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007 was right - it is better shaken not stirred. But in this case, it's not James Bond's favourite Martini I'm talking about - it's hot chocolate.
Back in June, I wrote about a Kickstarter project that was raising funds for a kitchen gadget that made hot chocolate. A few months earlier I was wowed by the ultra-stylish Velvetiser by Hotel Chocolat, a hot chocolate kitchen gadget with looks to kill. It's fair to say after this experience, I had my doubts about whether a manual kitchen gadget could deliver better results.
Fast forward to October when I met Alasdair and Duncan Garnsworthy from The Chocolate Society at London's Speciality Food Fair, where Duncan instantly quashed my scepticism by making me a hot chocolate in mere seconds. I was sold in a heartbeat.
Two weeks ago I got around to ordering one - a deal sweetened by a 25% discount code for the Hot Chocolate Shaker that unexpectedly popped up on the website - and took delivery early last week. And I haven't put the thing down yet! So much so, I ran out of chocolate in two days - PANIC!
The product arrived in a sturdy, brown cardboard box, which gives you an idea this product is all about substance over style. A teal blue cardboard band surrounds the Hot Chocolate Shaker, with white text explaining a bit about the product.
What is the Hot Chocolate Shaker?
Put simply, it's a simple idea executed superbly.
Imagine a beaker with a lid and that's about it. Clearly, there's a lot more science behind it, but to look at it, it's definitely a case of function over form. But that's not a bad thing. Sometimes, when product designers spend too much time of aesthetics, they forget to pay attention to the gadget's ability to perform its task well.
Despite the extra cost, Al felt it vitally important to manufacture these Hot Chocolate Shakers in the UK. The beaker is double-walled to avoid burning your hands, and made of Tritan shatter-proof plastic.
The lid features a thick rubber expansion popper that raises to accommodate the extra pressure created when shaking.
How does the Hot Chocolate Shaker work?
We're all used to stirring hot chocolate, be that with a spoon or a whisk. And I'm pretty sure, like me, you often end up with bits of unmelted chocolate or clumps of powder that just won't blend no matter how vigorously your stir.
Al recognised this as a problem and spent two years developing a solution, turning to science to find the answer. In his words, "when you stir a hot chocolate, you don't create enough friction to create the perfect emulsion".
Pop some chocolate into the beaker and add a hot liquid of your choice, be that hot milk (dairy or vegan, it's up to you) or hot water. Make sure the expansion lid is in its down position, and affix the lid. It presses onto the beaker and a slight twist fixes it in place. Shake for around 10 seconds. The expansion lid will pop up as the chocolate and liquid slosh around inside.
Check to make sure there's nothing stuck to the sides before carefully removing the lid and pouring into a cup. Serve immediately.
How does the science behind the Hot Chocolate Shaker work?
As you shake the beaker, the particles of liquid and chocolate violently smash into each other, and this action, together with the heat, creates an emulsified liquid. The resulting hot chocolate has the added benefit of being creamy, silky, and frothy every time.
This can't be done in a regular container, such as a clip top jar°. The hot liquid warms the air trapped in the jar, causing it to expand, in turn increasing the pressure inside the jar. It could potentially cause a hot chocolate explosion, risking burns and injury. That's where the special lid on the Hot Chocolate Shaker comes in, as it accommodates the expanded air by popping up.
What is good about the Hot Chocolate Shaker?
Ease. Pure and simple. I found making a hot chocolate with this gadget no more difficult than making a cup of tea, and I'm a dab hand at that.
It's a simple, no-nonsense gadget that's easy to use, even easier to clean, and takes up minimal space in the cupboard (not that mine has got that far yet).
Even better than this is its versatility in accepting pretty much any type of chocolate you can think of. The quantity and size of the pieces determine how long you'll need to shake for, but I found most of my experiments so far have needed just 10 seconds of shaking.
You can mix and match any base and chocolate as you see fit, so you can combine nut milks with dark chocolate and hot water with milk chocolate. You are limited only by your imagination.
Suggested recipes from The Chocolate Society include a vegan hot chocolate (dark chocolate with coconut milk), a Baileys hot chocolate (milk, blonde chocolate, and a dash of Baileys Irish Cream), oat milk hot chocolate (milk chocolate with oat milk), and even a Creme Egg hot chocolate (milk and a whole Cadbury Creme Egg split in two).
I've tried chocolate slabs, chocolate bars, chocolate drops, and chocolate powder with this handy little gadget and it happily caters for all of them. The size of chocolate is important - when I used a chunky chocolate bar, I need to snap each segment in half, and had to shake for an extra five seconds to ensure it had all melted.
Value for money
I should also mention the price point of just £25. It's incredibly good value for money, and produces a hot chocolate to rival the £100+ hot chocolate makers out there. And it can handle types of chocolate these expensive alternatives cannot.
And the bad points?
I expected the capacity to be an issue but I made three hot chocolates in quick succession and it wasn't a problem.
It's not a particularly glamorous kitchen gadget but nor is it ugly. It looks like the jug of a small worktop blender° or a compact protein shaker°. No, it's not draped in a metallic finish but it does not need such a coating. This is a practical and functional kitchen gadget that simply does what it claims to do - and it does it exceedingly well. It will sit next to your measuring jug in a cupboard without any fuss or nonsense.
The only criticism (and I'm really clutching at straws for this one) is that it is dependant upon a source of hot liquid (a kettle for hot water or a hob/microwave for hot milk). I'm lazy so have latched onto the kettle, using hot (not boiling) water as my hot liquid of choice, meaning that my hot chocolates are no more difficult to make than a mug of tea.
Would you recommend the Hot Chocolate Shaker?
Yes. Wholeheartedly, yes.
I was wowed by my demonstration of this gadget in London, and have wowed others by replicating that at home. It boggles my mind how it works, but work it does.
Smooth, lump free, creamy, frothy hot chocolate with as little as 10 seconds worth of shaking - and without any chocolate residue stuck to the sides of the beaker.
By all means, buy it as a Christmas present or birthday gift for a hot chocolate lover in your life, but be warned - it's so good you'll want one yourself. I know I did!
You can order it through The Chocolate Society website here° (£25 for the Hot Chocolate Shaker; £29.95 for the Shaker plus a 250g pack of hot chocolate drops). My top tip would be to order a pack of hot chocolate beads to get you going right out of the box (I ordered the 250g box of 41% Columbian milk chocolate drops). Bear in mind, they won't last long so you might want to add a couple to your order.
Hot Chocolate Shaker Review
RRP: £25.00 | The Chocolate Society | Shop now°
I was sceptical at first, but once I saw it in action, I was sold - and haven't looked back. Rich, creamy, frothy hot chocolate made with pretty much any type of chocolate in around 10 seconds is amazing! It can be no more challenging than making a cup of tea or instant coffee.
I've put together a list of hot chocolate recipes for the Hot Chocolate Shaker, which I'll update as and when I try new combinations.
Let me know if you buy one of these gadgets and what you try in it in the comments below. I'm experimenting with all sorts of flavours right now!