Posted by Jeff Stern on 16th May 2017
The journey the cacao bean makes, from the tree all the way to the chocolate bar on the store shelf, is a long one. But you'll have a basic understanding of what happens after you've read this post. To make chocolate, you need cacao beans, sugar, and the right equipment.
Cacao beans are first harvest from cocoa (cacao) pods, which are opened by hand. The beans are removed and fermented at source, a process which takes anywhere from approximately two to seven days. After fermentation, the beans are then either sun-dried or artificially dried, usually using gas heaters.
At this point beans are ready for processing. But in most cases, cacao beans are shipped to processing facilities around the world. The first step upon arrival is a brief cleaning of the beans to remove any foreign materials. Beans are then immediately roasted for approximately 45 minutes to an hour.
After roasting, beans are winnowed. This is a mechanical process which separates the shell from the bean inside it. At the same time as the winnowing occurs, the beans are cracked and the nibs are separated by size.
Nibs are then sent to grinding equipment. Because nibs are so hard, most grinding equipment either uses granite stones or hardened steel blades to crush the nibs. Because of the heat generated during this process, cocoa butter is released (the fat within cocoa beans-which is usually around 45-50%), and the ground nibs become semi-liquid. These ground nibs are now called cocoa mass or cocoa liquor.
At this point we have a very basic chocolate like substance, but it's still very bitter and nearly unpalatable. This mass is further ground on industrial equipment or by mechanized stone grinders, sugar is added, and it is further ground.
Finally, conching is the last step in chocolate production. There are several different types of machines and methods for conching. But the important point is that during conching, the chocolate is aerated and heated for several hours and sometimes up to several days. This allows the liquid mass to release some of the "off" flavors developed during fermentation, and chocolate flavor develops here.
Finally, finished chocolate is here and it is tempered and molded into bars at this final stage.
I hope you have a basic understanding now of how chocolate is made!
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- Check Us Out At The National Museum of the American Indian