Let’s take a look at where chocolate comes from and how it’s produced in today’s chocolate world.
Cacao trees are grown in tropical regions around the world, including Africa, Asia and Latin America. Most cacao is produced by small shareholder farmers and family farms. The African countries Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana produce the majority of the world’s cacao. Half of all chocolate made today is made from cacao from these two countries.
Cacao is one of the most complex, delicious and fascinating foods in the world. It is one of the few foods that is both fermented and roasted – creating unparalleled flavor profiles.
However, over the past century, these incredible flavors have been lost due to the demand for mass-manufactured, industrial chocolate. Large industrial producers have different priorities than small ones, and for industrial chocolate, the priorities are consistency and lower cost. Much of the industrial chocolate is often made with less than 20% cacao content. This is quite different from other chocolate producers who craft their chocolate in smaller batches and keep the ingredients as pure as possible.
Let’s understand the bean-to-bar process
Roughly speaking, there are two principal stages in the process of turning cacao beans into chocolate:
- Cacao farming, which includes harvest, fermentation and drying of the cacao beans.
- Chocolate processing, which includes roasting, winnowing and transforming the ingredients into chocolate.
Harvesting, fermenting and drying process
All chocolate starts with the cacao tree, Theobroma Cacao. The cacao tree is found in the tropical regions of Africa, South America and the Caribbean, about 20 degrees north and south of the equator.
The cacao trees produce beautifully colored fruits called cacao pods. The pods are harvested by hand when they are perfectly ripe and then opened to extract the seeds or beans (this process is called de-seeding).
The beans are collected into piles or loaded into wooden bins where they are fermented for about a week. This step is crucial because it allows the beans to develop important chocolate flavor precursors.
The beans are then dried for about two weeks. Balance is important here. If the drying is done too quickly, the beans will be overly acidic, but if it’s too slow, there is a risk of them getting moldy. The beans, which start off a deep purple color (there are some white varieties as well) will turn a nice brown color. These beans are now ready to sell to chocolate makers and start the next phase of the chocolate-making process.
The roasting process
The first step undertaken by chocolate makers is to roast the cocoa beans. This is another critical step in developing their chocolatey flavors and aromas. Roasting requires a very sophisticated process that ensures a perfect match of roast temperature and duration to bring out the best flavor of the beans. The roasting step also helps separate the shell from the meat of the beans which allows them to be crushed and de-shelled more easily (a process called winnowing).
The cocoa nibs are relatively coarse at this point so they must be ground very finely in special mills. The heat created by the pressure and friction liquefies the cocoa butter contained in the nibs to produce a thick paste known as cocoa mass or chocolate liquor (this is 100% dark chocolate and despite the name, it contains no alcohol). The cocoa mass is dark brown to black in color and has a strong characteristic smell and flavor of chocolate. It provides the basis for the next stage of the chocolate-making process.
Refining and conching process
Pure chocolate liquor tastes extremely bitter. It is usually mixed with sugar, milk powder, cocoa butter and other flavorings to make it palatable for most consumers. This mixture of ingredients is ground more and more finely until it has that irresistibly delicate, smooth-melting texture that we all love so much.
The final step in chocolate making requires that the chocolate be perfectly tempered to ensure it retains an attractive sheen and has a crisp, firm texture when you bite into it. Tempering involves cooling the chocolate to just the right temperature while stirring it in just the right way to start proper crystallization of the liquid chocolate.
In summary, the traditional way of making chocolate is a long and complicated process.
Process for making chocolate from home
Now that you know how the chocolate-making process works, you may be hesitant to try to make chocolate at home from scratch. As explained, the bean-to-bar process involves quite a few steps which certainly become easier with experience and expertise. In general, proper equipment is needed at home to make well-made chocolate bars and we have the perfect solution for you. Let the CocoTerra chocolate maker do its magic: grinding, refining, conching, tempering and molding, all at your fingertips.
In advance of having a CocoTerra chocolate maker in your home, you can start practicing and having some chocolate fun with just a few steps and techniques. You can start by melting a good quality bean-to-bar chocolate and tempering it while adding your favorite ingredients like nuts, caramel bits, candy, dried fruit, cookie pieces and more.
Here is a fun and easy microwave tempered milk chocolate recipe “Milk Chocolate Marshmallow Pretzel Bar”. Packed full of pretzel chunks and squishy marshmallows This bar’s texture is both deliciously crunchy and squishy.
Milk chocolate marshmallow pretzel bar
- 6 ounces / 170g milk chocolate
- ½ cup / 30g mini marshmallows
- ½ cup / 28g chopped pretzels
- Chop the chocolate into small pieces.
- Place ⅔ of the chocolate in a dry, microwave-safe bowl.
- Microwave the chocolate in 15-second intervals, stirring with a spatula after each blast.
- Continue until all of the chocolate is just melted (don’t be tempted to heat for longer intervals as the chocolate might burn).
- Finish by pouring the remaining chocolate into the bowl and stir until all the pieces have melted.
- Stir regularly so that the milk chocolate cools to about 84°F – 86°F (29°C – 30°C).
- Mix in the marshmallows and chopped pretzels.
