From Bean to Bar


At the Manufacturer

Chocolate manufacture is not the immediate concern of the artisan confectioner. It is logical, however, that anyone who uses chocolate frequently in his or her professional life should have an essential knowledge of how that product is made. The steps in the following manufacturing chart can be performed in different orders by different manufacturers.


Cleaning and Blending Cocoa Beans

Cocoa beans arrive at the manufacturer containing an assortment of impurities, such as stones, pieces of metal, twigs, and every type of foreign matter imaginable. Cleaning is accomplished in several stages, including through sieving. The sue of magnets, and the removal of dust to ensure the purity of the chocolate.


Blending several varieties of beans at the manufacturer is historically another important step in chocolate production. In recent years, there has been a marketing effort emphasizing single-origin chocolate made from beans from one country, region or even plantation. Opinions regarding single-origin chocolates vary. Some claim this chocolate to be of highest quality; others maintain that the best chocolate is made by mixing beans with different characteristics to create a chocolate with the most complex flavor. A case can be made for either argument, but as with all things taste related, opinions on this matter are highly subjective. each confectioner must choose chocolates based on their flavor profile and working characteristics and on economic realities.



The primary function of roasting is to develop chocolate flavor. Fermented, unroasted cocoa beans exhibit little or no chocolate aroma, but contain the precursors to create chocolate flavor. Roasting unfermented beans will also not result in chocolate flavor; only fermented and roasted beans will yield the desired results. Just as coffee may be roasted to varying degrees for different results, cocoa beans may also be roasted to different temperatures for specific flavor profiles, depending on the desired outcome and the beans being used. Roasting may be performed at different points in manufacturing. There are three main methods of roasting in common use: whole bean roasting, nib roasting, and liquor roasting. Each method has its unique advantages and challenges, but excellent results can be obtained from any of these methods. In all cases, the object is to roast the beans to develop their optimal flavor without over-roasting them, which can overshadow flavor nuances. Lower-roast chocolates often exhibit a reddish color, while darker-roast chocolates are darker brown. In addition to developing flavor, roasting removes most of the remaining moisture from the beans, making them more friable for further processing. When roasting is completed, the cacao has developed its chocolate flavor, but still has a decidedly sour aroma due to the volatile acids that are by-products of fermentation. These acids are not removed until near the end of processing, during conching. Due to naturally occurring differences between varieties and batches of beans, it is desirable to roast bean varieties independently of one another, in order to ensure optimal flavor development. Only then are the varieties of beans blended.



Micronizing is the process of breaking the beans into pieces. This step may occur at one of two points: when the beans are already roasted, if whole-bean roasting is employed, or before roasting, when nib roasting is used. Once broken, the bean consists of two parts: nib and shell. During micronizing, it is important that the shell be completely detached from the nib so that the two parts may be sifted apart. For the manufacturer, it is also desirable to have all of the nibs a homogeneous size for processing, particularly if nib roasting is employed to ensure even roasting. Micronizing the cocoa beans permits the next steps in processing.



Winnowing is the process of separating the shells from the nibs. It is carried out by a series of sieves combined with airflow. By FDA standards, chocolate liquor may not contain more than 1.75 percent cocoa shell. Regulations aside, it is important to remove as much as of the shells as possible, as it contribute off flavors to the chocolate, and the fat it contains has a softening effect on cocoa butter.


Grinding or Milling

Grinding or milling is the process of crushing the nibs to create chocolate liquor. In chocolate manufacturing, chocolate liquor may be used in one of two processes: either it is pressed in order to separate it into cocoa butter and cocoa powder, or it is mixed into a batch of chocolate.



Mixing is the process of combining the ingredients to create a batch of chocolate; chocolate liquor, sugar, cocoa butter, vanilla, lecithin, and sometimes milk solids are mixed together to create a homogeneous blend. Although lecithin is an integral part of most chocolate, it is likely that its entire amount will not be added during mixing, but will be incorporated at the end of conching, as its hydrophilic quality holds moisture and diminishes the efficacy of conching.



