Steps in Transforming Cocoa Beans into Chocolate
Cocoa trees begin to bear fruit when they are three to four years old. They produce pink and white flowers throughout the year, growing in abundance after before the rain starts. However, the pods grow straight out of the trunk and the main branches, which is most unusual. Only a small proportion of the flowers develop into fruit over a period of about five months. The trees are carefully pruned so that pods can be more easily harvested. Each tree yields 20-30 pods per year. It takes the whole year’s crop from one tree to make 450gms of Chocolate.
The cocoa beans are cleaned to remove all extraneous material.
To bring out the chocolate flavour and colour, the beans are roasted. The temperature, time and degree of moisture involved in roasting depend on the type of beans used and the sort of chocolate or product required from the process.
A winnowing machine is used to remove the shells from the beans to leave just the cocoa nibs.
The cocoa nibs undergo alkalisation, usually with potassium carbonate, to develop the flavour and colour.
The nibs are then milled to create cocoa liquor (cocoa particles suspended in cocoa butter). The temperature and degree of milling varies according to the type of nib used and the product required.
Manufacturers generally use more than one type of bean in their products and therefore the different beans have to be blended together to the required formula.
The cocoa liquor is pressed to extract the cocoa butter, leaving a solid mass called cocoa presscake. The amount of butter extracted from the liquor is controlled by the manufacturer to produce presscake with different proportions of fat.
The processing now takes two different directions. The cocoa butter is used in the manufacture of chocolate. The cocoa presscake is broken into small pieces to form kibbled presscake, which is then pulverised to form cocoa powder.
Cocoa liquor is used to produce chocolate through the addition of cocoa butter. Other ingredients such as sugar, milk, emulsifying agents and cocoa butter equivalents are also added and mixed. The proportions of the different ingredients depend on the type of chocolate being made.
The mixture then undergoes a refining process by travelling through a series of rollers until a smooth paste is formed. Refining improves the texture of the chocolate.
The next process, conching, further develops flavour and texture. Conching is a kneading or smoothing process. The speed, duration and temperature of the kneading affect the flavour. An alternative to conching is an emulsifying process using a machine that works like an egg beater.
The mixture is then tempered or passed through a heating, cooling and reheating process. This prevents discolouration and fat bloom in the product by preventing certain crystalline formations of cocoa butter developing.
The mixture is then put into moulds or used for enrobing fillings and cooled in a cooling chamber.
The chocolate is then packaged for distribution to retail outlets.