There is a consistent pattern to chocolate making. However, manufacturers may incorporate their own refinements throughout the process to achieve their desired finished cocoa and chocolate product. Wahana Interfood Nusantara, PT. is one of few Indonesian manufacturers that make cocoa and chocolate starting from the cocoa bean through to finished products.
How is Chocolate Made? From Bean to Bar
Ever wondered, “how is chocolate made?” Let’s pick up with the arrival of the cacao beans at the factory.
Bean Selection and Cleaning
After the cocoa beans are carefully selected, they are cleaned when they pass through a bean cleaning machine that removes extraneous materials. The cacao is weighed and sorted by type so that manufacturer knows exactly what type of cacao is going into the chocolate. Manufacturer must carefully measure so that the flavor is consistent time after time. Different bean varieties are then precisely blended to produce the desired flavor of chocolate.
Developing the right formula of beans is integral part to the art and science of cocoa and chocolate making. Wahana Interfood Nusantara, PT. selects only the finest fermented Criollo and Trinitario cocoa beans to meet the flavour standards.
The cocoa beans are roasted to develop the characteristic chocolate flavor. They are roasted in large, rotating ovens. Depending on the varieties of the beans and the desired end result, the roasting lasts from 30 minutes to two hours at very high temperatures. During roasting, the bean color changes to a rich brown, and the aroma of chocolate comes through. After roasting, the cacao beans are cracked and winnowed, that is, their outer shells are cracked and blown away, leaving the crushed and broken pieces of cacao beans, called “nibs.” At this point, we have something edible and really chocolatey, but they’re also really bitter. For Dutch roasts, an alkaline solution is added to produce nibs that are darker and less acidic in flavor.
The roasted cocoa nibs are milled and ground into a thick paste called “chocolate liquor”. Chocolate liquor is non-alcoholic and simply refers to the chocolate liquid. The chocolate liquor can either be pressed for cocoa butter and cocoa powders, or molded and solidified to make unsweetened chocolate.
To make cocoa, the cocoa liquor is press hydraulically squeezes a portion of the cocoa butter from the chocolate liquor, leaving “cocoa cakes.” The cocoa butter will be used in making chocolate, but it is also used in cosmetics and medicines. And the remaining cakes of cocoa solids are pulverized into cocoa powders.
Mixing and Refining
Now, on to the chocolate. Chocolate liquor by itself is bitter and not very smooth and creamy. To make up the different types of chocolate (to sweeten it up and improve the texture), the manufacturer will add things in certain quantities like sugar, cocoa butter, vanilla, and milk. Then, the ingredients are blended in mixers to a paste with the consistency of dough.
You could eat this now, and it would taste pretty good, but it wouldn’t have the texture you associate with a chocolate bar. The cacao and the sugar are still pretty grainy at this point, so the manufacturer runs the mixture through chocolate refiners, a set of rollers, to crush the paste and refine the texture. This step is critical in determining how smooth chocolate is when eaten.
To further refine the texture, and to really bring out the flavor, the mixture is then “conched.” Conching is a flavor development process during which the chocolate is put under constant agitation. The conching machines, called “conches,” have large paddles that sweep back and forth through the refined chocolate mass anywhere from a few hours to several days. Conching reduces moisture, drives off any lingering acidic flavors, and coats each particle of chocolate with a layer of cocoa butter. The resulting chocolate has a smoother, mellower flavor.
Tempering and Molding
The chocolate then undergoes a tempering heating and cooling process that creates small, stable cocoa butter crystals in the fluid chocolate mass. It is deposited into molds of different forms: chips, drops and blocks. Proper tempering creates a finished product that has a nice glossy look, smooth appearance.
Cooling and Packaging
The molded chocolate enters controlled cooling tunnels to solidify the pieces. Depending on the size of the chocolate pieces, the cooling cycle takes around 20 minutes. From the cooling tunnels, the chocolate is packaged for delivery to retailers and ultimately into the hands of consumers.
Finally, we have chocolate! Now you can tell your friends how chocolate is made.