How is chocolate made? From bean to bar…

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Ever wondered, “how is chocolate made?” Let’s pick up with the arrival of the cacao beans at the factory (or click here to learn about how cacao is grown).

At the factory, the cacao beans are first sifted for foreign objects- you know, rocks, machetes, whatever got left in the bag. The cacao is weighed and sorted by type so that the manufacturer knows exactly what type of cacao is going into the chocolate. Some manufacturers use up to twelve types of cacao in their recipes, and they must carefully measure so that the flavor is consistent time after time.

Next, the cacao beans are roasted in large, rotating ovens, at temperatures of about 210-290F. Roasting lasts from half an hour up to two hours. The heat brings out more flavor and aroma, and it dries and darkens the beans.

Then 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. You might try some cacao nibs on a salad. Mmm.

But how is chocolate made? We’ve gone through all these steps and we still don’t have a chocolate bar! Be patient, it can take up to a week!

The cacao nibs must now be crushed and ground into a thick paste called chocolate liquor (there is no alcohol in it). What happens next, though, depends on what type of chocolate we’re making.

Let’s pretend that in addition to knowing, “how is chocolate made?” you also want to know how cocoa is made. Say the manufacturer divides our chocolate liquor in two. We’ll make cocoa with half, and use the other half to make some chocolate bars.

To make cocoa, the powdery stuff you mix up into hot chocolate, the cocoa liquor is slammed by a giant hydraulic press. This removes much of the fat, or cocoa butter. The cocoa butter will be used in making chocolate, but it is also used in cosmetics and medicines. What’s left of the slammed chocolate liquor is very dry and can be ground into cocoa.

Now, on to the chocolate, which we’ll make with the other half of our chocolate liquor. Chocolate liquor by itself is bitter and not very smooth and creamy. To sweeten it up and improve the texture, the manufacturer will add things like sugar, cocoa butter, vanilla, and milk.

You could eat this now, and it would taste pretty good, but it wouldn’t have the texture you associate with a chocolate bar, and you still wouldn’t be able to answer the question, “how is chocolate made?” The cacao and the sugar are still pretty grainy at this point, so the manufacturer runs the mixture through a series of steel rollers to refine the texture.

To further refine the texture, and to really bring out the flavor, the mixture is then “conched.” That is, it’s run through a chocolate making machine (a conch – so named because the first such machine looked kind of like a conch shell) that mixes and mashes and swirls and aerates the chocolate. At this point we will probably add some more cocoa butter and maybe some soy lecithin – these will give the chocolate its silky smooth texture. Conching can last a few hours for cheaper chocolates, and up to six days for the expensive stuff!

The chocolate is then tempered by stirring it, letting it cool, heating it back up slowly, and repeating the process several times. This will give our chocolate that nice glossy look, and it will help it melt properly.

Finally, we have chocolate! Some people might use the liquid chocolate in candies or cookies or ice cream, but let’s pour our lovely mixture into a mold (how about in the shape of a bunny rabbit?), let it harden, then chomp its ears off!

Mmmm! You are now a chocolate smarty-pants.

When all your friends ask how is chocolate made you can tell them all about it.

93 thoughts on “How is chocolate made? From bean to bar…”

  1. Hi,
    Thanks for sharing the process of choclate making. Choclate is a wounderful product and I love it. Though I just stopped buying choclate from big manufecturers as slave child labour is used to grow choclate in most countries. The choclate bar that you eat, there is a 100% chance that between 1 to 6 slaves were used in the growth of cocoa. Unless you buy it from fairly traded companies that sell choclate.

    Reply
    • Sean,
      Yes that may be so, but fair trade chocolate is always that gross dark stuff, rather than creamy, tasty chocolate as we know it. Surely it doesn’t take slaves to make it taste good? If the produceres of thsi stuff wanted to encourage us to eat fair trade chocolate, they shoud put less effort in to trying guilt people in to buying it, and more time in to making it taste enjoyable, or at lease edible. I will never give up my Cadbury’s for that disgsting dark, flavourless rubbish they sell at highly inalted prices as ‘fair trade.’

      Reply
      • @Carol, while it’s true that some Fair Trade chocolate is not high quality chocolate, it is most definitely not true that “fair trade chocolate is always that gross dark stuff.” Green and Black’s and Dagoba both make incredibly good chocolate. Green and Black’s Milk Chocolate bar is incredible.

        Reply
      • Hi Carol, that is a great bit of information, it is interesting when you learn how things are made. The true beauty of the internet, the learning side. I totally support Sean re fair trade chocolate and the use of slave labour to proiduce it however we need to be careful of how much of our food and ingredients are coming form China under disguises and what is in these goods. I do not buy anything that is processed in or includes ingredients from China because you do not really know what is in these goods. I believe that there are many big food companies either set up in China or using China’s slave labour force to produce such goods. Therefore by purchasing many things in the general consumer swirl we are supporting slave labour. In China people work long hours for $70 – $80 PER MONTH in today’s world and they believe this is a lot of money. The link here is for truly beautiful chocolate that is produced with a conscience and is great tasting and incredible. There is even a chocolate with quinoa and it is wonderful – http://www.alterecopacific.com happy chocolating

        Reply
        • ps…cadbury and similar companies ,,,do you really believe carol that they are ethical!?they are just a branch off another company owned by another company,all run by massive corperate greed and you can bet ,they are not looking out for anyone regards making good choc-what they make is tripe,pure poision to your gut!which adds to mental ,hormonal,stress…not to mention their links to the dairy trade which is brutal and violent ,,,,so yknow,mabey have a think about your ethics before you gorge on a bar of’chocolate’ made by these companies.
          there are plenty of really good chocolate companies who make amazing real chocolate if you look around.

