The Ultimate Guide To How Chocolate Is Made
I say chocolate, you say? UM, YES PLEASE. Sound about right? Yeah, we know, your love for all things chocolate is well-established, but lately, as you’re holding onto that delicious craft chocolate bar, you find yourself wondering, wait, how is chocolate made?
(it is your favorite food, after all)
Never fear, at Kekao we’ve got you covered with our ultimate guide to how chocolate is made. From harvesting the beans to once and for all answering the question, what is chocolate made out of, you’ll find it all here.
So sit back, relax, grab your favorite Kekao craft chocolate bar, and let’s dive into this.
What is chocolate made out of?
Before we get too deep into this guide, we’ll start with the basics: what is chocolate made up of?
The short and simple answer—chocolate is made from cacao beans.
Harvesting these cacao beans is a whole process itself, which involves finding a cacao tree (generally they only grow in tropical climates 20 degrees of the equator), knowing when to pick the cacao pod (all beans have different ripening points often indicated by a change in color), and picking your beans with care to ensure further growth of pods on the tree.
While we would love to say the process ends here and you can now enjoy some tasty chocolate, going from bean to chocolate bar not only requires more steps, but oftentimes, more ingredients. Let’s discuss.
How chocolate is made: step by step
We went over this above, so we won’t elaborate too much, but the first step to the creation of any chocolate bar is securing the cacao beans from the cacao tree.
Fun little fact for ‘ya—There are 10 known varieties of cacao: Marañon, Curaray, Criollo, Iquitos, Nanay, Contamana, Amelonado, Purús, Nacional, and Guiana.
Once you have your beans, you’ll notice they are contained within a pod.
During the fermentation process, we purposely remove the beans from the pod in order to expose the bean to oxygen. This begins the fermentation process.
Beans are kept in wooden boxes covered by banana leaves for up to 8 days in order to heat the boxes up to 40 degrees celsius. This process allows the cacao flavor to develop.
Once the beans are appropriately fermented, we need to reduce the moisture content that develops as a result.
The drying process can be done either by the sun, fire, or another heat source, and usually takes anywhere from 5-10 days.
After drying, this is often the point where dried cacao is bagged and shipped to different makers all over the world who bring you your beloved chocolate. In other words, at this point, we go from strictly talking about cacao beans to now discussing how cacao beans go from bean to chocolate bar.
Once shipped, beans are sorted to ensure makers are working with top-quality beans. Rocks, dirt, and any broken beans are discarded. In addition, often, rigorous testing for mould, insect contamination, and any other defects that could impact flavoring are all considered.
The level of attention paid here is a key differentiating factor between your average chocolate maker and someone who truly cares about the art of crafting chocolate.
You’ve got all the best beans ready to go, now it’s time to roast.
Roasting techniques vary from maker to maker, but generally, the roasting process’s main goal is to kill off any lurking bacteria, as well as reduce moisture content (this makes for better tasting chocolate).
During the roasting process, you’ll find that the bean shells become dry and brittle. Not ideal.
To remove the dry shell, cracking is done either by hand or by machine. Next, the winnowing process begins, which is basically just a fancy term for saying a current of air is passed through the bean in order to carefully remove any excess shell.
The result? Cocoa nibs.
There’s more? Oh yes, the chocolate-making process is no joke.
At this point, we move onto the grinding step where the cacao nibs are ground into a thick paste called chocolate liquid or chocolate liqueur.
Here, makers decide what additional ingredients to add in order to come up with their chosen flavor profile (i.e. milk, sugar, hazelnut, vanilla, etc.).
Once the ideal flavor is achieved, conching takes place.
This step helps develop that delightful “melt in your mouth” feel that you know and love, while also simultaneously removing that bitter taste that you’re probably not as fond of.
The process essentially consists of the chocolate being kneaded over and over again until the ideal texture is achieved. Again, how long this kneading process goes on will vary from maker to maker.
Here’s where that yummy chocolate liquid starts to transform into a recognizable chocolate bar.
To simplify, the tempering process involves taking the chocolate liquid and heating and cooling it to reach the ideal consistency (i.e. ensuring the chocolate bar isn’t a crumbly mess).
10) Moulding + Wrapping
Are you still with us? We know it’s a lot, but stick with us, we’re at the last step of how chocolate is produced, and it’s a fairly basic step: molding the chocolate into its chocolate bar shape and wrapping it into its pretty packaging.
Voila! You’ve got yourself a chocolate bar. Time to enjoy.
Wrap Up: How chocolate is made
Phew, the chocolate production process is a lot, huh?
Yeah, and honestly, this is a relatively simplistic look into how chocolate is made. The process from bean to bar takes skill, knowledge, and experience, which is why you’ll notice a difference in quality between a craft chocolate bar versus that commercially produced chocolate bar you picked up at the corner store.
Trust us, while that corner store chocolate bar might taste good in the moment, your tastebuds are more likely responding to the extreme sugar content rather than the actual enjoyment of the chocolate.
Even if you think you don’t like dark chocolate, in our books, there’s a dark chocolate bar out there to suit all tastebuds.
We hope you now have a better understanding of how chocolate is made from cacao beans, so that next time you bite into the delectable piece of chocolate, you can truly appreciate the art of crafting chocolate.
Experience the craft chocolate difference by signing up for our popular craft chocolate subscription boxes for monthly chocolate goodness, or trying out some of our best-selling craft chocolate.
Happy chocolate eating!