October 22, 2020

Using your own chocolate with Cocoa Press

By Amy Coronado, Senior Chocolate Engineer

There are two ways to get chocolate for printing with Cocoa Press. If you want a simple, proven method, you can buy our pre-tempered chocolate refills. The printer is not locked into these chocolates, so the other way is to use your own! This blog post will show you how to use your own chocolate, and what to keep in mind in the process. 

The first step is to ensure you are tempering your chocolate. If you don’t know what temper is or why it’s important, check out our next blog post on tempering chocolate to learn all about it. Cocoa Press is designed to gently heat chocolate to a precise temperature that is warm enough to soften the chocolate for extrusion, but not so hot that it kills the temper of your chocolate. This way, the final printed pieces come out shiny, with that perfect snap any chocolate lover expects from their cocoa confection!

The tricky part about using your own chocolate is finding the perfect printing temperature. Our printer comes pre-programmed with these Goldilocks temperatures (not too hot, not too cold) for the varieties of chocolate refills that we sell. If you use your own chocolate, you will need to do some experimenting to find this temperature for yourself. Ideal printing temperature varies by type of chocolate (dark/milk/white), chocolate content, manufacturer, etc. If my experience doing this kind of experimentation has taught me anything, it’s that finding this temperature takes some trial and error, but it is well worth it when you get your first perfect, shiny print! 

Also, when printing with your own chocolate, avoid chocolates that have grainy additives, such as large-grain sea salt chocolate or bits of nuts/fruits larger than 0.4mm. These additives can build up and clog the extruder nozzle, causing failed prints. Smooth chocolates print best.

One of the strengths of the Cocoa Press printer is its versatility— you can customize printing temperatures to use whatever kind of chocolate you want, with a 0.1°C precision on the heater that will preserve your perfect temper. Our chocolate refills are made of artisanal, tempered chocolate that is the perfect shape and size to fit into our printing cartridge, but they are by no means proprietary or even required. We sell pre-tempered chocolate refills because we know not all of our potential users know how to or have the equipment to temper chocolate, but if you do, we encourage you to cast your own chocolates into the cartridge and print away! We are so excited to see how you shape the future of chocolate.

Here are the steps to using your own chocolate with Cocoa Press: 

1. Prepare your chocolate:

  • Temper your favorite kind of chocolate
  • Cast the molten chocolate into the Cocoa Press stainless steel printing cartridge
  • Allow your chocolate to cool and harden inside the printing cartridge to complete the tempering process  

2. Load the extruder:

  • Load the filled cartridge into the extruder of your 3D chocolate printer

3. Heat chocolate:

  • Set the chocolate to the lowest temperature you think will soften the chocolate enough to be extruded, without killing the temper (see notes below).
  • Allow chocolate to heat for 30 minutes. 
  •  Extrude a bit to see consistency, if it is not extruding, raise temp by .1 degrees, wait 15 minutes, repeat until chocolate flows well out of nozzle.

4. Print your chocolate and eat!

A couple of notes about the process:

You may need to try a few different temperatures to get it just right, but undershooting is better than overshooting here. If you make the temperature too low, the chocolate will be too thick to flow out of the small nozzle, and you can raise the temperature 0.1°C and try again in 15 minutes. On the other hand, if you set your temperature even 0.1°C too high, you will kill the temper of your chocolate and your prints will come out with a dull finish, less snap, and more easily develop an unappealing whitish film (called chocolate bloom). While this process can seem tedious, I have personally experienced the pain of ruining a whole cartridge full of perfectly tempered chocolate enough times to tell you, your patience will be worth it! The ideal printing temperature is between the temper point and the melting point of your specific chocolate. With a new chocolate, I start around 32.5°C for white chocolate, 33°C for milk chocolate, and 33.5°C for dark chocolate and work my way up to a temperature where I see consistent chocolate flow out of the nozzle.

Wanna learn more about the Cocoa Press Printer? Check it out.