How to make chocolate bars step by step?
Who doesn’t like chocolate? Chocolate is one of the most popular inventions in the world of confectionery. You are unlikely to meet someone who has never tried chocolate.
Nowadays, chocolate is more accessible than ever, and it can be found at every shop that offers food or snacks. Chocolate comes in different forms, shapes, sizes and flavours and it is widely used in baking. But exactly how many of you have asked yourselves how chocolate is produced and where it comes from?
If you are curious about the secrets behind the chocolate making process, in this article we will give you some interesting facts about chocolate bars production.
The chocolate travels a long way from the process of harvesting the cocoa beans through all the manufacturing steps that follow till it’s turned into chocolate bars. More than 75% of the cocoa produced worldwide comes from several countries in West Africa (Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, Sierra Leone, Togo). Other cocoa producing regions are Central & South America (Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, Dominican product, Colombia) and Indonesia in Asia.
What is chocolate?
The two main ingredients that chocolate consists of are cocoa mass and cocoa butter.
Cocoa mass is made from the dry parts of the cocoa beans. Cocoa butter is the fat content in the cacao beans. A sweet substance is also added to the chocolate mixture, and this is most often sugar. Milk is used for the production of milk chocolate.Other additional ingredients such as nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts), raisins, dried fruits, sweet or salty biscuits are added too. Some chocolate types also contain fruit fillings or milk fillings.
According to the main ingredients we can split the chocolates into:
- Milk chocolate – the one that is made of cocoa mass, cocoa butter, whole or skimmed milk and sugar in different proportions (depend on the brand).
- Dark chocolate – the one that contains cocoa mass cocoa butter and sugar only.
- White chocolate is the only type of chocolate that doesn’t contain cocoa mass. It’s made solely on the basis of cocoa butter and contains also sugar and full-fat milk.
Aerated chocolate is another type in the chocolate variety. Its structure contains air bubbles.
In the past, chocolate bars were made by hand but nowadays thanks to the technical progress the manufacturing process has evolved into automated production.
Hand-made chocolate remains the top quality product offered by small specialized boutiques around the world.
How chocolate is made? Main steps in making chocolate bars
The process of making chocolate bars is really interesting and complex.
Gathering cocoa beans
Just like any type of fruit, the ones of the cacao tree, called cacao pods pass through different stages of ripening. Because there are different sorts of cacao trees around the world, each one has different shapes and colours of the pods it is not possible a general rule how to find the ready to harvest cacao pods to be generated. It becomes a secret of the farmers.
The first steps of the chocolate making process include gathering the ripe pods of the cocoa tree. The harvesters, who are specialized in this task, use a rod or machete to remove the cocoa pods from the tree and then put them into baskets. The collected cocoa pods are then brought to a cocoa processing house.
Fermentation and drying
Cocoa harvesters leave the cocoa beans piled in heaps for a couple of days to ferment. After that, cocoa beans are spread onto trays and left for 5-7 days to dry well in the sun. It is important to gather only the ripe cocoa pods on trees because the green pods don’t contain the necessary amount of cocoa butter.Another reason for gathering only ripe cocoa pods is that the unripe ones cannot ferment.
Thanks to the fermentation process, cocoa beans give the cocoa powder the specific chocolate taste. They are used for making cocoa liquor afterwards. Each cocoa pod can contain up to 50 beans.
Each bean consists of a seed coat, a kernel and a germ. Fermentation ruins the seed coat, pures the germ and gives the cocoa a good taste. To have a quality result during the fermentation the farmers use boxes with holes, placed above the ground, so the juice of the cacao pods runs off smoothly. The beans are taken out by scraping from the pods and stirred after two days. Then they are placed in a separate box. Interesting fact is that beans are not kept in the same box for more than 2 days, so for the whole process of fermentation they change the boxes between 3 and 5 times.
Fermentation is the first step. Then comes the drying.
All fermented cocoa beans must be dried properly. Sun is the best option. All beans are spread on flat boards that are raised around 1 meter above the ground. The layer of fermented beans is not more than 4 centimeters high because they need to “breathe”. They should be stir very often and protected from the rain.
Cocoa beans are then prepared for the next steps of the chocolate manufacturing process. They are sorted out and bad cocoa beans and other unwanted pieces are removed.
Chocolate manufacturers roast the fermented cocoa beans in a special oven. This way, cocoa beans further develop their aroma and taste.
After cocoa beans are oven, they are put into a special machine for winnowing or de-hulling. During the winnowing process, the cocoa beans are cracked and their outer shells are removed while the inner parts of them are broken into small pieces called cocoa nibs.
Cocoa bean shells are blown out and the only thing that is left are the cocoa nibs. Cocoa nibs are then sieved and sorted. The whole process of winnowing is an essential part for the chocolate quality because as bigger the share of the hull (or chaff) is, as poorer the quality is.
The cleaned cocoa nibs are grounded in a machine into a thick and dry cocoa paste called cocoa liquor or cocoa mass with a granular consistency. Because the grinding process generates heat, this speeds up the process of melting and liquefying the particles of the cocoa nibs.
Even the top world producers of cacao come from West Africa, Europe is the leader of grinding of cocoa nibs. Over 40% of the world cocoa harvest is processed in Europe, while the Netherlands is a world champion followed by Ivory Coast. The country of the most famous milk chocolate – Switzerland is far away from them with only 1% share, equal to the United Kingdom, Canada and Peru.
Blending and molding the cocoa mass
Cocoa butter and sugar are added to the cocoa liquor, afterwards.
Condensed or powdered whole milk should be added, if the milk chocolate has to be made. The types of ingredients added to the cocoa mass vary depending on the manufacturer’s recipe and specific technology of the chocolate production.
The goal of blending the chocolate mass is to mix all ingredients together. The process can continue for several hours, and it is done at high speed. After that the well-blended mixture is poured into special forms and left to stay until it is fully hardened. Then it is broken down into pieces.
Cocoa mixture goes through a refining process that involves the use of a rolling machine with cylinder rollers. The cocoa mixture circulates multiple times through these cylinder rollers, and it liquefies as a result. Еven the smallest cacao nibs are finely ground.
During the refining process, cocoa butter is slowly added to the cocoa mixture. The longer the refining process is, the softer and creamier the chocolate mixture becomes.
The refined chocolate mixture is then processed by using a special method called “conching”. This method was created by Rodolphe Lindt in 1897 in Switzerland.
Conching involves a surface scraping mixer called “conche” that evenly blends the cocoa butter in the chocolate mixture. The air that is flowing through the conche takes out some acetic, butyric and propionic acids that the raw chocolate mixture contains. The process also lowers the moisture because the moisture amount affects the viscosity of the finished chocolate. It also oxidizes some of the cocoa mass ingredients, which leads to more mellow flavor.
In the conching process cocoa mass passes through 3 phases: dry (chocolate is in powdered form), pasty (most pieces are covered with cocoa butter) and the liquid (final adjustment in the viscosity through adding emulsifiers and fat).
Thanks to the tempering process, the chocolate bars you buy have a smooth and glowy texture without any granules nor a strange white grey color. Tempering stabilizes chocolate’s structure and gives it a good appearance, a pleasant taste, and mouth-watering properties.
After the tempering process is complete, the chocolate mixture is sent to different factories where it is formed into either chocolate bars, bonbons or other types of chocolate desserts.
Antonia is a marketing specialist with experience in working with wide range of products, including FMCG at B2B and B2C field. She is interested in consumer behavior topic, various types of visual and graphic design, new product development, advertisements, digital marketing and more.