Lesson 1: Making Chocolate

Bean To Bar Cacao 


Roasting: Leave out this step for Raw Chocolate

Cocoa beans are fermented and dried in the country of origin before they are exported in hessian sacks, You can do this in an ordinary household oven set at around 130°C. The roasting time will depend a little bit on your oven and how roasted you want the beans to be but generally speaking you should roast the beans for around 25-32 minutes.

Spread the beans out on a baking tray and start with 20 minutes checking the beans at various stages to make sure you don’t over roast them. If you open your oven and you have a nice chocolate brownie smell you are getting close. Taste the beans to see if they have a nice roasted flavour. If not continue roasting for a few minutes more. Be very careful not to over roast or you will get a slight burnt taste from the beans.

Cracking and Winnowing the Beans:

Removing the skin/shell from the roasted beans can be done by hand. The shell only represents about 20% of the beans but should be removed before taking the next step. Once the beans have cooled apply pressure to the beans with your hands and they will crack. Once the bean is cracked the shell (also known as the husk) should come away quite easily from the roasted bean (also called the cocoa nib). Don’t worry if you can’t get all the shell off as a very small amount left on the nibs will not affect the final chocolate. As the shell is much lighter than the cocoa nib you can also try blowing air to remove the husks. This is known as winnowing. It can be quite messy so maybe a good idea to do it outside. First put the beans in a plastic bag and gently crush them with a rolling pin just enough to break the shell. Put the beans into a bowl and carefully blow air onto them. Because the shell is much lighter than the nibs most of the shell will blow away leaving you with just the nibs and a small amount of shell. For those that want to make much larger quantities of chocolate this is very time consuming. Therefore we recommend investing in a Cracker and/or a winnower.

Grinding the Cocoa Nibs:

Once the beans have been roasted and the shells removed, the next step is to pre-grind or break the beans down to small nibs. You can do this by putting the roasted beans in a plastic bag and bashing them up with a rolling pin. The smaller you can get the nibs the better because this will put less strain on your wet grinder (Conching). If you prefer you can pre-grind using a coffee grinder if you have one or a juice blender but be careful because after a while the cocoa butter in the nibs might start to melt and bung up your grinder. You just need to get to a course grainy paste.


This is the stage where you will need to invest in some small equipment , a wet grinder which is a cost effective machine for small scale chocolate making. The small wet grinder can make up to 2kgs of chocolate.

First put your pre-ground paste or small cocoa nibs in the wet grinder with the stone rollers quite loose and not screwed down tightly. Mix the nibs until they break down into a paste (5-10 mins). You will need to apply a small amount of heat, so using a hair dryer, heat the nibs until they start to melt. Next add a sweetner of choice such as Licorice powder, date powder or monk fruit powder.

Tempering the Chocolate:

This is the final stage before pouring your bean-to-bar chocolate into your chocolate moulds.  There is a way to successfully temper chocolate at home using a much simpler method that just takes a bit longer. Pour your freshly made chocolate (which will already be around 45°C) from the wet grinder into a plastic or glass bowl (make sure the bowl is not warm – in fact if the bowl is quite cold it will help to bring the temperature of the chocolate down more quickly). Place the bowl in a cool area (not the fridge) and if possible put a fan near the bowl to speed cooling. The chocolate has to be cooled to its working (or tempered) temperature before you can put it into moulds. This will take around one hour depending on room temperature and you must stir the chocolate thoroughly every 5-10 minutes to ensure even temperature in the chocolate. The working or ‘tempered’ temperature will depend on the type of chocolate you are making:

Dark chocolate – cool to 28-29°C then use the hair dryer warm to 30-31°C

Milk chocolate – cool to 27-28° then use the hair dryer to warm to 29-30°C

White chocolate – cool to 26-27°C then use the hair dryer to warm to 28-29°C

What is tempering?

