Technique: Enrobers
An enrobing line is the heart of most artisan confectionersâ€™ production facilities; without this vital piece of equipment, it would simply not be possible to produce enough enrobed chocolates for the confectionerâ€™s output to be economically viable. An enrobing line represents a substantial investment, and there are several brands and models with various features from which the artisan confectioner may choose. Among the factors influencing the choice of enrobers, potential output is of prime consideration. An enrober that is too small for current and future needs will create a bottleneck in production. Buying an enrober that is too large is a waste of both money and space. The potential output of an enrober is based on two factors: the width of the belt, and the length of the cooling tunnel.

The width of the belt determines how many centers can be loaded per linear foot of belt. Most artisan confectioners are likely to use an enrober with a belt from 18 to 25 centimeters/7 to 10 inches wide. To determine the pieces per linear foot, multiply the number of rows per row across the belt by the number of pieces that can be loaded lengthwise on a foot of the belt. For instance, on an 18-centimeter/7-inch belt, enrobing a typical-size center, 3 centers will fit across the width of the belt, and 7 centers will fit in a foot length. Therefore, in a linear foot of belt, there are 7 rows of 3, or 21 centers. The wider the belt is, the more centers can be loaded on a linear foot and the greater the potential output of the enrober.

The speed of the belt is determined by the required cooling time and the length of the cooling tunnel. For most chocolate applications (not compound coating) the requisite cooling time is approximately 8 minutes; this is the desired cooling time that will be used in the following example. Regardless of the length of the tunnel, the belt must move at a speed that will travel the length of the cooling tunnel in those 8 minutes. To determine the speed of the belt in feet per minute, divide the length of the tunnel in feet by the desired cooling time in minutes. For example, if the desired cooling time is 8 minutes, and the tunnel is 3.7 meters/12 feet long, 12 feet divided by 8 minutes = 46 centimeters/1.5 feet per minute. The longer the tunnel, the faster the belt can move and the greater the potential output.

To determine the number of enrobed centers produced per minute of enrober operation, multiply the number of centers per linear foot by the feet per minute (fpm) of the belt. In the example given above, there are 21 centers per linear foot. Multiplying that number by 1.5 fpm = 31.5 centers per minute potential output from the enrober. Multiplying this number by 60 will yield the number of centers per hourâ€”in this case 1,890.

The complete formula for enrober yield may be expressed as follows:

(centers in a row across belt Ă— rows of centers per foot of belt)
Ă—
(length of tunnel Ă· desired cooling time)
Ă—
60 =
number of finished enrobed confections per hour

This information can easily be converted to weight as well as used to determine the amount of tempered chocolate required.

The weight of the finished product is determined by multiplying the number of products by the weight of an individual finished piece. Fourteen grams, or Â˝ ounce, is a typical weight for a finished confection of this sort. Using the example above, 60 finished enrobed confections per hour multiplied by 14 grams/Â˝ ounce give an hourly output in weight of approximately 26.4 kilograms, or 59 pounds.

The amount of chocolate required depends on the size and shape of the pieces produced as well as the viscosity of the chocolate, but if 40 percent of the finished weight is enrobing chocolate, then, in this example, approximately 10.5 kilograms, or 23 pounds, of tempered chocolate are required per hour of enrober operation.

Of course, potential output is not the only factor to consider when choosing an enrober. Different machines have various features such as bottomers and cold plates, blowers, detailers, and packing tables; longer cooling tunnels may feature two- or three-zone cooling. Availability of service and price point are always legitimate concerns when investing in equipment as well.

For an illustrated guide to the setup of a moderate-size enrobing operation .