Posted in Kafevend Blog
Countdown to chocolate: two
If you can cast your mind back to the end of last week, you may remember our blog
that started looking at how chocolate is made, with a view to showing you how to make some of your own for someone- or several someones- for Christmas. Before we get on to that of course, we need to finish our recounting of turning those beans into bars.
After arriving at the factory, the sacks of cocoa beans are sifted through to remove the assorted detritus that may have found its way into the bag, such as twigs and stones. With that done, the beans are roasted. As with coffee
, roasting has a major impact on developing the flavour of chocolate thanks to the myriad chemical reactions- and similarly again turns them that recognisable shade of brown. It also serves as a way of sterilising the beans, reducing the risk of things like mould from ruining them. On an industrial scale, roasting can take anywhere from half an hour to a couple of hours and is carried out in large drum machines that rotate the beans to ensure even heating.
Winnowing & grinding
Next, the roasted beans are broken up and the constituent parts separated in a process known as winnowing. The outer shell is cracked and removed, leaving behind tiny grit like bits from inside the bean known as cocoa nibs. It is from these nibs that all chocolate is made. The next step turns the nibs into something that is finally more recognisably chocolate. Grinding the nibs turns them into a paste, known as cocoa mass. When this is heated, it becomes a rich looking liquid known as chocolate liquor. You could eat this stuff, but it would be pretty raw and potent!
Pressing & blending
Chocolate liquor can be further broken down into cocoa solids and cocoa butter. This involves using a machine known as the Van Houten press, first devised by the Dutch inventor Casparus Van Houten (find out more here
!). His invention was an important one, as in order to make chocolate as we know it today, extra cocoa butter has to be added to chocolate liquor- you can always use the left over cocoa solids in your hot chocolate! Along with this mix of liquor and butter, other ingredients are added such as sugar, vanilla and milk in varying amounts to make the wide range of chocolate bars we can buy.
The process of conching chocolate develops its texture and flavour. With regards to the texture, the grinding action ensures that everything is broken down very finely and evenly distributed throughout the mixture, lending chocolate its smooth and silky texture. The flavour is developed as the friction generates heat, which causes the various volatile oils and acids in the mixture to react and oxidate. Higher quality chocolate is subject to conching for a longer time; whereas low quality stuff may be mixed for just four hours, high quality chocolate can be conched for three days straight!
The final step in making chocolate is tempering. This involves carefully controlling the temperature as it is repeatedly heated and cooled in order to promote the formation of tiny crystals throughout the chocolate. Getting the right mix of crystals is important as it is what lends chocolate its chracteristic glossiness and snap, as well as the melt in the mouth quality. And there you have it- it's a long old process!