After deciding on the best chocolate fountain for your home or business needs, it is important to know how to use and maintain it properly in order to get the most out of your product. You must use your fountain correctly to maintain the integrity of your chocolate and eliminate safety concerns in commercial venues. Efficient cleaning methods will greatly prolong the life of your product and are an important part of owning a fountain. Follow this basic use and maintenance guide to help optimize the life and quality of your chocolate fountain.
Preparing Your Chocolate Fountain
The chocolate fountain experience can go off without a hitch if a few preparatory steps are taken to guarantee a successful presentation.
- Use a strong support surface.
Make sure that the fountain is placed on a surface that can hold at least 85 pounds. The fountain itself is relatively light, but chocolate, fresh fruit, skewers and plates can make the display quite heavy.
- Level the fountain.
Make sure the fountain is sitting level, or it may not operate properly and will flow unevenly.
- Use a dedicated circuit.
Plug the cord directly into the wall using its own circuit. Try not to use an extension cord, but if it is unavoidable, be sure to tape the cord to the floor to prevent people from tripping over it.
- Leave room for ventilation.
Vent holes are usually located on the underside of the fountain, so be sure not to block this area with linens or any other material to prevent over-heating of your fountain.
- Time your preparation.
If planning to melt the chocolate beforehand, do so immediately before placing it in the fountain. Reheated chocolate typically loses its smooth consistency. If melting it in the basin itself, be aware that this process could take up to an hour.
- Monitor the chocolate.
Both pre-melted and basin-melted chocolate need to be carefully monitored when it is first added to the fountain. Stir the chocolate frequently and spoon it towards the center (the auger) to get the fountain flowing with liquid chocolate.
Chocolate Melting Methods
There are three ways to melt fountain chocolate: on the stovetop, in the microwave and in the basin.
- Stovetop melting.
In a double boiler, place the chocolate over low heat. Stir the chocolate constantly to avoid burning until it is fully melted. The double boiler prevents direct heat from creating a gritty and burnt texture that will ruin your chocolate.
- Microwave melting.
Microwaves melt the chocolate in less time than any other method, but be careful not to let the microwave run for too long. On a low heat setting, place the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 30 seconds. Remove the bowl, stir the chocolate, and repeat until the chocolate is fully melted.
- Basin melting.
When melting your chocolate directly in the basin, it is important to stir the chocolate every 3-5 minutes to prevent burning. Be aware that basin melting can take up to an hour depending on the size of the fountain and the amount of chocolate.
Optimum Chocolate Temperatures
The temperature at which you melt and hold your chocolate is essential to the quality of your product. A fountain that is kept too hot will burn the chocolate, creating a thick and grainy quality with a bad taste and tendency to clog the fountain. The right temperature will create the perfect liquid curtain and prevent clumping.
Different dairy and cocoa percentages in dark, milk and white chocolate equate to differing consistencies in the chocolate, changing the melting and holding temperature of each. Follow the chart below for a general idea of what temperature is best melting for each type of chocolate, but keep in mind that all chocolate is different and you may need to adjust these guidelines for your particular type of chocolate. Also, the temperature of your chocolate may not always reflect the set temperature of the basin, so it is a good idea to keep a candy thermometer on hand to test the chocolate itself and adjust the basin temperature as needed.
|Chocolate||Fixed Basin Temp (ºF)||Approx Melting Time (min)|
Different chocolates are held at different temperatures during service. If your fountain is left running after the event or overnight, it is best to lower the temperature of the fountain to prevent burning and fountain overheating. Follow these guidelines to find the best temperature for holding your chocolate:
|Chocolate||Fixed Basin Temp (ºF)||Chocolate Temp|
Other Uses for Chocolate Fountains
Chocolate fountains can be used for more than satisfying a sweet tooth; they are an accessible and unique way to present many different kinds of dips at any type of venue. Here are some other dips you can put in your fountain:
- Cheese fondue.
Cheese fondue is a common alternative and can be just as elegant and delicious as chocolate. Ready-made cheese is available, or for smaller events it can be fun to test out savory homemade recipes.
For a new twist on a sweet favorite, try presenting caramel fondue instead of chocolate for fountains. Specialty caramels are made that only require the addition of water and work just as well with fruits, cakes, candies and even chocolates.
- BBQ sauce and ranch dressing.
Fountains provide an accessible and less-mess option at barbecues and tailgating parties with the addition of barbecue sauce, and can also be used with ranch dressing for vegetables and chips.
Cleaning Your Fountain
Follow these simple steps to prolong the life of your fountain and ensure a sanitary product after each use:
- Clean up immediately. Since chocolate can harden quickly, it is best to clean the fountain immediately after use. Turn off the machine and prepare for cleanup with a plastic bag, a spatula, a sponge and a mild detergent.
- Disassemble as much as possible. Most fountains disassemble into four parts: the auger tube, the auger, the bowl and tiers and the base. Taking apart the fountain will allow you to clean more thoroughly and run as many parts through the dishwasher as possible.
- Remove the excess chocolate. Take a spatula and remove as much of the excess chocolate as possible. Pick up any chocolate that can not be reached with the spatula using a sponge dampened with hot water. Excess chocolate should not be placed down a drain, as large quantities can clog the drain. Rather, place the remaining chocolate in a trash bag to be disposed of.
- Use the dishwasher. In most cases, every part except the electrical base can be run through the dishwasher to ensure a thorough cleaning. However, if your tiers are made of plastic, it is best to check with the manufacturer before placing them in a a dishwasher.
- Check the auger. The auger, the spiral central tube that generates the chocolate movement, can become clogged with chocolate, so be sure to check it even after it goes through the dishwasher.
- Hand wash the base. The base itself cannot be cleaned in the dishwasher, but if the basin is attached it can be filled with water for cleaning. If there is chocolate speckled around the base itself, it is best to remove it with a sponge and hot, soapy water.
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