- Pour the chocolate mixture into your favorite mold.
- Tap the mold on the counter to release any air bubbles.
- Set in the fridge for 30 minutes.
- Once set, remove from the fridge and remove the chocolates from the mold.
- Eat and enjoy!
We live in a world of highly processed foods, quick fixes, and cheap ingredients; a world that is sometimes overwhelming and often confusing, especially for those who are passionate about nutrition and health. Many of the items on store shelves seem to have an ingredient label where we don’t even know half of what is listed (and good luck pronouncing them).
So, what are the benefits of making chocolate at home?
Making chocolate at home from scratch will allow you to control every step of the process as well as the quality of the ingredients.
Homemade chocolate enables you to regulate the amount of sweetener included. It is also easily customized and flavored, and is healthier than traditional chocolate due to the use of raw, unprocessed ingredients and inclusions.
Benefits of making and eating dark chocolate at home
It’s a brain food!
The cocoa compounds found in chocolate helps increase blood flow to the brain which leads to faster reaction time, better problem-solving skills, and improved attention span (according to the latest research). But not only that, with increased blood flow to the brain, also improves short-term memory and decreases mental decline in seniors.
It protects against heart disease
The flavonoids in chocolate help increase blood flow to the heart, which helps prevent blood clots and hardening of the arteries. Eating a small amount of dark chocolate a few times a week has been shown to lower blood pressure.
It provides younger-looking skin
Quality dark chocolate, not the sugary kind, is full of antioxidants with anti-aging benefits to the skin. So the same flavonoids that increase blood flow to the heart and brain also increase blood flow to the skin giving off a healthy glow.
It’s a “joy stimulant”
Cocoa boosts levels of serotonin and endorphins in the brain which leads to improved mood. So when you’re feeling down and you’re craving something sweet, chocolate is likely to give you the boost in serotonin that your body is really craving.
It helps you stress less
Chocolate is a great source of magnesium which has been dubbed “the original chill pill”. Getting more magnesium through diet leads to better sleep, contributing to improved resilience to stress. Another study found that when test subjects (who considered themselves to be highly stressed people) ate an ounce and a half of dark chocolate a day for two weeks, they had a significant drop in stress hormones.
Keep in mind that these health benefits relate to a high-quality, high cacao % dark chocolate – at least 70% cocoa.
When it comes to the benefits of making your own dark chocolate at home, there are plenty. Some of the most important include knowing precisely what your chocolate contains and knowing where the ingredients come from. Today, the issue of added sugars, fats and additives in conventional chocolate bars, used to make them taste good, is a major one.
With CocoTerra, you can customize your own dark chocolate! Enjoy the simplicity of enjoying a guilt-free, healthy dark chocolate bar with any topping you want.
Benefits of using a CocoTerra machine vs doing it by “hand” or other methods
With CocoTerra, making chocolate at home is a whole lot easier. Using high precision engineering and smart software that automates the chocolate-making process, CocoTerra is unleashing the potential of chocolate creation for all. The CocoTerra chocolate maker does it all from grinding, refining, conching, tempering and molding in just about 2 hours.
Now you can make chocolate exactly the way you want it. CocoTerra will guide you through the chocolate-making process, from cocoa nibs to solid, ready-to-eat chocolate.
CocoTerra chocolate making steps
Our app makes it easy to create chocolate just the way you like it. You can choose from a wide range of recipes or design your own.
Choose between single-origin cocoa and blends from around the world
- Dark chocolate
- Milk chocolate
- White chocolate
And customized with flavorings and inclusions.
Be creative and bold. You can design and decorate your chocolate rings with fun, colorful transfer sheets.
Select your mold ring and add any inclusions before you lock it into place.
Follow the recipe instructions and add ingredients as prompted:
- Cocoa nibs
- Milk powder
- Cocoa butter
Let CocoTerra do its chocolate-making magic.
- Grinding: cocoa nibs are ground into a smooth chocolate paste
- Refining: The rest of the ingredients are added and the mixture is ground until all particles in the liquid chocolate are extremely smooth
- Conching: The liquid chocolate is mixed, agitated, and aerated while being heated
- Tempering: The chocolate is cooled to the target tempering temperature, giving it the perfect snap and shine.
- Molding: The chocolate is spun into the mold ring, allowing it to cool and harden.
Making chocolate at home is exciting. If you are someone who just wants to get started and try it out, we encourage you to give it a shot. Start playing with high-quality, fine chocolate and see what you can do. But don’t get discouraged, as you know, making your own chocolate can be much more challenging than making brownies or cupcakes. The process of making chocolate is complicated, but not impossible.
Here are 4 simple tips to help you maximize your creativity and offer some inspiration for making chocolate at home.
- UNDERSTAND CHOCOLATE
- INVEST IN GOOD CHOCOLATE UTENSILS
- BUY GOOD QUALITY INGREDIENTS
- PRACTICE A LOT
You get to make all the decisions about how your chocolate creations will turn out and you can watch with great satisfaction how your family and friends enjoyed what you have made.
SO WE ENCOURAGE YOU TO TRY MAKING YOUR OWN CHOCOLATE AT HOME!