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Spraying Chocolate: Equipment, Materials, and Techniques


cakedecorator1968

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5 hours ago, RockyMaraschino said:

Hi.  Has anyone built our bought a spray booth for airbrushing chocolates?  Would love a recommendation.

I tried a big box with a hole cut in the back and a large fan outside the box, but it didn't do much good.  There are videos online about building your own, but most deal with paint, not cocoa butter.  I was unhappy with every option I tried until I found CakeSafe's master spray booth.  It really comes close to eliminating cocoa butter in the air.  You do have to accept the necessity of replacing the first filter (there are several others inside the fan box) rather often, but if you buy a roll of filters and cut them yourself, the price is reduced.  I still wear a respirator and think it is necessary if you don't want to inhale cocoa butter.

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I will be using my airbrush with colored cocoa butter for the first time this year for chocolates.  Each year I make something with chocolate and those are Christmas gifts for family and friends.  I'm all set except I'm looking for suggestions and recipes for the filling in my chocolates.  Is anyone willing to share their favorites and any tips for success?  I am skilled at tempering chocolate.  Thanks!

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  • 1 month later...
On 10/26/2022 at 1:20 PM, Jim D. said:

I tried a big box with a hole cut in the back and a large fan outside the box, but it didn't do much good.  There are videos online about building your own, but most deal with paint, not cocoa butter.  I was unhappy with every option I tried until I found CakeSafe's master spray booth.  It really comes close to eliminating cocoa butter in the air.  You do have to accept the necessity of replacing the first filter (there are several others inside the fan box) rather often, but if you buy a roll of filters and cut them yourself, the price is reduced.  I still wear a respirator and think it is necessary if you don't want to inhale cocoa butter.

 

 

At home, I always use a homemade spray booth - a large cardboard box with a hole cut in the top, an AC filter covering it and a box fan on top of it pulling air out.  It has always worked great for me.  I don't even use a mask now when I spray.   Just remember to change the filter every so often as it gets clogged up with cocoa butter.  

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  • 1 year later...

Once or twice a year I skim through this novel of info (mostly because every few posts Jim reminds me to read the whole thing), trying to again gather what the best options are to get an airbrush set up going. I end up overwhelmed and put a pin in it for later. Here I am again wondering if this is the year that investing in this will come to fruition!

 

So, confirming current recommended options and their costs :

- Airbrush- grex brand, top gravity feed, .7mm nozzle $200 on sale

- Compressor- something with decent capacity, adjustable psi (specific range??), low noise, anything else? $200?

- Spray booth- from cardboard box, to box with filter and fan, to something fancier like Cakesafe $0-$800?

- Any other necessary items?

 

At this point I hand paint molds. It takes time, and I feel it potentially uses more CB than airbrushing will. And I have a small shop space.

How long would you say it takes you to set up and clean up for an airbrush session?  Will setting up and dialing it in take me longer than just hand painting? 

Essentially, is it more efficient? For you, what made this feel like a worthy investment in your craft?

 

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55 minutes ago, Dark side said:

How long would you say it takes you to set up and clean up for an airbrush session?  Will setting up and dialing it in take me longer than just hand painting? 

30 seconds?  I airbrush frequently so I keep the compressor on a wheeled cart that fits under a prep table. Making sure I have all the right colors melted takes longer.  Go for it! 

 

I'm currently using a grex 0.7mm and a california air tools 1hp/2gal compressor, have made tens of thousands of bonbons.  I did just order a spanish 0.8mm airbrush in hopes of making things go a little faster.  Was debating the grex 1.0 mm spray gun but am worried it'd be overkill.

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@Dark side, since you have called me out for my nagging, I feel I have no choice but to respond to your questions.  As I say quite often, I consider myself still a learner in this business, by no means an expert.  Mostly it's been trial and error, with a great deal of the latter.  With that caveat...

 

Yes, on the .7mm Grex--though pastrygirl's Spanish airbrush sounds intriguing.  Having to stop to heat up your spraying device becomes more annoying than you might at first imagine.  Even if you go for a less expensive airbrush, I would definitely get one in the trigger style.

 

I have a California Air Tools compressor with 4.6 gal. capacity.  If I were doing it over, I would get the same brand but with a larger capacity.  I am finding that as time passes, the compressor is running more often, and experts say that is bad for the device in the long run.  The price differential for a larger one is not great.  More significantly:  If you decide later to get a spray gun (a move that is quite common in the business), the 4.6 gal. compressor struggles (and runs almost constantly).  Spray guns, by the way, are quite inexpensive, relatively speaking.

 

I know others disagree, but I found using a box, fan, and filter inadequate for keeping overspray out of the air, and the filter clogged up very quickly.  With the CakeSafe booth, the "pre-filter" has to be changed quite often, but I don't find the cost of filters exorbitant, and I can see clearly when it needs to be replaced.  I realize that the cost of the CakeSafe may be a factor, especially as you are just beginning.

