3D-printing is nothing new, but 3D-printing chocolate is certainly something that’s new at the TechRadar offices. We got our hands on the Mycusini 3D Chocolate Printer, and we can definitely confirm that this has been one of the most enjoyable products we’ve reviewed so far this year. After all, what’s not to like about reviewing a printer that prints chocolate?
It’s far from fiction – the Mycusini will spit out figures, letters, shapes, figures, and all manners of 3D designs. You can use them as cake toppers, fun little after-dinner desserts, or whatever your imagination can come up with. There’s a slight learning curve if you’ve never used a 3D printer before, but once you’ve got things sorted, you’ll be on your way to churning out some great chocolate prints.
There are of course, a couple of things to keep in mind. The chocolate itself tastes quite average, akin to the kind of chocolate you’d find in an Advent calendar. The actual prints can take as little as 15 minutes to produce, or can stretch on to over an hour for very complicated or larger prints. You’re also tied to using special chocolate ‘cartridges’ with the Mycusini, so don’t think you can shove any kind of chocolate bar into it and it will magically work.
It’s a wonderful device to use if you want an extra bit of creativity to your desserts, or if you’re already familiar with 3D printers and wanted to produce models that are actually edible. For others, its steep price tag will certainly make you think twice before splurging.
Price and availability
The Mycusini is available exclusively in the UAE at Virgin Megastore, and is priced at AED 2,835. A pack of 5 chocolate cartridges (which equates to 10 printer refills) retails for AED 49.
That’s a lot of money to pay for a 3D printer, and while a regular 3D printer may prove to be more useful with the long-lasting things it can print, you’ll have to really think hard about the benefits of having a chocolate printer in your house.
While most 3D printers are bulky or require a fair bit of assemble, the Mycusini does not. The entire thing ships as one complete unit, and is built out of a strong plastic body. Wiring is all neatly concealed or tucked away, and there’s nothing that looks out of place.
In the box you’ll get the printer itself, a power cord, a silicon mat that acts as a print bed, and an instruction manual. There’s also a USB microSD card reader that will allow you to transfer your own custom models to the machine.
At the top you’ll find the machine controls, which are limited to just one dial that can be pressed down to confirm a selection. There’s a small LCD to navigate through the simple menus, as well as the microSD card slot and a reset button. Oddly, the power port is located at the top rather than at the bottom, and there’s also a USB port to connect the printer to a computer, but no cable or instructions for this are included.
The actual print head consists of a white plastic tube which can be twisted off. Inside, there’s a small metal tube which holds the actual chocolate cartridge. Included in our review kit were two kinds of chocolate – white and dark chocolate raspberry. Loading is very simple – just cut a cartridge in half, pop it into the metal tube, and screw everything back in place. The machine will then go on a heating cycle for 10 minutes before it will be ready to print anything.
Unlike normal 3D printers that heat a filament as well as the print bed, the Mycusini only heats the printer head, which in turn melts the chocolate inside while a plunger presses down to extrude it onto the silicone mat. The actual print bed is rather small, measuring around 10cm x 10cm, with an actual print surface of about 8cm x 8cm and 10cm high.
One thing we would have liked to see with the Mycusini is some sort of plastic or glass panels for the unit so that it protects it while the chocolate is being printed. Considering this is meant to be eaten, we think that some users might prefer having certain areas of the printer covered up so that it stays clean during printing as well as during storage.
The Mycusini ships with hundreds of great templates to immediately print out, and a handy booklet clearly shows what each model looks like and where it can be found on the microSD card.
Once you’ve loaded a chocolate cartridge and the machine has warmed up, you’ll need to manually extrude chocolate until it begins to flow freely. This requires a bit of finesse and practice – on our first print we thought that the chocolate was flowing properly before starting our print, but after a few seconds, there was nothing coming out of the nozzle, resulting in at least 2-3 layers being skipped. This happened to us quite regularly, and there doesn’t seem to be any trick to ensuring that you’re going to get a constant flow of chocolate from the very moment it starts printing.
But for those times when everything lines up just right, the print results are fantastic, and often quite quick. A ‘Happy Birthday’ cake topper took just 12 minutes to print out after the machine had warmed up, and a delicate ‘pinecone’ cup took about 18 minutes to print.
A good thing about the Mycusini is that it encourage you to print out fillable molds in the shape of letters, cups, and other shapes. You can then pipe in your own kind of filling to make your own truffles or bonbons, limited only by your imagination. It’s a good way for amateurs to make their own signature chocolates, and there’s plenty of help online as well.
With your printer you also get access to an online club, where you can download more available templates, easily create your own text templates to print, or even upload other 3D printing projects to convert into a template that the Mycusini can understand. Then just pop the microSD card back in, and your new custom creation will come to life.
We should warn you though not to think of too lofty ideas for your custom prints, especially ones that might make the printer run out of chocolate and require a refill half-way through. This happened to us when we tried printing a nifty Batman logo – the printer ran out of chocolate and we swapped in a new cartridge. It then went through the 10 minute warm-up time again, but when it started printing onto the already hardened chocolate on the print bed, it ended up moving the silicon mat out of place, making it difficult to actually resume printing with a smooth model.
During another print, the printer stopped halfway and reported that the cartridge was empty, even though there were still plenty left inside. Nevertheless, we removed the cartridge holder only to find that there was still half of the melted cartridge remaining which had stuck inside.
There were also instances where chocolate wasn’t properly adhering to the print bed, and instead sticking to the print head and causing all sorts of problems during the print job. It’s not easy to try and quickly pry off this chocolate from the print head while the machine is printing, so we had to just watch in dismay as the extra chocolate was dragged around our print model, ruining most of it.
If you’re thinking of changing cartridges from one flavor or the other, make sure you do this when the machine has heated up the cartridge. Trying to remove a hardened block of chocolate from the machine is nearly impossible, and you’ll have to resort to all kinds of kitchen gadgets to pry it out of the cartridge holder. Should things get a bit messy, there’s a cleaning protocol that lets you clean out the machine to ensure that no hardened bits of chocolate remain anywhere.
The final question of course is how does it actually taste? Well, it tastes like chocolate that’s for sure - just not very good quality chocolate. Because the chocolate needs to harden quickly after its extruded, the chocolate cartridges contain a high percentage of vegetable fats, which makes for an odd aftertaste. For anyone seriously creating their own chocolates with the Mycusini, we would suggest printing out molds instead and topping these up with much more flavorful fillings to mask the taste of the printed chocolate.
Should I buy the Mycusini 3D Chocolate Printer?
Buy it if…
You love decorating desserts
There are some great things to print that can be topped on desserts, cakes, cupcakes, and much more. It’s certain to bring an extra ‘wow’ factor to anything you serve.
You’re an aspiring chocolate maker
The ability to print your own chocolate molds and fill them with all kinds of fillings can really let your imagination run wild, as long as you’re happy with using the default chocolate cartridges.
Don’t buy it if…
You want good quality chocolate
The chocolate used in the Mycusini isn’t the highest quality, so the beauty of your printed creations won’t mask its unusual taste. You sadly can’t use your own chocolate brands, so this is the price to pay for beautiful looking chocolate printouts.
You’re not tech-savy
While the Mycusini is easy to setup and operate, we feel that a majority of users who’ve never encountered a 3D printer before will feel quite perplexed by the number of instructions involved in printing something. Not to mention, trying to figure out how to make and print their own custom models.
You’re not a fan of cleaning up
Cartridges can sometimes get stuck and lead to all kinds of mess, so if you don’t like carving chocolate out of a small metal tube, this might not be the device for you.