Want to learn how to make chocolate? It ain’t easy. First, I recommend you visit our How is chocolate made? page to find out how commercial manufacturers make chocolate. The process used at home is much the same, but with less sophisticated equipment. The following is a brief overview of the process.
(Note: if you are interested in learning how to make chocolates, like truffles and such, check out our chocolate recipes.)
Step 1: Buy some cacao beans. It is becoming increasingly easier to find raw cacao, both online and in health food stores. You may wish to experiment with several varieties.
Step 2: Roast the beans. The roasting accomplishes a few things: first, it creates a chemical reaction in the bean that brings out the best chocolate flavor. Also, it helps to kill any mold, bacteria, or fungi that might have appeared as the beans fermented prior to shipment. Finally, it makes it easier to remove the outer husk from the beans.
Beans can be roasted in a conventional oven on a cookie sheet, in a coffee roaster, in a popcorn popper, in a drum over a grill, or under a hot air gun. The oven is probably easiest.
Depending on the type of bean and the roasting method used, the roasting can take anywhere from a few minutes to half an hour. The key is to roast them enough so that they smell like chocolate without smelling burnt. When the beans start to pop, they are probably near done.
Step 3: Remove the husk. This is also called cracking and winnowing. The beans are cracked, and the husk is “winnowed,” or separated from the bean using a current of air.
The cracking can be done by hand, which would be somewhat laborious, or it can be done with a mill. A hair dryer on the cool setting can assist with winnowing.
Another option is to skip this step altogether and throw your beans right into a juicer, and let the juicer do the work of separating, but this doesn’t do as thorough of a job.
Step 4: Grind the beans. The best tool for this is a heavy-duty juicer of some kind, such as the Champion juicer. Essentially, you grind the beans into a liquid paste (cocoa liquor).
Step 5: Add the other ingredients. Sweetener (usually sugar) and cocoa butter are essential to any chocolate. You might also add milk (powdered is easier to work with), vanilla, or lecithin. The proportions will depend on what sort of chocolate you want to make.
Step 6: Refine and conch the mixture. Refining refers to getting all the particles down to a small enough size so that there is no grittiness to the texture. Conching refers to mixing, heating, and aerating the chocolate over time, such that it mellows out the flavor and smoothes the texture further.
At home, both conching and refining can be done using a wet grinder, a device with heavy granite rollers that mixes the chocolate and breaks down any solid particles.
Step 7: Temper the chocolate. This step in how to make chocolate may be the most difficult. If, at this point, you simply allowed the mixture to harden, it would taste like chocolate, but it wouldn’t have that nice snap when you broke it and it wouldn’t have that glossy sheen. Tempering involves slowly bringing the chocolate to just the right temperature so that the cocoa butter crystallizes in the desired way, resulting in the nice gloss and snap.
The easiest way to temper chocolate is with a home tempering machine, but those can cost about $300. While there are various other methods for tempering, the one many cooks prefer is to melt the chocolate in a double boiler, then spread part of the mixture on a marble slab until it cools somewhat, then slowly mix it back into the rest of the mixture, all the while keeping a close eye on the thermometer. A laborious process, to be sure.
Step 8: Mold the chocolate. At this stage, all you have to do is pour that chocolate into your chocolate molds, let it cool, and then eat it! Or, you can appreciate all the work that goes into making chocolate, and just go out and buy some!
Obviously, learning how to make chocolate is an expensive proposition, both in terms of time and money spent on equipment. But even if your chocolate costs you $300 a pound, it may be well worth it!