          Reply
    • Dear Cindy,

      Chocolate is made from the seeds of a fruit called cacao. During the process of harvesting and drying the seeds, it is highly likely that a bug or two might make its way into chocolate, just like it’s highly likely that a bug or two has made it into orange juice or canned peaches. But it’s a far cry to say that chocolate is made from bug legs.

      Government agencies (such as the FDA in the United States) regulate the numbers of insects that are allowed to be in food before it is considered defective. You can read the FDA’s guidelines for various foods here: http://www.fda.gov/food/guidancecomplianceregulatoryinformation/guidancedocuments/sanitation/ucm056174.htm

      Reply
  2. Thanks, this is really useful! I have always wondered how yummy chocolate was made. I have a project on this. This really helped! ^^

    Reply
  3. Hi! I would like to know if chocolate is extracted for perfumery purposes in Mexico or other Latin American countries? Where is it available? Thanks in advance!

    Reply
    • I believe most chocolate scents are artificial. There are a few companies who make chocolate extracts for use in cooking.

      Reply
  4. This was very helpful. Here’s a tip to those of you thinking about doing a TEN PAGE essay on The Hershey Company.. Dont do it, i cant find ANY information on Hershey..

    Reply
    • Did you look up Hershey, Pennsylvania that was established by Hershet? Or the Hershey Chocolate Company?

      Aslanctr

      Reply
  5. My spouse and I absolutely love your blog and find a lot of your post’s to be just what I’m looking for. Does one offer guest writers to write content in your case? I wouldn’t mind producing a post or elaborating on many of the subjects you write related to here. Again, awesome web log!|

    Reply
  6. Hello, and thank you for this wonderful explination of how chocolate is made. I have a 7th grade project i am working on and this will greatly aid in my quest for knowladge. Many people take chocolate for granted and have no idea of the process that it takes to make this delicious treat, but i hope that many more people will be enlightened by this amazing article. 🙂

    Reply
  7. I love chocolate although this is just research for school i enjoyed these observations I especially LOVE DARK CHOCOLATE and someone should tell how to make that

    Reply
  8. found this site so helpful. helped me finish my research project. i must have gained 10 lbs reading it tho cause i couldnt read it w/out a chocolate bar 🙂 wonder if i could get extra credit for sampling my subject…

    Reply
  9. found this site so helpful. helped me finish my research project. i think i gained 10 lbs while reading it tho cause i coulndt do it w/out a chocolate bar in my hand. wonder if i could get extra credit for sampling my subject…

    Reply
  10. Appreciating the time and effort you put into your website and
    detailed information you present. It’s great to come across a blog every once
    in a while that isn’t the same old rehashed material.

    Fantastic read! I’ve bookmarked your site and I’m including your RSS feeds
    to my Google account.

    Reply
  11. Thank you very much for creating this page of information very simple and easy to understand.
    It came in very handy and answered all of my questions.
    I will definitely be recommending this to other people.
    Thanks

    Reply
  12. I’m doing a project about the company Fair Trade. Basically, they are a company that makes sure that producers, which are usually small-time farms, are getting payed what their product is worth. Although people say to buy products marked with the Fair Trade symbol, because it usually means they use all fairly traded ingredients, it may not always be true. let’s take Neslté for example, just because they are the big company that is being picked on in the media lately. They released a Fair Trade Kit Kat a while back. They claimed that they bought around 9 600 tones of Fair Trade certified cocoa per year. This seems like a lot, but not compared to the 365 000 tonnes of cocoa they buy in TOTAL a year, for Kit Kats. That’s only just under 3% fair trade certified cocoa.

    A lot of companies, although, do deserve their Fair Trade symbol, I’m just letting y’all know to be careful, and do a little bit of research when trying to boycot certain companies.

    Although, boycotting companies that don’t have fairly traded ingredients, use child labour, or slavery in general, and all those other reasons, can be hard…

    Reply
  13. What are the nutritional benefits of chocolate, if any? That is never explained. Is it healthy or are there concerns about some of the ingredients.?

    Reply
  14. Thanks very much I was a struggling with depression until I found out how make my own chocolate, now I sell it on the black market due to it being mixed with drugs, It helps with stress thx 😉

    Reply
  15. Zeke, have you ever heard of a game called Chocolatier? It my favorite online game, you get to play the part of a beginner chocolate maker and travel all over the world collecting recipes on your quest to become a master chocolatier.
    There are three additions and a time management game and the third edition lets you experiment with your own flavors in addition to discovering the game’s preset recipes. It also introduces coffee as a major product for sale alongside chocolate.
    The games are available at Big Fish, iWin, and other online sites. You said you wanted to make a chocolate company, so I thought you might be interested, if not it’s okay. Either way, have fun!

    Reply
  16. @Sean
    You makeit sound like the fair trade prodyucers are at fault for making “gross” chocolate, and they should make good chocolate..
    The market is supply and demand.. hopefully you should demand that you will not buy chocolate produced by slaves and fair traders will respond.. what matters more.. you eating chocolate that you like or an end to child slavery? Ever seen the advert where the kidnapped child cocoa labourer asks what chocolate tastes like? If you can’t find a fair trade one that you like (there are loads- inc.kit kat) then i’d ask myself that question do i really want to increase demand for chocolate that uses kidnapped labourers?

    Reply

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