When Domori, the fine flavor chocolate manufacturer based in None, Italy, and Tecno 3, the specialty confectionery equipment supplier located in Corneliano D’Alba, Italy, began their 14-year collaboration in 1994, both parties sensed a kindred spirit.
For Domori’s founder Gianluca Franzoni, it was and continues to be a passion for fine flavor cacao. The author of Finding the Lost Chocolate simply dedicated himself to perfecting fine cacao chocolate, making it his life’s work. Fortunately that passion for perfection dovetailed with Bruno Porro’s desire to facilitate visionary chocolate manufacturers with innovative technology.
“The best partnerships aren’t dependent on a mere common goal but on a shared path of equality, desire, and no small amount of passion.”
— SARAH MACLEAN, AMERICAN AUTHOR
The two formed a collaborative relationship that led to the installation of not only a three-phase refining and liquid conching process that proved critical in addressing both quality and flexibility issues at Domori, but also adding roasting, winnowing, continuous grinding, nib refining and continuous chocolate refining systems in the company’s 4,000-sq.-meter facility.
Both businesses grew from that experience, each adjusting to the changing customer and consumer shifts dictated by evolving tastes and global consolidation during the following years.
For example, Domori’s success evolved into a larger product line, one that grew to encompass single-origin bars, pralines, gianduja, dragees and even drinking chocolate. It also saw the expansion of the company’s professional line, a total of 15 couvertures.
On Tecno 3’s end, the company’s ability to deliver innovation solutions while remaining attentive to customer needs fueled a 20 percent growth surge over the most recent five-year period, the customer list a who’s who of European chocolate manufacturers.
In addition to making ongoing upgrades to existing lines, emphasis was placed on ensuring easy disassembly and cleanability, both of which facilitated quick changeovers in an era of maximum manufacturing flexibility.
And thanks to Tecno 3’s Pierangelo Pagliotti, a former European Candy Kettle Club recipient (1994) and long-time technologist to the company, Domori put in a quality control lab that infused science into the art of making good chocolate.
Pagliotti’s 30-plus years of experience in roasting and conching cocoa beans, coupled with his broad experience in product development, helped Domori integrate more precise controls into chocolate making than the company had ever experienced before.
In doing so, it led the two “kindred spirits” to another new collaborative venture, one that spurred the creation of the Multiprocess R and C units, a complete bean-to-bar system that’s both compact and open to viewing.
As Angelo Nani, director of operations and R&D at Domori, relates, the competitive environment amongst chocolatiers in Italy had prompted many to seek ways they could differentiate themselves from not only the mass market but fellow chocolatiers.
Their appreciation of Domori’s exacting level of quality for its retail and professional line prompted one customer to urge the premium chocolate maker to come up with a totally different cocoa/chocolate processing line, one that could appeal to chocolatiers seeking to make their own particular blends or single-origin chocolates.
“We would provide them with a good selection of raw materials — good beans and/or nibs — and they could produce their own particular chocolate, preserving the aromatic nature of those fine flavor beans, he told us,” Nani says.
Not that there wasn’t equipment available on the marketplace to produce bean-to-bar chocolate. There was, but no one offered an all-in-one, “showtime” system. Rather, there were different suppliers for roasters, winnowers, ball mills, conches. And none fit into a compact footprint.
“That’s when I approached Bruno Porro about the project,” Nani says. “As it turns out, he already had such an idea. Given our relationship, I really believe there were significant synergies we could take advantage of. Still, it was a big risk for them to take it on.”
As Porro explains, “There’s a tendency for pastry chefs and chocolatiers in Italy to create their own chocolate recipes. It was a concept we had been thinking about. We, of course, have a good relationship with Domori, one that’s evolved into a personal friendship. Our challenge was to create a system that included all the processing involved in making chocolate — from the beans to moulded products — and doing so in a way that allowed chocolatiers to produce perfectly made chocolate.”
In short order, Nani received the first rendering of the new unit. After making some modifications, the process moved to building the first prototype. This time, it was Nani who went to Tecno 3 to examine progress and suggest further refinements. Upon completion, the machine went to Domori for an initial test and more modifications and upgrades.