 

I have said this next thing before, but I'll repeat it here:  Clairvoyance would be very helpful when considering chocolate equipment, but obviously is in short supply.  I wasted money buying equipment that in no time at all became inadequate (airbrush, compressor, etc.).  If you grow to enjoy making decorated chocolates, you will be hooked, people will find their way to you, and you will want/need to make more, and then your first Christmas season will hit you over the head.  With that in mind, I will add that even my moderate production quantities are made more bearable by having a Fuji spray gun.  You can spray many more molds without having to reheat the gun because it holds much more cocoa butter than the Grex (or any airbrush I know of).  The Fuji (and other spray guns) are also more forgiving in pushing cocoa butter through the nozzle.  I have found that a few grains of unmelted cocoa butter can clog my Grex and require much use of a heat gun, whereas a spray gun can handle that issue much better (proof of this just last week:  the Grex refused to spray, no amount of heat or stirring with my thermometer would unclog it, in disgust I poured the CB into my Fuji, and it sprayed the same CB without issue).

 

Will airbrushing take longer than hand painting?  Perhaps a little longer, but the quality is so much better.  I never had much success trying to cover a mold by using a paintbrush--the cocoa butter was streaked, it ran, coverage was spotty.  In a few seconds you can cover an entire mold with spray from an airbrush.  One of chocolatier Kalle Jungstedt's useful insights is that over-brushing a mold will take the cocoa butter out of temper and cause it to stick to the mold.

 

If I were in your position and had all the advice now available on eGullet on this topic, I would probably get the Grex again (I use the Fuji much more often these days--but the Grex is excellent in doing gradients and similar detailed work, which the Fuji is not always good at), but I would definitely get a compressor with capacity to service a spray gun.

 

 

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@Dark side - where do you live? Perhaps visit someone and play with the equipment - it's a great way to get over that initial inertia and get yourself started. 

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I guess it comes down to budget for me..

Will biting the bullet for this investment avoid frustrations that may come with cheaper alternatives? Will it make my chocolates more beautiful, make my chocolate-making life easier, or both (neither?!)?

Or would a less expensive brush still satisfy my curiosity and make some pretty things without too much frustration, or regretting the money output. 

Thank you all for your time listening to my soul searching.  And your opinions- they are helpful, and always entertaining as well!

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11 minutes ago, Dark side said:

Will biting the bullet for this investment avoid frustrations that may come with cheaper alternatives?

I think so.  What are the cheap alternatives?  I wouldn't bother with anything less than 0.5mm.

 

 

12 minutes ago, Dark side said:

Will it make my chocolates more beautiful, make my chocolate-making life easier, or both (neither?!)?

Yes*

 

*in my experience, no guarantees ;)

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One of the things I've learned in my pastry (not chocolate) experience is that when I buy the cheaper alternative, I end up buying what I should have bought to begin with and  I end up spending more than I would have.  Case in point: I've been through 5 (yes FIVE) Kitchen Aid 7 quart mixers in five years.  I would end up having to buy a replacement because the current one had just stopped.  Finally I bought the commercial 8 qt KA.  It's two years old and going strong.  I should have bought that when the second KA died but no, I ran down to Williams Sonoma and bought a third one.  Then a fourth and fifth one....  For what I spent, I could have had two 8 qt mixers.

 

Moral of the story: just do it.  Buy the better quality items (not necessarily top of the line) and it will make your life easier and you will enjoy the work more.

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3 hours ago, Dark side said:

Vancouver Island, BC. 

We will be doing the eG workshop at some point in May in Toronto (still trying to confirm the date) - pretty sure we can have a Fuji, a Grex and perhaps a few other options for you to play with. 

 

Was going to suggest Denman Island chocolate but I don't see colour on their pieces these days. 

 

Rachel - used to be head chocolatier at Purdy's - got them a Fuji. She's not working for them anymore and might be reopening Chocolate Nymph in Vancouver - you could track her down and see what she has around to show you. 

 

 

Edited by Kerry Beal (log)
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  • 1 month later...

I saw an interesting post from Tom Sampson on the "Bonbon and chocolate painting techniques" Facebook forum about a device he invented to keep an airbrush warm.  Another member of that forum responded that he too is working on such a heater, and the two of them are now corresponding.  Such a device might revolutionize the decorating of bonbons.

 

Quote

I think we are all a bit obsessed with temperature and I have found it particularly difficult to keep the temperature of the cocoa butter in my airbrush constant. I've tried wrapping it in a heated mat and using a hair dryer but I can never be certain that the temperature is correct. I therefore decided to make a heated airbrush and posted my preliminary results on the Chocolatiers Forum on which there was a lot of interest and several questions....I have spent many hours to get to this stage and although it has been suggested I patent the idea (which would require me to make a charge to recover the costs) I am aware that there are many small businesses and hobbyists who are on a limited budget and so I am happy to give anyone the parts list and instructions.