The purpose of tempering chocolate is to pre-crystallise the cocoa butter in the chocolate, which is related to the working temperature of the chocolate. During tempering, the cocoa butter in the chocolate changes into a stable crystalline form. It ensures the hardness, shrinking force and gloss of the finished product after it has cooled. If the chocolate is melted in the normal way (between 40 and 45 °C) then left to cool to working temperature, the finished product will not be glossy. If you make the effort of using a special way of bringing chocolate up to the right working temperature, you are guaranteed to get the desired end result. And that is what we mean by tempering: bringing chocolate up to the right working temperature so that there are sufficient stable crystals. The 3 factors which are important during tempering are time, temperature and movement.

Step 1: Melt the chocolate at a temperature between 40 and 45 °C in a double boiler or melting pan.

Step 2:  Pour 2/3 of the melted chocolate onto the cool marble surface.

Step 3: Keep the chocolate moving by stirring continually with a spatula and a scraper.

Step 4: Continue to do so until the chocolate starts to thicken (when its temperature is 4 to 5 degrees lower than its working temperature): crystallisation takes place. You will see that ‘peaks’ are formed when the chocolate is allowed to fall from the spatula.

Step 5: Pour the pre-crystallised chocolate into the rest of the melted chocolate and stir until it forms an even mixture.

Step 6: The chocolate is now ready to work with. However, if the chocolate is too thick, reheat it until it becomes liquid again, but is still pre-crystallised. Take a sample: put the tip of a knife into the chocolate. If the chocolate is correctly tempered, it will harden evenly within 3 minutes at an ambient temperature of +/- 20 °C.

A look into crystals

The molecules in cocoa butter bond together to form crystalline structures, and what crystalline bonds are created or would proliferate depend largely on the temperatures applied to the chocolate. Like any normal crystals, chocolate crystals also have a melting as well as a “freezing” temperature. Freezing is merely the point at which a substance solidifies as dictated by prevailing temperatures. Water, for example, “melts” or becomes liquid at 32ºF but at temperatures lower than this, crystals begin to form rapidly so that at 0ºF, water turns into ice, its solid phase.

Thus, as temperature levels move towards freezing point, the molecules start bonding together to form crystals. These crystals in turn start crowding into the space previously occupied by the liquid molecules and as temperatures lower, all available space becomes crammed full of crystals–at which point liquid turns into solid. How stable the solid would be would depend on the density and uniformity of size of the crystals created.

This is how the crystals in chocolate solidify as well. In its solid phase, the crystal bonds in tempered chocolate are stable, meaning greater force will be necessary to change or distort its shape. A properly tempered chocolate remains stable at room temperatures, about 68-77ºF (20-25ºC). When heat is applied, usually at 96ºF—the melting point for chocolate, which is a couple of degrees lower than body temperature ( 98ºF/37ºC)—the tempered crystals begin to detach from their bonds and disintegrate.

Temperature therefore is crucial to successful tempering. In order to ensure that chocolate temperatures are accurately maintained at their appropriate ranges, chocolatiers depend on a Mercury-Gauge Chocolate Thermometer. It’s so-designed for tempering purposes and can read temperatures as low as 80ºF. If you’re seriously considering a chocolate candy enterprise, this thermometer would be one of the equipment that you’ll want to have.

What Happens to Chocolate Crystals during Tempering?

You may wonder why you have to heat, then cool, then re-heat chocolate when tempering. There’s a reason behind this rigmarole and it’s all tied up with producing as many crystals as possible; but not just any crystal. When temperature isn’t controlled during tempering, we know that different crystalline structures would multiply at random. There’s a crystal that dominates tempering at 79ºF but yields to a chocolate that may be firm but has a poor snap and melts all too easily. Another crystal, which proliferates at 97ºF, is indeed hard but takes weeks to form. The most desirable crystal is the Type V structure which produces a glossy, firm chocolate, and has the best and cleanest snap when broken. It’s also the most stable crystalline form, melting only near body temperature.

