Make your Own Chocolate
Have you ever thought how great it would be to actually make chocolate from the raw cocoa beans to the finished product? Well now it is possible to make chocolate from Bean-to-Bar on a small scale in your kitchen at home. There are basically 6 steps in the process and they are as follows:
Cocoa beans are fermented and dried in the country of origin before they are exported in hessian sacks, however it is necessary to roast the beans (much like coffee) to not only enhance the lovely roasted flavour but also to eliminate any microbiological risk. You can do this in an ordinary household oven set at around 130°C. The roasting time will depend a little bit on your oven and how roasted you want the beans to be but generally speaking you should roast the beans for around 25-32 minutes.
Spread the beans out on a baking tray and start with 20 minutes checking the beans at various stages to make sure you don’t over roast them. If you open your oven and you have a nice chocolate brownie smell you are getting close. Taste the beans to see if they have a nice roasted flavour. If not continue roasting for a few minutes more. Be very careful not to over roast or you will get a slight burnt taste from the beans.
Cracking and Winnowing the Beans:
Removing the skin/shell from the roasted beans can be done by hand. The shell only represents about 20% of the beans but should be removed before taking the next step. Once the beans have cooled apply pressure to the beans with your hands and they will crack. Once the bean is cracked the shell (also known as the husk) should come away quite easily from the roasted bean (also called the cocoa nib). Don’t worry if you can’t get all the shell off as a very small amount left on the nibs will not affect the final chocolate. As the shell is much lighter than the cocoa nib you can also try blowing air to remove the husks. This is known as winnowing. It can be quite messy so maybe a good idea to do it outside. First put the beans in a plastic bag and gently crush them with a rolling pin just enough to break the shell. Put the beans into a bowl and carefully blow air onto them. Because the shell is much lighter than the nibs most of the shell will blow away leaving you with just the nibs and a small amount of shell. For those that want to make much larger quantities of chocolate this is very time consuming. Therefore we recommend investing in a Cracker and/or a winnower.
Grinding the Cocoa Nibs:
You can make up to 2kg of chocolate per grind. Once the beans have been roasted and the shells removed, the next step is to pre-grind or break the beans down to small nibs. You can do this by putting the roasted beans in a plastic bag and bashing them up with a rolling pin. The smaller you can get the nibs the better because this will put less strain on your wet grinder (see next chapter on Conching). If you prefer you can pre-grind using a coffee grinder if you have one or a juice blender but be careful because after a while the cocoa butter in the nibs might start to melt and bung up your grinder. You just need to get to a course grainy paste.
This is the stage where you will need to invest in some small equipment and fortunately we have the perfect cost effective machine for small scale chocolate making. This small wet grinder can make up to 2kgs of chocolate.
First put your pre-ground paste or small cocoa nibs in the wet grinder with the stone rollers quite loose and not screwed down tightly. Mix the nibs until they break down into a paste (5-10 mins). You will need to apply a small amount of heat, so using a hair dryer, heat the nibs until they start to melt. Next add your sugar (we recommend nothing bigger than caster sugar as the particle size is quite small) and, if making milk chocolate, whole milk powder.
Tempering the Chocolate:
This is the final stage before pouring your bean-to-bar chocolate into your chocolate moulds. However there is a way to successfully temper chocolate at home using a much simpler method that just takes a bit longer. Pour your freshly made chocolate (which will already be around 45°C) from the wet grinder into a plastic or glass bowl (make sure the bowl is not warm – in fact if the bowl is quite cold it will help to bring the temperature of the chocolate down more quickly). Place the bowl in a cool area (not the fridge) and if possible put a fan near the bowl to speed cooling. The chocolate has to be cooled to its working (or tempered) temperature before you can put it into moulds. This will take around one hour depending on room temperature and you must stir the chocolate thoroughly every 5-10 minutes to ensure even temperature in the chocolate. The working or ‘tempered’ temperature will depend on the type of chocolate you are making:
Dark chocolate – cool to 28-29°C then use the hair dryer warm to 30-31°C
Milk chocolate – cool to 27-28° then use the hair dryer to warm to 29-30°C
White chocolate – cool to 26-27°C then use the hair dryer to warm to 28-29°C
Moulding and Cooling:
After tempering the chocolate you can pour or pipe it into your chocolate moulds. Tap the mould gently to fill the mould evenly and bring any air bubbles to the surface and put in the fridge to set. Cooling will take around 30-60 minutes depending on how big your mould is and how cold the fridge.
After 60 minutes take out the chocolate, gently tap the moulds to release the chocolate. Allow your chocolate to get to room temperature before tasting to get the best flavour and enjoy!
Summary of the Process of Transforming Cocoa Beans into Chocolate
Step 1. The fermented and dried cocoa beans are cleaned to remove all extraneous material so ready to roast when you receive them.
Step 2. To bring out the chocolate flavour and colour, the beans are roasted. The temperature, time and degree of moisture involved in roasting depend on the type of beans used and the sort of chocolate or product required from the process.
Step 3. A winnowing machine is used to remove the shells from the beans to leave just the cocoa nibs. This step can be done by hand when using small quantities – otherwise lightly break the roasted cocoa beans and put in a pan or high sided bowl. Take outside and using a hairdryer on low speed, blow over the cocoa to blow away the lighter skins/shells of the beans. Messy but effective!
Step 4. The nibs are then milled to create cocoa mass/liquor (cocoa particles suspended in cocoa butter). The temperature and degree of milling varies according to the type of nib used and the product required.
Step 5.Other ingredients such as sugar, milk, and Cocoa Butter are also added and mixed in the Melangeur/grinder as the nibs are being milled. The proportions of the different ingredients depend on the type of chocolate being made. Ideally the milling or grinding in a melangeur needs to reduce the particle size down to around 20 micron, so you get a smooth mouthfeel with no gritty or sandiness on your tongue - as with industrially produced chocolate,[Cocoa mass/liquor can be pressed under extreme pressure to extract the pure cocoa butter, which can be added to adjust the viscosity (thick/thinness) to make the chocolate more fluid so easier to temper later.]
Step 6. The next process, conching, further develops flavour and texture by aerating the chocolate which allows the bitter volatiles to evaporate so Conching is a kneading or smoothing process. The speed, duration and temperature of the kneading affect the flavour. This can also be done in the Melangeur as a continuation of the milling/grinding, so the lid of the Melanguer needs to be removed during this process, which can take some hours.
Step 7. The mixture is then tempered or passed through a heating, cooling and reheating process. This prevents discolouration and fat bloom in the product by preventing certain crystalline formations of cocoa butter developing so results in a shiny hard snap finish to the chocolate.
Step 8. The mixture is then put into moulds or used for en robing fillings and then needs to be cooled at around 10-12 degrees – a domestic fridge is too cool and can result in condensation forming once you remove the finished chocolate.