Chocolate ABC

How chocolate is made?

Cocoa beans go a long way before they can be made into chocolate. Freshly gathered beans have an intensive, sour-and-bitter taste, which is nothing like the chocolate sweetness we know.  That is why, until the 18th century some South American tribes gathered cacao fruits not because of their precious seeds, but for the sweetish pulp which surrounds them. During the hundreds of years of bringing cacao beans processing to perfection, a multistage process was developed, thanks to which in chocolate there is no trace of the tart taste characteristic of the beans.

Cocoa beans

Cocoa beans undergo initial processing before they leave the plantation. The beans are taken out of their pods and subjected to a fermentation process in special containers. Within 3-6 days, saccharides from the pulp surrounding the beans decompose into alcohol and then into acetic acid. After the fermentation beans may contain up to 60 per cent of water, and so they must be dried. The simplest way is to spread them on mats or sun-heated ground.

Roasting cocoa beans

This is a very important stage, during which any excessive amount of water is evaporated from the beans. At this stage a large part of sour substances evaporates as well, which improves the flavour of the beans. Before roasting, the beans must be carefully sorted. Any crumbled beans are separated from whole beans which are segregated according to size and roasted separately. This process prevents non-uniform heating of the beans, because over-roasted beans lose part of their taste qualities and become more bitter.

Preparation of cocoa nibs

Special machines are used in this process in order to separate shells and germs from the kernels. The resulting product, called cocoa nibs, undergoes separation from the shells at the subsequent stage where a system of sieves with different hole sizes is used.

Preparation of cocoa liquor

Cocoa nibs are thoroughly ground in special mills, where cells are cracked open to free the fat. This butter gives the obtained mass a half-liquid consistency (paste).

What is cocoa liquor?

Cocoa pulp is a key intermediate in the chocolate production process. The high content of cocoa liquor and cocoa butter is one of the hallmarks of high-quality chocolate. In product packaging, the proportion of cocoa liquor and fat by weight is referred to as “cocoa content”.

Liquefying

Cocoa mass is the basic half-product for chocolate production. The second indispensable ingredient is the cocoa fat pressed from the mass. Before actual pressing the cocoa mass is left to ripen, by heating and stirring it in special containers. The liquefying process itself takes place in hydraulic presses. After the fat is separated from the mass in the press the so-called cocoa press cake is obtained, used i.a. for the production of cocoa powder.

Cocoa cook

This is a residue from the cocoa butter (fat) separation process. The cook is ground and sieved, resulting from the division of the finely ground cocoa mass. The result is cocoa powder, which is used, among others, in the production of cocoa beverages.

Mixing cocoa mass with butter

Cocoa mass is mixed with cocoa butter in such proportions as to achieve a product with about 30 per cent of fat. Sugar is also added at this stage.

Conching chocolate

This is a very important stage in chocolate production. It consists in intensive and long-lasting mixing of the liquid mass (liquor) in heated conches. After the conching process chocolate becomes milder to taste, losing much of the bitterness and gaining a smoother texture.

This occurs due to the reduction of water in mass, reduction of the amount of volatile acids and tannins. The process of conching chocolate takes 72 hours on average, up to a week. Depending on what the final product is to be, in the last stage of conching, other ingredients enriching the taste, e.g. vanilla, may be added.