in the short-term.  Boxes for packaging do not have to be all different sizes and such.  Pictures and production runs are easier.

 

As you search this site, you will see many ideas on how to start low cost.  As mentioned above, a bowl with a heating pad and a few layers of towels and a heat gun/hair dryer can keep your chocolate at the correct temperature.  

 

Not sure where you are trying to establish a business, but I would say do a business plan to see if it is going to be viable and what your break-even amount will be.  Think of every startup cost you will incur such as licensing, equipment, marketing, packaging, logo design, salaries, legal/CPA fees, insurance, etc and then double it since you probably forgot something or will incur unforeseen expenses.  For me, I am lucky that I can use a friend's bakery space when they are done for the night so rent will not be something I have to worry about in the beginning.  From what I can tell, I would need about $10k to startup comfortably, and $5k to be startup risky and hope everything goes right from the beginning (and i doubt it will).  So that means I really probably need closer to $25k to really make a go at it.  Which is cheap considering what many startups cost.  So the business plan needs to be picked apart by various people and amended where necessary since it will be what helps me secure investments/debt to make this business a reality.  If you are in America, check out your local Small Business Administration (SBA).  They are free (relatively) and invaluable.  They have free business plan templates on there to get you started.

 

Obviously, my needs may be much different than yours and maybe you can start cheaper and smaller than I am.  Either way, good luck, and keep asking questions here.

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Agreed with all the above. Just my quick thought, like others said, just get a few polycarbonate molds, simple shapes, easy to clean, it's the most satisfying feeling when your first bonbons pop out all shiny. Definitely recommend a infared thermometer for chocolate temps, don't bother with the long slender glass chocolate thermometer or those silicone spatulas that have a thermometer built in. Get an infared thermometer for now, and a probe for later, as tempering chocolate will quickly lead to you boiling caramels, which the probe is useful for.

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You guys are all incredibly helpful. I'm really grateful.

I think it has to be a hobby for now since I dont know what in the world I'm doing. I just really want to give my family chocolates at Christmas time. 🎄

It would be really nice to do for work. Our cottage laws in Utah just got changed to be a lot less rigid. It would be very possible for me to sell at farmers markets and street fairs just with stuff made at home. But I need to make sure I can actually do it first! I'm not bad at caramels or fudge, but I've yet to ever try tempering. 

What's really getting me is the chocolate. I got some callebaut because it seemed to be pretty common, but the price is taking the fun out of it. I feel like I can't mess up or make mistakes. 

I delved a little into the packaging costs and to get what I would want is outrageous. I've read several of the threads here and that seems to be the norm. Has anyone used Bell Printers before? They're based in India (I think) and I just love their designs. 

 

So it looks like I'll need:

More Chocolate

Molds

Heating pad

Thermometer

Maybe one kind of the colored cocoa butter 

And some will power

I think I've got everything else

 

Wish me luck? 😁🎉

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48 minutes ago, EmmMax said:

You guys are all incredibly helpful. I'm really grateful.

I think it has to be a hobby for now since I dont know what in the world I'm doing. I just really want to give my family chocolates at Christmas time. 🎄

It would be really nice to do for work. Our cottage laws in Utah just got changed to be a lot less rigid. It would be very possible for me to sell at farmers markets and street fairs just with stuff made at home. But I need to make sure I can actually do it first! I'm not bad at caramels or fudge, but I've yet to ever try tempering. 

What's really getting me is the chocolate. I got some callebaut because it seemed to be pretty common, but the price is taking the fun out of it. I feel like I can't mess up or make mistakes. 

I delved a little into the packaging costs and to get what I would want is outrageous. I've read several of the threads here and that seems to be the norm. Has anyone used Bell Printers before? They're based in India (I think) and I just love their designs. 

 

So it looks like I'll need:

More Chocolate

Molds

Heating pad

Thermometer

Maybe one kind of the colored cocoa butter 

And some will power

I think I've got everything else

 

Wish me luck? 😁🎉

ChocoTransferSheets.com sells sample packs of cocoa butter (like, sets of 6 colors). That’s what I started with. They’re a pain in the rear to heat in the microwave because the containers are so thick, but they do well in a toaster oven on low heat. And if you have to microwave it’s not the end of the world. It’s jusr slow. The metallic set is gorgeous!

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47 minutes ago, EmmMax said:

I got some callebaut because it seemed to be pretty common, but the price is taking the fun out of it.

