We all love chocolates, and it is a vital ingredient in many delicious food items like cookies, milkshakes, cakes, candy bars and much more. We like to order chocolate online, and despite its popularity, the origins and procedure of chocolate making are unknown.
Here is a short overview of the complex chocolate making procedure, step by step, from cocoa bean to a chocolate bar:
What is the genesis of a chocolate?
Chocolate is derived from the tropical evergreen trees of Cocoa. In the moist lowland tropical regions of South America, Central America, Southeast Asia and West Africa, Cocoa trees like Theobroma Cocoa are grown and harvested.
The Cocoa Processing Stages
Firstly, the football-sized seed pods of cocoa are manually collected and broken to get the cocoa beans when they are ripe (raw pod are green, which turns orange and yellow as they turn ripe). Harvesters travel within the cocoa orchards to collect the ripening seeds.
The fresh beans are sorted and quickly covered in mats or banana leaves, or heated under the sun to balance and enhance the moisture. This process is known as “FERMENTATION”. This process takes around six to eight days for periodically checking the beans and stirring them for equal fermentation. After the fermentation process, the beans change their colour from pale to dark brown.
#3 Drying and Storage
After fermentation, a lot of moisture gets collected into the cocoa beans. These cocoa beans are then dried to be packed in a box with lid and shipped to the manufacturer for further production.
Although the drying process of the seeds depends on the climatic conditions of an area and size of the beans, the most common process of drying cocoa beans is laying them on a tray or mat, under the sun. However, in areas with more than average rainfall, the seeds are dried inside a closed shed, as long as they get dried in a natural air circulating them. It takes approximately one to two weeks for the beans to reach the correct balance of dryness and moisture.
The wood fire process of drying seeds is not preferred by reputed chocolate manufacturers as it develops a smoky taste inside the beans.
Every chocolate manufacturer has their secret recipe and procedure for chocolate production. However, there are certain steps that every manufacturer is bound to follow to get best quality chocolate.
#1 Testing, Sampling and Cleaning
Even though the cocoa beans are selectively handpicked at the farms, chocolate manufacturers make each bean undergo a substantial trial and sampling process. This procedure starts with testing of cocoa beans for insects, moulds, correct size and other similar defects.
After selecting the predefined beans, they are transformed into chocolate liquor samples, which undergoes aroma and flavour test by experienced company chocolate tasters. After the testing process is complete, selected beans are sent to the factory for proper washing and cleaning to remove pollutants, if any.
#2 Roasting, Cracking and Winnowing
The cleaned group of beans is then roasted for minimum 10 minutes to maximum 35 minutes, depending on the manufacturer's preference. Roasting is important to bring out the necessary flavour and colour for chocolate production.
During the roasting process, the outer shell is removed, and the inner portion is cracked into small pieces. Those little pieces of inner bean meat are known as “cocoa nibs”.
Then, the shells of cocoa nibs and outer shell undergo a sieving process to sort and strain cocoa nibs based on its size, this process is known as “winnowing”. It is done by exposing the nibs to heavy current of air, to blow away the shells of the heavy nibs.
#3 Grinding, Refining and Conching
Once the winnowing is complete, these beans are put into a grinding machine, like melangeur to crush the cocoa nibs and extract the liquefied cocoa butter. This liquefied substance is then processed to produce chocolate liquid.
This liquid is then refined with a ball mill or roll refiner, which helps in reducing the component size of the original cocoa mass and other ingredients like milk powder or sugar, and evenly distributing and coating the cocoa butter throughout the particles. This process indulges a lot of heat that automatically melts cocoa butter.
This is where the manufacturers decide on the flavour and texture of final chocolate production, as this is the first step towards deriving the smooth and creamy texture of the end product. Depending on the chocolate flavour, level of other ingredients like, sugar, milk and lecithin is decided.
Under the conching process, some amount of bitterness present in the chocolate liquor is released, which gives a creamy, smooth quality to the final product. The chocolate liquor is kneaded continuously for hours, with a roller or paddle to derive the desired texture and flavour.
#4 Chocolate Formation
Finally, the chocolate mass or mixture is tempered and smoothly moulded into chocolate bars for desired retail production.