When the raw cocoa beans reach the factories of expert chocolate makers, here is their journey to become flavorful and smooth bars:
This step is a flavour developing milestone! The length of time and temperature the beans are roasted at depends on the type of quality of the bean and directly affects their flavour. Roasting also kills off any remaining bacteria. Chocolate makers spend a lot of time experimenting to find the perfect temperature and roast time for specific cocoa beans.
CRACKING AND WINNOWING
The roasted beans are then cracked (by hand or by machine) and the shell is removed by a process called winnowing. The shells are blown away by fans leaving behind pure cacao bean pieces, known as “nibs”. The husks are usually discarded to produce chocolate but can be used to make delicious cacao tea.
REFINING, GRINDING AND CONCHING
The cleaned nibs are then put through a pre-refiner or directly into a melangeur that converts the nibs into a cocoa mass which consists of cocoa solids and butter. Conching is the following step to get rid of extra volatile acids and reach an even smoother texture. Here is where extra ingredients like sugar, milk powder or vanilla are added.
To get the perfect snap and shiny appearance, the chocolate needs to be tempered, which means that the temperature of the chocolate is raised and lowered so it creates the right kind of crystals. This process was traditionally done by hand but is very time consuming and a large machine can very easily keep the chocolate circulating at the correct temperature.
The tempered chocolate is poured into plastic moulds and gently but firmly tapped to remove any air bubbles. Craft chocolate makers are known for their beautiful bar designs!
After the chocolate cools down and hardens, the bars are ready to be inspected for quality and carefully wrapped in paper or foil to keep them fresh and protected.