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Continuous production systems for chocolate
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CONTINUOUS PRODUCTION SYSTEMS FOR CHOCOLATE
In chocolate processing, TECNO 3 has chosen liquid conching technology for obvious reasons related to quality of the finished product and significant energy saving (see “fast chocolate conches”).
Traditional refining with horizontal cylinder systems – where it is not practical to have fat content that is higher than a certain limit – involves dry conching as a logical consequence.
The missing cocoa butter, which is required for smooth chocolate, must be added in the conch for it to turn to liquid. Besides the need for operator intervention, problems related to correct mixing may sometimes arise when recipes include powdered milk. The dry refining results in a powder that must be transported in the conch: we do not list the problems related to hygiene, which are well known by the operators, in relation to both product transport and to the surrounding environment.
THE STUDY
TECNO 3 technicians have tackled the problem in its entirety, starting from mixing of the ingredients up to conching. With reference to just refining, the fundamental aspects that guided the study were: 
- the physical state of the mixture,
- the automation of the system, 
- the qualitative result in terms of rheology of the finished chocolate,
- the hygienic aspect of the product and the surrounding environment,
- system compactness.

THE SOLUTION
The refining line developed by TECNO 3 consists of three grinding units in series – respectively, a pre-refiner with two horizontal cylinders, a refiner with vertical cylinders and a ball refiner, which the mixture continuously crosses, thereby undergoing a gradual reduction in the solid particles. In particular, passing through the ball refiner brings the fineness to the desired value without forming an excess amount of “surfines”.

THE RESULTS
Given that the evaluation of chocolate, especially from the rheological perspective, can only be done once conching is completed, the results referring only to the refining line are more than satisfactory, according to the technicians of the companies that use the TECNO 3 systems, and are certainly comparable to those obtained with traditional refining.
The fineness reaches values below the threshold of sensory perception and the correct granulometric distribution is confirmed by the numerous analyses that show fairly narrow Gaussian curves.
The preset goals were all widely achieved. In particular, we simply want to highlight the hygienic aspect: the product is never in contact with the surrounding environment throughout the entire processing cycle.
The line is used with excellent results in the preparation of fat-based creams (cream spreads, cream fillings, ice cream mixtures, etc.). The production capacity of the 6 different models of the line may vary from 100 to 1000 kg/h.


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