Casual Style

The Chocolate Production Process

#1. Cacao Cultivation

Chocolate is sourced from Theobroma cacao, better known as cacao tree. These trees grow within 20° south and north of the Equator. The tree needs a mix of rain, hot temperature, and shade.

The cacao tree bears oval fruits called pods, which are 5 to 12 inches long. In each pod, there are 30 to 50 seeds. These seeds are what we process into cocoa beans.

So, what’s the difference between cacao and cocoa? The pods, seeds/beans, trees are typically called cacao. On the other hand, cocoa is a term reserved for the beans after fermentation, dried, and, importantly, roasted. Before you go further into the article it will probably be worth mentioning that barrel pumps are used in the making of chocolate to find out more take a look at electric barrel pump.

#2. Harvesting

Farmers harvest the cacao pods ripe, which is indicated by the fruit’s skin changing to an orange/yellow colour. The fruits grow on the trunk and the large branches of the tree. Farmers typically harvest the pods twice a year. However, some farmers harvest continuously throughout the year.

After harvesting, the pods are carefully opened and the seeds extracted. The size of the seeds is approximately the same as an olive. Also called the beans, the seeds grow in 5 columns surrounded by a white pith or pulp.

As early as 3,000 years ago, natives of Latin America used this pulp, which they call baba, to make fermented cacao wine.

#3. Fermentation

Before the fermentation process begins in earnest, the beans are cleaned. However, some pulp is left to develop the characteristic cocoa flavour. When dried under the sun, the cream-coloured beans turn to a purplish colour.

After cleaning the beans, you can start the fermentation process. There are two main ways you can ferment cacao beans:

  • The heap method is typically used in Africa, where the harvest beans are heaped in piles.
  • Fermentation in cascading boxes is the preferred method in the Latin America region.

In both methods, farmers use banana leaves to cover the fermenting beans. The fermentation process takes place between 2 to 9 days. The fermentation process allows the beans to take a dark colour. Additionally, the beans gain some flavour you’d recognise as chocolate.

#4. Preparing Cocoa Liquor/Mass

After fermentation, the beans are sent to the processor. Once there, the process may opt to separate the beans from different farmers/estates for “single-origin chocolate” or blend beans from various estates to create the desired flavour profile.

The beans are cleaned before roasting at a low temperature to develop the flavour fully. The beans are taken through winnowing, where the shells are separated from the nibs (the “meat” of the cacao beans).

Finally, the nibs are ground to cocoa liquor/ mass, which is solid at room temperature. Processors can process the mass further by placing it under extreme pressure turns into cocoa butter and cocoa powder.

#5. Producing Chocolate

Aside from making cocoa powder and cocoa butter, processors can combine the mass with more cocoa butter and a sweetener to make chocolate. This process involves mixing, grinding, and kneading the raw ingredients into a paste.

The raw ingredients used will depend on the type of chocolate the processor is making. Dark chocolate uses mass, cocoa butter, and sugar. You can add milk powder to this mixture to make milk chocolate.

You mix cocoa butter, milk powder, and sugar without using cocoa liquor/ mass when making white chocolate. Some do not consider white chocolate real chocolate, given the lack of cocoa mass.

#6. Conching

A conch is an agitator designed to stir and smoothen the cocoa mass and other ingredients mixture under heat. This is the process of carefully heating, rolling, kneading, and aeration of the chocolate mixture.

It’s an essential step in producing pure, consistent, and flavourful chocolate. Additionally, this stage defines the final flavour and aroma.

The processor may add cocoa butter and lecithin during the coaching to achieve the required fluidity. After that, the chocolate is refined until it’s smooth. Typically, a more extended conching period creates smooth chocolate.