Thanks for checking out my Kickstarter! I’m Ben Rasmussen, and I’m the chocolate maker and owner of Potomac Chocolate, a very small (just one guy!) bean-to-bar chocolate maker based in my hometown of Woodbridge, Virginia (just south of Washington, DC).
Potomac Chocolate was founded in July of 2010 with the unofficial motto of ‘it’s all about the chocolate.’ It’s not about packaging, marketing, or even sales. My goal was (and still is!) simply to make the best chocolate that I can. To me that means that I make chocolate that I love and am proud of, and chocolate that showcases the unique and varied flavors in the different cacao (cocoa beans) that are the core ingredient.
Over the past almost three years, I have worked very hard to craft chocolate that meets these goals. Along the way, I have also continued to study, learn, experiment and taste to increase my understanding of chocolate and chocolate making. This knowledge has led me to improve my process resulting in even better chocolate.
My chocolate has been recognized and honored with several awards and many positive reviews, including a Silver in both the 2011 and 2013 Academy of Chocolate Awards, as well as a 2013 Good Food Award. (To see a full list of awards and to read some of the reviews, visit this page on my site.)
For most of Potomac Chocolate’s existence, I’ve been very fortunate in that demand for my bars has almost always outpaced my ability to produce them. This Kickstarter project will help to take Potomac Chocolate to the next level and will be used to purchase equipment that will enable me to grow my production to exceed current demand and meet future growth. Additionally, it will give me the ability to spend more time developing new bars using cacao from new origins.
I hand craft chocolate in my tiny chocolate workshop in very small batches. The most important step is sourcing great, fine flavor cacao that has been properly grown, harvested, fermented and dried at the farm. The cacao is then roasted using a roasting profile that I’ve developed specifically for that cacao. After the cacao is cooled, it is cracked and winnowed to remove the shells, before being refined in the melanger (stone grinder). At the correct point, sugar is added to the then-liquid cacao mass and the chocolate continues to refine. Once the chocolate is refined for that smooth, velvety texture, it can be tempered and molded. The tempering process helps the chocolate crystalize correctly, giving it a great shine, strong snap, and ensures that it melts properly when you eat it.
NPR made this audio slideshow that shows my process as well as some of the machines involved. I’ve updated or replaced a couple of the machines since this was made, but the process is essentially the same.
There isn’t a lot of equipment out there for small chocolate makers and what does exist is very expensive. As you can see from the NPR video above, most of my equipment is either built entirely by me, or modified and/or repurposed for use with chocolate. Since that video was made, I have upgraded from the three little melangers to one, much larger one. This has helped tremendously, but has turned my small tempering machine into a choke point.
How Will the Kickstarter Funds Be Used?
The first/main thing your support will go towards is a new, larger tempering machine. The new tempering machine will be able to handle a full batch from my larger melanger at one time (my current tempering machine can only do about a third of a batch at a time). Additionally, it will have a depositing pump that will be able to deposit a precise amount into a mold. This, combined with the larger capacity, will cut my time to temper and mold bars dramatically. This one change could enable me to almost double my production, as I am currently able to produce far more chocolate than I can temper and mold into finished bars.
With all of that extra time, I will start developing a new origin bar! Kickstarter supporters will have exclusive first access to this new bar. In addition to the finished bar, some of the rewards will let you try this new chocolate at different points along its development.
As you probably know, Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing deal. If I make my funding goal, great! If not, I get nothing and your credit card isn’t charged.
I’ve found that when it comes to making chocolate and running a small chocolate company that there's always something more to do--more cacao to try, more books to read, more tests to run, and more equipment to buy. There's always something to be done that could improve the quality of the chocolate or increase the production ability. For example, another piece of equipment I have my eye on is a new roaster that could handle a larger quantity of cacao, or possibly another large melanger.
Every dollar over the funding goal will be put towards one or more of these needs. So, if we hit the goal, please still contribute! The more we make, the more we can do!
How can you help?
In addition to your financial support, you can help to spread the word about Potomac Chocolate and this Kickstarter project. 'Like' this page, Tweet and/or post to Facebook about this project, etc! Every little bit helps!
Please use the 'Ask a Question' button below the photos if you have any questions about Potomac Chocolate or this Kickstarter project! I'll answer your question and post it in the FAQ section if it will help others, too.
Thank you for your support!
Risks and challenges
As a currently operating chocolate maker looking to increase production, there isn't much risk involved. Depending on how long it takes to acquire cacao and develop the new origin bar, it could be that the rewards take a little longer to deliver than I'm planning. Basically, unless I get hit by a bus or the earth is hit by a life ending meteor, there's not much risk that you won't get the rewards. :)Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (32 days)