Refining is the vital step of particle size reduction. Chocolate liquor can be a relatively coarse product, with a discernable grain to it, and the sugar used in chocolate manufacture is crystalline, so when these ingredients are mixed together to make chocolate, the blend has a coarse texture. The objective of refining is to reduce the particles of all components to a size that cannot be felt in the mouth, but fine-quality chocolate has a particle size in the neighborhood of 15 to 20 microns, resulting in a delightfully smooth mouth feel. Refining is usually accomplished by running the batch through a series of stone rollers, which crush and shear the particles to their final size.



Although all the ingredients in chocolate are now present, and the particles are reduced to the proper dimensions, the product still bears little resemblance to the chocolate that confectioners work with every day. It is a thick, crumbly paste that does not flow. Also, although it has a chocolate aroma, it still contains the volatile acids that were present in the fermented beans, and therefore has a pronounced sour aroma.. During conching, a process accomplished by long-term exposure to heat, oxygen and agitation, the volatile acids and most of the remaining traces of water are evaporated, and the viscosity of the chocolate is improved. dark chocolate is usually conched at approximately 70 Celsius, for a period ranging from 3 to 96 hours. Removing the trace of water in the chocolate helps to improve the viscosity, and evaporating and other organic acids removes the sour smell and flavor. Conching also coat all the particles with a film of cocoa butter, allowing them to move within the system more freely, thus improving viscosity.


The full range of reactions that occur during conching and exactly how conching contributes to flavor development are not totally understood, so some of the mystique of the process remains. A persistent myth holds that longer conching necessarily produces a better-quality chocolate. Like any cooking process, however, more is not necessary better. In cooking it is up to the chef to decide when an item has reached its full potential and when further cooking will actually diminish quality. The same is true of conching: it is up to the manufacturer to decide at what point the chocolate has reached its optimal quality for use, and when further conching will result in diminished quality rather than in an improvement.


Tempering, Depositing, and Cooling

Just as the artisan confectioner must temper chocolate to be used in enrobing, manufacturers must temper the finished chocolate before molding or depositing it in order to ensure proper gloss an snap upon setting. This is usually accomplished by continuous tempering machines that agitate and seed the chocolate so that it can be deposited or molded. Chocolate tempered in this way will set with the expected degree of shine, hardness, and uniformity. The only freshly manufactured chocolate not tempered before shipping is liquid chocolate, which is transported in tanker trucks to confectionery manufacturers.


When chocolate is to be sold in blocks, bars, pistols, or some other solid form, it must be deposited and then cooled to promote proper crystallization. Cooling is accomplished in a cooling tunnel, which gradually decreases the temperature, setting the chocolate, and then slowly returns to a more ambient temperature to prevent any thermal shock or condensation, which could result in sugar bloom.


Dutching and Pressing

An optional step in chocolate manufacturing, Dutch processing is accomplished by treating the cacao with an alkali, usually potassium carbonate. Dutch processing may be carried out at various stages in chocolate manufacturing, including treating the whole beans, nibs, chocolate liquor or cocoa powder, although it is most often the nibs that are treated. The primary function of Dutch processing is to reduce the acidity of cacao; it also noticeably darkens the color. Dutch processing is not frequently used in the manufacture of chocolate. it is however, frequently applied to cacao that will be pressed to separate the cocoa butter from the cocoa powder. Manufacturers press chocolate liquor because they need extra cocoa butter to manufacture chocolate. In a manner of speaking, then, cocoa powder is a by-product of the chocolate manufacturing process, and is not likely to be made from the highest-quality cocoa beans. Usually the lower-quality, more acidic cacao is used for pressing. Dutch processing removes the excessive acidity and sour flavors, as well as making the cocoa powder darker in color, increasing its visual appeal. Most people would agree that while Dutching makes cocoa powder look more like chocolate, and makes it less sour tasting, it does not make the cocoa powder taste more like chocolate. Any chocolate or cocoa powder that is Dutch processed must indicate on the label that it has been treated with an alkali.