 

Edited by Jim D. (log)
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5 hours ago, Jim D. said:

I saw an interesting post from Tom Sampson on the "Bonbon and chocolate painting techniques" Facebook forum about a device he invented to keep an airbrush warm.  Another member of that forum responded that he too is working on such a heater, and the two of them are now corresponding.  Such a device might revolutionize the decorating of bonbons.

 

 

There used to be a sprayer that was headed - Kreb's I think. But it was a big thing and not elegant in any way.

 

I did see that little invention - will be interesting to see how it works out. 

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6 hours ago, Kerry Beal said:

There used to be a sprayer that was headed - Kreb's I think. But it was a big thing and not elegant in any way.

 

I did see that little invention - will be interesting to see how it works out. 

I think the heated sprayer is the renamed HotCHOC by renamed company Krea Swiss.  I investigated that, but it is not intended for cocoa butter, just chocolate (mostly for the flocked look).  I should have known that you would have come across the invention I wrote about.  The more I thought about it, however, the more I questioned how it would work in the fast-moving process of spraying CCB.  The wires would have to be quite long to allow for all the maneuvering required to get good coverage of a mold, not to mention the process of changing colors.  I think it would be necessary to make the device easily removable.  But if it can be done with the hotCHOC, it should be doable with a CCB sprayer.  The market is probably not large enough to entice a company like Fuji (and its competitors) to look into it.

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42 minutes ago, Jim D. said:

I think the heated sprayer is the renamed HotCHOC by renamed company Krea Swiss.  I investigated that, but it is not intended for cocoa butter, just chocolate (mostly for the flocked look).  I should have known that you would have come across the invention I wrote about.  The more I thought about it, however, the more I questioned how it would work in the fast-moving process of spraying CCB.  The wires would have to be quite long to allow for all the maneuvering required to get good coverage of a mold, not to mention the process of changing colors.  I think it would be necessary to make the device easily removable.  But if it can be done with the hotCHOC, it should be doable with a CCB sprayer.  The market is probably not large enough to entice a company like Fuji (and its competitors) to look into it.

I’ve suggested it to Fuji - yeah not gonna happen - chocolate folk are a very minuscule piece of their market! When Jim worked for them he was interested in the idea - but he had no control. 
 

 

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  • 3 months later...

Random question about spraying colored cocoa butter ....

I want to cover a cake in black fondant and then spray it with black cocoa butter (in a can, I'm not going to buy an airbrush or sprayer for a two tier cake).  I know that when you spray a frozen dessert, you get the velvet effect.  Will it still give me a velvet effect if I'm spraying a cold (not frozen) cake?

 

I guess I'm asking if the cake HAS to be frozen for this effect to happen.  Once sprayed, will it stay that way for a day (I spray it Friday night, the wedding is Saturday night)?  I've found Pavoni and Dolce Velluto brand black sprays so it's out there, anyone ever use these?

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15 minutes ago, JeanneCake said:

Random question about spraying colored cocoa butter ....

I want to cover a cake in black fondant and then spray it with black cocoa butter (in a can, I'm not going to buy an airbrush or sprayer for a two tier cake).  I know that when you spray a frozen dessert, you get the velvet effect.  Will it still give me a velvet effect if I'm spraying a cold (not frozen) cake?

 

I guess I'm asking if the cake HAS to be frozen for this effect to happen.  Once sprayed, will it stay that way for a day (I spray it Friday night, the wedding is Saturday night)?  I've found Pavoni and Dolce Velluto brand black sprays so it's out there, anyone ever use these?

Might want to do a little test - on frozen fondant vs cold. You could probably use some freeze spray on the fondant before you spray. 

 

The velvet effect will stay - just have to be careful you don't touch it as it's melty. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

In the continuing discussion of whether to temper colored cocoa butter, I thought this post from May 31, 2024, on Instagram from Sosase Chocolate might be of interest:

 

Quote

Using silk to temper Coloured Cocoa butter

When the volume of required cocoa butter goes above 200g I will always choose to use “silk” to temper the CCB

-below this weight, it’s a challenge to be accurate with the % of silk required
-200g of CCB requires 2g of silk added at 33°c and blended in
-if I use too much silk, it will crystallise too quickly during spraying
-when I use silk, I can spray at a warmer temperature of 31°c as long as the mould temperature is below 19°c
-I choose to add the CCB into a square plastic, but you can add silk directly to the bottle & shake it
-if I’m using the Fuji spray system, I’ll add the silk to the bottle, so I can maintain fluidity and warm the bottle easier and pour directly into the spray cup

Silk is so much more aggressive at crystallising CCB, so maintain a slightly warmer temperature of your CCB

BETA5 crystals melt (full attrition) at 33.8°c, adding silk above or warm above this temperature will leave your CCB out if temper (pre-crystallised)


I was especially intrigued by the poster's discussion of using silk (particularly "if I use too much silk, it will crystallise too quickly during spraying)."

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