The Process

How does this:

Cacao Beans

Turn into small batch chocolate:

Chocolate Bar
Step 1 - Sourcing
If you don't source good beans, you're already off to a bad start. Not only are my beans ethically sourced, but many of the farmers go as far as following organic practices, conserving the land, giving back to their communites, in addition to protecting ancient tree genetics of great tasting cacao.
The farmers harvest the pods which come in many different colors, the cut them open, and let them ferment. Fermentation helps develop the cocoa flavor you know and love. Big chocolate tends to skip this step because it costs too much. There's a lot more that goes into fermenting and drying the beans but let's fast forward to my process.
Step 2 - Roasting
Roasting is a delicate process. 2 minutes too long and it tastes burnt; 2 mintues too early and the fruity notes taste funky. It's a balance. I roast my cacao beans in a coffee roaster, and aim for a medium roast to maintain some fruity notes while bringing out some of those darker cocoa notes you know and love.
Step 3 - Crack & Winnow
After the beans have cooled, I run them through a juicer and through a custom winnower. The juicer breaks the beans into little pieces called nibs and knocks the husk (shell) off the bean. The winnower uses airflow to let the heavy cacao nib fall while lighter husk is sucked out. Below is a photo of my first all in one setup and a video of the first trial run of just the winnower.
Cacao Crack & Winnow Machine
Step 4 - Refining
Cacao beans are similar to peanuts in the way that you crush them to release the oil. In this next step, the goal is to use heat and pressure to release the cacao butter from the cacao nibs. This is done using a melanger. The melanger has two granite wheels that are tightened down against a granite base. The melanger runs for 24-72 hours. There is some secret sauce in this step in regards to locking in different flavor notes and burning off others. It's a science. But basically, I add the nibs, I add the sugar, and then I wait until it looks like chocolate and dump it out.
Step 5 - Tempering
This is by far the hardest part. It's not even an exact documented science. There is plenty of knowledge out there of experimenting. There is really well documented science of the general concept and temperatures but when it comes to nature, nothing is ever the same from one bean to the next.
The goal of this step is to turn melted chocolate into a shiny chocolate bar that snaps when you break it. This is done by heating the chocoalte to 115F-120F, cooling to around 81F-84F, then heating to 89F. Once you've gone through that temperature curve, it's safe to pour the chocoalte into molds, chill them for 15 minutes and remove them from the molds.
Skip this paragraph if you don't need to know the science. Cacao butter is a polymorphic fat. It has 6 crystal phases. Crystals 1 and 2 are soft, crumbly, and full of fat bloom (looks funky but harmless). Crystals 3 and 4 are firm, don't give a good snap, and have some blooming. Crystal 6 is very hard, melts slow, and has some blooming. The crystal we want is phase 5 (V). Shiny. Smooth, Snappy. Melts in the mouth. So in order to isolate this crystal, you need to eliminate the others. Everything melts above 120F so we start there. We drop to the low 80's to allow 4 and 5 crystals to form then raise to high 80s to melt the type 4 crystals leaving only type 5 crystals. Type 6 form over a few months at room temperature. 1, 2, and 3 never have a chance to form because they melt much lower than 80F.
I recently started using a method called silk seeding. This is when you heat chocolate to a certain temperature, add tempered cacao butter shavings, stir, wait 2 minutes, and pour. I've see the best results with this method.
Below is an example of chocolate freshly poured into molds.
Molded Chocolate
Step 6 - Packaging
The final step is to put the bars in bags, pop them into boxes, stamp the batch number on the back, and deliver it to you!
Packaged Chocolate