“Thanks to Bruno Porro, who really believed in the concept and the machinery, those changes were made quickly,” Nani says.
All-in-all, development of the Multiprocess R and C units took about one year. The first unveiling took place at the Sigep show in Rimini, Italy, last year. This international trade fair for artisan gelato, bakery, pastry and coffee products tracks the latest trends in raw materials, ingredients, technologies and equipment, furnishings and services for those markets.
It also draws the most important chefs in Italy, Nani says.
As a result, Domori and Tecno 3 had an adjoining booth.
Integrating innovation with cooperation
It was slightly more than five years ago when Gianluca Franzoni, the founder and soul of fine chocolate manufacturer Domori, discussed the launch of the company’s couverture line, Labo. Working closely with equipment partner Tecno 3, the None, Italy-based chocolate maker decided to use his experience and expertise with fine flavor cocoa beans to offer chocolatiers and pastry chefs an ultra-premium alternative to existing couvertures.
At the time, Franzoni said, “The capacity of the line is 1,500 tons, and we’d like to achieve that in five years.” Back then the company was producing 300 tons annually.
Today, Franzoni still serves as president of Domori, which was acquired by coffee giant illycafé in 2006, and remains involved in the activities of the company. Just ask Angelo Nani, director of operations and R&D, who continues to send Franzoni updates about incoming cocoa beans and panel tastings. Oh yes, he also continues to taste the chocolate.
Some things have changed, however. For one, the wholesale or professional line business comprises 70 percent of the company’s revenues compared to its retail business, that is finished products. Second, the company operates two shifts, most often times six days a week. It also has a full-fledged laboratory that, thanks to Tecno 3’s Pierangelo Pagliotti, ensures scientific consistency day in, day out.
Some of the basics remain in place, of course, such as Domori’s relentless and constant search for the best fine flavor cocoa beans in the world.
“We source cocoa beans representing 18 different origins from nine countries,” he says. “We have seven different kinds of Criollo from Venezuela alone. Our warehouse, which contains 400 pallets and is only five kilometers away, contains the most quantity of fine flavor cocoa beans in the world.”
And recently, thanks to their close cooperation with Tecno 3, the company supplies an Indian dairy cooperative that decided to produce its own chocolate bars featuring six couvertures.
“Given the amount of equipment we have from Tecno 3 in the plant, they often ask us if they could bring potential customers for a visit,” Nani says. Last year, the president of the cooperative, along with members of his management team and accompanied by Bruno Porro, founder of Tecno 3 and Pagliotti, visited Domori.
The on-site inspection proved fortuitous for Domori; the dairy cooperative began buying its couvertures from the Italian company. It continues to do on a large scale and its chocolate bars have grown in popularity in India. And by the way, the company has purchased Tecno 3’s three-phase refining and liquid conching system and looks to expand its existing capacity with another system.
The consequential surge in couverture production has pushed Domori’s space and capacity to the limits.
“We’re looking at moving into a larger facility, about 10,000 sq. meters, whereby we can put in a new cocoa mass line capable of doing 1,500 kilos/hr, compared to one we have now maxed out at 400 kilos/hr. We would also be able to store our beans in the facility, thus enabling us to having everything under one roof.”
Naturally, Tecno 3 would be supplying the new line for Domori.
As Nani says, “Their philosophy is close to that of Domori,” which enables both to provide the consumer, the customer only the best possible product. And that’s a hard combo to beat.
“Our target was to sell raw materials,” Nani explains. “This was a new business for us. We would select the raw material, whereby we could guarantee good chocolate as a final product. With the Multiprocess system, the chocolatiers could make their own chocolate, adapting the process to their exact specifications.”
Turns out the collaboration not only attracted incredible interest, addressing a need, it resulted in two equipment sales right on the show floor.
So how does the Multiprocess system work? As with every bean-to-bar process, everything starts with the beans — and the roasting process. As Pagliotti notes, whole fine flavor beans with aromatic notes are critical to the process.
Capable of handling from 8 to a maximum of 32 kilos of cocoa beans per roast, the Multiprocess R uses a two-phase hot-air system. The first phase involves drying the beans to eliminate humidity, while the second phase focuses on the actual roast. Four 8-kilo baskets enhance both uniformity and flexibility during the two-stage process.
