It’s becoming common to hear craft chocolate makers talk about aging their chocolate to improve flavor. But does it really work? There are many contrasting opinions in the industry.
After conching, some craft makers decide to “age” their chocolate before tempering it. Usually they wrap big blocks of untempered chocolate, and let these sit on the shelves of their kitchen, in a dry place, anywhere from a couple of weeks to even up to 6 months, before tempering them and turning the chocolate into bars ready to sell. Why do they do this practice that only seems to delay selling the chocolate?
There seem to be two main purposes in aging untempered chocolate: getting rid of any bad or “off” flavors, and help the “good” flavors integrate into a pleasant overall tasting experience.
It is believed that, when you make chocolate from bean to bar, without artificial additives or preservatives, the flavors continue to develop for weeks after grinding and conching. So the crystal structure inside the chocolate continues to develop, and the unpleasant flavors will usually float away while the pleasant flavors will be integrated in a more rounded flavor profile. This stage of the bean-to-bar process isn’t essential, but might give the chocolate a more consistent and developed flavor.
However, there is a different set of professionals that believe that aging craft chocolate is just a waste of time and doesn’t bring any benefit: when the cocoa beans are already of high quality and are processed with good skills, there shouldn’t be any off flavors that the chocolate maker needs to get rid of, and also the good remaining flavors don’t need to be round off.
In conclusion, aging chocolate is an extra step that is entirely up to the chocolate maker whether to skip or include in the bean-to-bar routine. Aged or not, the important thing is that the final taste of the chocolate is delicate, complex and mesmerizing at every bite.