Chocolate Maker's Series-Part V Roasting
Posted by Jeff Stern on October 05, 2017
Chocolate makers know the crucial component for making good chocolate is to start with awesome beans. You can make great chocolate out of great beans, but you can't make bad beans into great chocolate. The following step of roasting is the next crucial process in making a good chocolate.
To enhance the flavor of the beans, they must be roasted properly. This means starting out with clean beans-beans that have been well-sorted to remove foreign objects, double and triple and higher clumps of beans stuck together, broken beans and moldy or insect infested beans. Beans that are clumped together will not roast evenly, and small beans or broken beans will also not roast evenly along with the rest of the beans.
Visually inspecting beans using a sorting table or as they come off a mechanical bean cleaner is a laborious but necessary process. Running the beans through a bean cleaner, which helps to remove dust, dirt, sticks, pebbles, and other foreign objects, is on its own not enough to ensure clean beans.
Roasting not only enhances and brings out chocolate flavor, it also reduces moisture in the beans and prepares them for winnowing and grinding. Good beans should have no more than an approximately 7% moisture content upon arrival and during storage. They should be held in a dry environment at 65F or less. Properly stored, moisture content in beans may decrease over time.
For some equipment, like a beater blade mill and a ball mill, moisture content is also an important parameter to control for. If enough moisture is not removed during the roast, the mass will be too viscous and will not flow properly. This can result in jammed pipes, pumps, and equipment during processing.
It is a tricky balance to achieve both the low moisture content certain processing equipment requires versus maintaining certain roast times and temperatures for optimal flavor. At times, machinery demands may have to take priority over flavor. Again, it is an art to find the right balance between flavor sacrifice and technical necessity.
Depending on the type of roaster and bean size, roast times can and should vary. This is where the judgement of the chocolate maker comes into play and there is no exact science or formula. Roast times generally vary from as few as 38 minutes to 45 minutes or more, with the sweet spot generally somewhere in between. Cacao beans tend to burn at 280F or higher, so most roast profiles, especially for fine flavor beans, should start somewhere as low as 240F and rarely exceed 270F except for very short periods of time.
This brief intro into the world of roasting illustrates how much the raw materials, and not just the processes behind them, are important for making a great chocolate.