Once the beans are roasted, a horizontal screw feeder with a brush spiral pushes the beans via an ascending conveyor belt to the three-belt debacterization unit that uses an ultraviolet light.
“’We use a three-belt conveying system to ensure that every side of the bean is fully and uniformly debacterized,” Pagliotti explains.
Upon completion of the debacterization process, the beans fall into a splitting device that crushes them. The crushed beans are transferred into a sieving unit that separates the skin from nibs. Here, the nibs can be sized into four different containers if so desired.
What’s particularly amazing about the unit is that it can also be used to process hazelnuts and dried fruits. Thanks to its two-phase drying/roasting capabilities as well as bacterization system, the processed hazelnuts have a longer shelf life.
“Drying the hazelnuts is a key first step,” Pagliotti says. “We’re able to remove the water without breaking up the cells holding the water and oil, thus prolonging shelf life.”
After roasting, the hazelnuts’ outer skin can be removed by replacing the brush in the screw conveyor, thus transforming it into a peeler before they head toward the debacterization process. Here again, the operator can simply adjust the unit for whole hazelnuts or specific sizes before ending the process.
As mentioned earlier, the Multiprocess R represents the first phase of Tecno 3’s new bean-to-bar system. The Multiprocess C grinds nibs, mixes ingredients, refines the cocoa mass, conches the mass into chocolate and then pours out the chocolate for hand moulding.
Using the same liquid conching technology that Tecno 3 developed six years ago, Porro and Pagliotti came up with a miniaturized version that fits into a unit occupying no more than 2 by 1 meters.
The process starts with the introduction of the dosed amount of cocoa nibs in the grinding unit to form the paste. After grinding, the paste passes through the horizontal mixer, where other ingredients required for the recipe are added (cocoa butter, sugar, milk, etc.). The maximum capacity of the mixer depends on the line model and can vary between 5, 25 and 50 kg.
After the mixing stage, the drain for the connection with the refiner is opened, which kicks off the refining stage. Once refined, the product comes out on a tilted conveyor belt that leads it to the upper part inside the cylindrical evaporation tower.
The mass falls on a rotating disc that distributes it on the surface and creates a thin and even sloping layer down to the base. The cylinder is heated to the desired conching temperature, which is transmitted to the product by contact.
An upward flow of air against the current promotes the evaporation of water and unwanted substances. The chocolate that arrives at the basis of the cylinder comes out and is conveyed, via a belt, to the initial mixer. This cycle is repeated for a set period of time until the desired fineness is obtained.
If, after reaching the desired degree of fineness, the result of the conching stage is still not regarded as satisfactory, the rotation speed of the refiner can be reduced to a minimum. At this stage, the refiner is only used as a passage for the product and the process continues with the treatment in the tower. Once the process has been completed, the chocolate is diverted on a vibrating sieve at the outfeed and collected in the designated removable container.
There are no pumps and connection pipes. Each single part of the system can be easily disassembled and removed to ensure thorough cleaning and sanitation. The machine does not need any outer utilities (e.g. compressed air, steam, water), it simply plugs into an outlet.
“We developed the unit so that there would be no pumps or connection pipes, which makes it easy to clean,” Porro points out. It’s also easy to operate, with the control parameters for the temperature on the various areas of the line and for the rotation speed of the mixer, the refiner and the disc on the tower can be set on the screen of the electrical control panel.
More importantly, the unit is designed to retain the aromatics that bean-to-bar professionals clamor for while allowing them to tweak the process to attain their specific flavor notes.
Available in 5-, 25- and 50-kg batch units, the 5-kg model comes with an optional tempering unit as well as a vibrating surface for the mould and a cooling cell to create the finished product.
Although designed for chocolate makers and chocolatiers, the Multiprocess system is finding favor amongst midsized and larger companies as well.
“We have more and more requests from major companies to install this unit in their R&D departments,” Porro says. “They simply didn’t expect to find such an all-in-one product that’s really compact.”
Of course, that’s what passionate partnerships are capable of, transforming ideas into innovative breakthroughs that work for both parties.