I am, just like you, trying to figure this out. Yes, for me buying 10 kilos of coverture chocolate is unreasonable, I think, so for now I use baking chocolate from Kroger and try to learn how to temper it consistently. I know it is far from real chocolate, but I guess I still can use it to learn how to temper properly, can not I? I mean, this chocolate is sold tempered, so it is, at least in theory, possible to temper it, right? Any advice from the experts in this respect?

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2 hours ago, EmmMax said:

What's really getting me is the chocolate. I got some callebaut because it seemed to be pretty common, but the price is taking the fun out of it. I feel like I can't mess up or make mistakes.


That's the primary chocolate I work with other than the stuff I make myself. If you're getting sticker shock from the Callebaut, you probably don't even want to look at the prices of the stuff most of the others here prefer to work with. I happen to live in an area where Callebaut is a far better chocolate than anything else sold locally so I can get away with it. And just in case you're going to ask, nope, making your own chocolate is not more economical than buying it. But it is more fun. :D

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It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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Thoughts on the Pound Plus Bars from Trader Joes these days? I used to use them a lot when I first started out and getting inexpensive chocolate was important. I seem to recall they have changed but I'm wondering if I'm confusing them with the President's Choice bars which have changed a lot.

 

 

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12 minutes ago, Kerry Beal said:

Thoughts on the Pound Plus Bars from Trader Joes these days? I used to use them a lot when I first started out and getting inexpensive chocolate was important. I seem to recall they have changed but I'm wondering if I'm confusing them with the President's Choice bars which have changed a lot.

 

 

I don’t know if it’s changed, but I do like the dark and 72% pound plus, taste wise. It’s more viscous than couverture, but I did shell with it when I first got molds almost 2 years ago. I don’t love the taste of their milk chocolate. 

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14 minutes ago, Pastrypastmidnight said:

I don’t know if it’s changed, but I do like the dark and 72% pound plus, taste wise. It’s more viscous than couverture, but I did shell with it when I first got molds almost 2 years ago. I don’t love the taste of their milk chocolate. 

 

So perhaps the Pound Plus dark bars with a little extras cocoa butter (say 3 or 4%) would work well for learning to temper. The price would be right. And of course even if the milk doesn't taste great - it might be fine for practice. I do recall how parsimonious I was when I started - couldn't bring myself to temper large amounts because of the cost - soon learned the ease was worth the expense! Of course these days I have about 100 kg of chocolate taking up space in the living room. 

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30 minutes ago, Kerry Beal said:

Of course these days I have about 100 kg of chocolate taking up space in the living room. 

I'm almost certain that's what heaven is supposed to be like. 

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If you think the price for a case of chocolate is taking the fun out of things, then don't ever look up the price for a case of almond flour haha.

 

And remember, you do not have to buy a bunch of molds yet.  You can always start out making and selling truffles and dipped items.  Although I am more partial to molds myself since I am a loon when it comes to trying to cut caramels or ganache for dipping.  

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6 hours ago, Pastrypastmidnight said:

ChocoTransferSheets.com sells sample packs of cocoa butter (like, sets of 6 colors). That’s what I started with. They’re a pain in the rear to heat in the microwave because the containers are so thick, but they do well in a toaster oven on low heat. And if you have to microwave it’s not the end of the world. It’s jusr slow. The metallic set is gorgeous!

I can also recommend the ChocoTransferSheets cocoa butters, I’ve used them since I started (mainly because they’re not far from where I live in the SF area).

 

You can get reasonable quality molds from AliExpress.com cheaper than Amazon but you trade money for time; takes weeks for a delivery. I recommend searching for “polycarbonate chocolate mold” to find the range of stuff. I use a “2124B” bullet head shape a lot, cleans really easily (the “2124” is the same shape but smaller, at 8 grams per cavity instead of 13 grams).

 

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If you've never tempered chocolate and you don't have a lot of extra money, start with the basics of tempering.  Decorated molds can wait, the first expense is some decent chocolate, now start practicing your tempering.  Dip various things in chocolate - cookies, pretzels, dried fruit, ganache - see how your finished product looks & get used to maintaining the temper.

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That's how we started in school...
Chocolate rocks, then mendiants and slabbed chocolate with inclusions, then moulded bars, molded bars with inclusions, slabbed hand cut and hand dipped bonbons, and then molded bonbon with only hand decoration. After all this, we were set loose on the machines.

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