Producing GREAT chocolate is a fine art, many chocolate producers have spent years perfecting the roasting times and looking for the perfect mix of cocao bean varieties!
Once all of this has been perfected, the chocolate producing process can begin!
The cocao PODS are harvested and opened.
Natural fermentation begins and the cocao beans start to develop.
PH is measured and the beans will be categorised depending on the results. It is at this point the farmer will know if his beans meet the grade!
Cocao farmers dry the cocao beans on large covered tarpaulin sheets, it is an arduous and important process. The beans need to be dry 5 – 6 days and reach a level of 7% moisture. The beans are at risk of mould and contamination throughout the drying period.
Well-dried beans are noted by their brown colour and low bitterness. After sampling their dried beans the farmers will then know they have good cocao beans!
Once the beans have been dried and approved, they are packed and shipped to their next destination……chocolate factories!!
3. Roasted for Flavour
Many cocao moons ago, beans would have been roasted in pans over open fires, but now the process is taken care of by huge industrial roasting machines!
Roasting the raw dried cocao beans is an art many chocolate producers take years to master! Beans will be roasted between 100 – 140 degrees and roasting times can range from 5 to 120 min.
The roasting process is much gentler than roasting coffee beans, cocoa beans are treated with careful and unique attention. Over roasting will ultimate damage the flavours and the beans will be tainted.
Throughout the roasting the beans develop their unique chocolatey flavour. It is at this point they turn into COCOA.
Roasting temperature, equipment and cocao bean varieties all account for the end flavour of the chocolate, which is why each chocolate producer offer chocolate with a unique flavour.
4. Get Grinding!
Grinding the beans into powder allows the true chocolate making process to begin.
Roasted beans are shelled (winnowing) and the remaining tiny hard bean, known as ‘cocoa nibs’ is ground into a fine powder. The shells are often used for animal feed or cultivating land.
Once the beans have been ground into a fine powder, they are mixed with milk, cocoa butter, sugar and any additional flavouring.
It is at this point the maker decides the strength of the chocolate.
The more milk and sugar added will reduce the strength and percentage of the chocolate, typically ending up as milk chocolate.
5. Conching (Mixing)
This process is a way of ensuring the flavours of the beans are further released and any ‘off flavours’ are eliminated.
The chocolate mixture will be carefully stirred at a set temperature, dependant on the flavour profile of the chocolate. Dark Chocolate is typically ‘conched’ at a much higher heat than Milk chocolate.
6. Cool & Mould
The melted chocolate is quickly cooled and formed into moulds. The chocolate is then cooled until it is ready to be wrapped and ready for eating!!
I have made this sound pretty simple, there is an art to producing chocolate.
These guys do a great job of explaining the chocolate making process, after all they have been doing it for nearly 120 years!