Innovative Plant Design maximizes Flexibility in Chocolate Production

In our times, chocolate production is not reserved exclusively for a few small confectionery shops in the cultural centers of the western world that, in their day, supplied the decadent royalty and affluent citizens.

Chocolate has become a general commodity – both its consumption and its production are more affordable, faster and more global than ever before. And since it's not just a few people who control the demand, the competition for new, as yet undiscovered flavor nuances in the great wide world of chocolate has become much tougher. The days are long past that the friend of "bitter water" (from the Aztec "xócoc" = bitter and "atl" = water) must be content with a color scale from light to dark – unbelievable variations are possible and are finding customers. Our trusted temples of consumption offer a dizzying array of flavors that leave nothing to be desired. Or do they? What does a target group that supposedly has everything really need? The answer is simple: manufacturers that can rapidly respond to the specific desires of the customers - those who can create their own concept and want to try new things. In short: manufacturers, with flexible production who don't allow themselves to be at the mercy of mass consumption because of their own machine capacities.

It is particularly for this kind of chocolate manufacturer that NETZSCH-Feinmahltechnik GmbH has developed a plant design which is firmly based on the pillars of flexibility and quality. The project was defined a few years ago as follows: design a chocolate machine that is fast, user friendly, compact, energy efficient and capable of producing all kinds of sweet treats, even in small quantities – a plant with which the imagination of the user knows no bounds. The ChocoEasy®® idea was born.

So the NETZSCH engineers started with the contemporary redesign of the classic production processes mixing, roughing, refining, dry and wet conching. The result is that agitator bead mills are employed for the fine grinding of the chocolate, with the crushing process and wet conching occurring in parallel, and with no compromise to quality. This method significantly reduces the production time with the ChocoEasy®® as compared to conventional plants – while also saving energy and cooling water. The process, which is slightly modified in comparison to the traditional manufacturing process, also facilitates very easy and accurate adjustment of fineness and quality. This saves up to 5% cocoa butter – and has a very motivational impact, especially on smaller businesses that had previously been hesitant to start their own chocolate production. Since the commercial maturity of the ChocoEasy®® plant design, such ambitions no longer fail due to the quantities produced: because the machines were primarily developed for specialized niche suppliers, NETZSCH offers the modular plant in six different sizes.  In this way, requirements from 25 kg all the way up to 6,000 kg per batch can be met precisely. The ChocoEasy®® machine series can be scaled up. Flexibility is the primary advantage common to every model. Each model can easily produce white, milk and dark chocolate and even allows the production of lecithin-free chocolate. In addition, all kinds of flavorings and additives can be mixed into the recipe in order to reach new target groups or to surprise existing ones.

However, it must be clear whether and how new varieties can be produced perfectly from a technical standpoint before mass production can begin. After all, variables such as temperature, aeration and processing time are crucial to the well-balanced flavor of the end product. In order to achieve the optimum, NETZSCH-Feinmahltechnik has established a WhiteLab specifically for testing all possible recipes and machine configurations in advance. Thanks to the customers, who continuously bring us new challenges, the components of the ChocoEasy®® system are being refined on an ongoing basis in order to make production of the perfect chocolate even more efficient, even faster and even easier. The latest successful innovation of our engineers is the production of the new Samba components, which facilitate direct feeding of granulated sugar into the agitator bead mill. This has made the production process even more flexible.

Everyone playing with the idea of making their own chocolate, finally developing a flavor that has thus far been lacking or wanting to try out a new recipe quickly and easily prior to mass production can find all the information they need about the technology, the possibilities and the advantages of the ChocoEasy®® in early 2012 at the NETZSCH-Feinmahltechnik GmbH booth at ProSweets in Cologne. The motto of the booth will be "Welcome to the future of chocolate production" and, for the first time at an exhibition, there will be live demonstrations of chocolate production – from addition of the raw ingredients through to packaging and distribution of the finished product.

Please visit our booth C70/D79 in hall 10.1, from January 29 to February 1 at ProSweets Cologne.