Chocolate that comes from the chocolate makers are already tempered and contain only Type V. When you begin heating the chocolate and it starts melting, the Type V crystals are destabilized and detach from its bonds. When the chocolate has turned liquid, there are no longer any crystals in the cocoa butter making it possible for all six crystal structures to form again in a subsequent tempering. Once melted, the temperature on the molten chocolate must be lowered to 80-82°F through mixing, depending on the kind of chocolate you’ll be using. This agitation of the chocolate mush is necessary to encourage the crystallization of Type IV and Type V crystals that’s why you scrape, spread and fold the chocolate over a heat-absorbing surface, like a marble slab, so as to create “seed” crystals. The seeds in turn will serve as models for other crystals to form. Once the chocolate melt has thickened, it means that you’ve created an adequate amount of crystals.

Chocolate is then re-heated gently to eliminate the Type IV crystals so that only the Type Vs remain. For dark (unsweetened or bitter) chocolates, the re-heating level is 88-90° F; for semi-sweet (milk), it’s 86-88° F; and for white, it’s 82-84° F. Note that semi-sweet and white chocolates burn easily and turn lumpy when the heat is too high; turning up the heat to eliminate the lumps will be counterproductive. Once you’ve tempered chocolate and you start dipping, molding, or sculpting take care that the chocolate doesn’t get out of its correct temperature zones. Should temperatures go below acceptable limits, chocolate will solidify and become useless for working; above this and the crystals disappear as well. Remember to work quickly as chocolate will start to set after five minutes at room temperature. If this happens, you can always use the same chocolate to temper again. One thing you can do is set the chocolate on a bain-marie or a hot pad to extend its ideal tempered state so you’ll have more time for dipping and molding chocolates.

Moulding and Cooling:

After tempering the chocolate you can pour or pipe it into your chocolate moulds. Tap the mould gently to fill the mould evenly and bring any air bubbles to the surface and put in the fridge to set. Cooling will take around 30-60 minutes depending on how big your mould is and how cold the fridge. After 60 minutes take out the chocolate, gently tap the moulds to release the chocolate. Allow your chocolate to get to room temperature before tasting to get the best flavour and enjoy!

Summary of the Process of Transforming Cocoa Beans into Chocolate

Step 1. The fermented and dried cocoa beans are cleaned to remove all extraneous material so ready to roast when you receive them.

Step 2. To bring out the chocolate flavour and colour, the beans are roasted. The temperature, time and degree of moisture involved in roasting depend on the type of beans used and the sort of chocolate or product required from the process.

Step 3. A winnowing machine is used to remove the shells from the beans to leave just the cocoa nibs. This step can be done by hand when using small quantities – otherwise lightly break the roasted cocoa beans and put in a pan or high sided bowl. Take outside and using a hairdryer on low speed, blow over the cocoa to blow away the lighter skins/shells of the beans. Messy but effective!

Step 4. The nibs are then milled to create cocoa mass/liquor (cocoa particles suspended in cocoa butter). The temperature and degree of milling varies according to the type of nib used and the product required.

Step 5.Other ingredients such as sugar, milk, and Cocoa Butter are also added and mixed in the Melangeur/grinder as the nibs are being milled. The proportions of the different ingredients depend on the type of chocolate being made. Ideally the milling or grinding in a melangeur needs to reduce the particle size down to around 20 micron, so you get a smooth mouthfeel with no gritty or sandiness on your tongue – as with industrially produced chocolate, Cocoa mass/liquor can be pressed under extreme pressure to extract the pure cocoa butter, which can be added to adjust the viscosity (thick/thinness) to make the chocolate more fluid so easier to temper later.]

Step 6. The next process, conching, further develops flavour and texture by aerating the chocolate which allows the bitter volatiles to evaporate so Conching is a kneading or smoothing process. The speed, duration and temperature of the kneading affect the flavour. This can also be done in the Melangeur as a continuation of the milling/grinding, so the lid of the Melanguer needs to be removed during this process, which can take some hours.

Step 7. The mixture is then tempered or passed through a heating, cooling and reheating process. This prevents discolouration and fat bloom in the product by preventing certain crystalline formations of cocoa butter developing so results in a shiny hard snap finish to the chocolate.

Step 8. The mixture is then put into moulds or used for enrobing fillings and then needs to be cooled at around 10-12 degrees – a domestic fridge is too cool and can result in condensation forming once you remove the finished chocolate.