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How to make a small batch of bean-to-bar chocolate

Posted on April 07 2016

I became a chocolatier 14 years ago and a chocolate maker 4 years ago. Most people don't realize that there is a BIG difference between chocolate makers and chocolatiers. When I opened my first store, I was a chocolatier; I bought chocolate chips from Guittard Chocolate, melted, remolded, and added my own flavors- I could also be called a confectioner or candy maker. I sold my store and began my deep love affair with Dandelion Chocolate in San Francisco where I became a chocolate maker. Every day began with selecting, roasting, cracking, and grinding beans. Chocolatiers don't really know how to make chocolate and chocolate makers don't really know about confections and candies. It's two different and distinct industries. 

 

Making chocolate from scratch, from the bean, is a very specialize skill that takes a lot of time and knowledge to master. Although I am sharing a step by step guide it will take several attempts for you to create a product that you are happy with. I will divide this into three parts: 1. Growing cacao, 2. Making chocolate, 3. Tempering chocolate. 

Anyone can make chocolate from any cacao.  Chocolate can be made with well fermented, badly fermented, or non fermented cacao. Similarly, you can use roasted or unroasted cacao. You can use the entire bean or nibs only.  It's 100% possible. But, the best chocolate in the world is made with well fermented, fine quality cacao beans without using the husks, and has been roasted to an optimal temperature.  

Where can you find well fermented cacao? You can visit a chocolate maker in your area or online and beg them to sell you a kilo- this can cost about $20usd but it will yield you about 10, 50gram, 70% chocolate bars. There are a few websites that sell good quality cacao in small quantities: ChocolateAlchemy.com, MeridianCacao.com, CacaoVivo.com.

You also need some basic tools and machines- not necessary, but required if you want great chocolate. You can roast in your home oven and use a basic hair dryer to winnow. If you buy only 1 thing to really get into chocolate making, it needs to be the grinder. Below is the best, small, and cheapest option. 

This machine is specially made for grinding cacao into chocolate. It is the newest model, I just bought one and brought it to Brazil. 


 

This model below is what almost every chocolate maker starts with. It is the model before the model above and a little less expensive. I have 4 of these. 

Premier Wonder Table Top Wet Grinder 110v 1.5L

 

I was in Guatemala last year where I taught Maya women to make chocolate without these machines and without electricity, it was not the best tasting but it was chocolate. 

1. Clean the cacao beans. The image below shows the beans that will be removed before I roast the cacao. I remove the beans that are broken, stuck together, flat, or look like they might have fungus. These beans did not ferment or dry correctly, will over roast, can carry unwanted bacteria, and will negatively affect your chocolate. 

cleaning cacao making bean to bar chocolate

2. Decide what chocolate you will make. For my 70% chocolate bar I need 700 grams of cacao nibs and 300 grams of sugar. I will lose some of the cacao weight when I winnow (remove the husks), so I have to add extra cacao for the roast. I will start with 1kilo (1000g) of cacao beans. If you want to make an 80% chocolate bar, roast 1100grams of cacao beans and you will add 200g of sugar. 

3. Roasting method. You can roast in a normal oven, in a coffee roaster, on stovetop in a pot or comal (griddle). I place my beans on a sheet pan with a wire rack inside to help air circulate around the beans for more consistent roasting. You can also use a perforated sheet pan or a regular sheet pan. 
4. Roasting time and temperature. Every chocolate maker has their own recipe for roasting temperature and time; this is 1 factor that separates all chocolate makers. I roasted these beans 45 minutes at 130c. With some practice you will figure out if you prefer light or dark roasts.  With my Brazilian cacao beans, I noticed that more cocoa butter is released during grinding if I roast darker, above 120c. When I travel to work with indigenous communities they roast until they hear the first beans pop; sounds like popcorn, which can be above 140c. There is no simple recipe for all beans. Ecuadorian cacao beans will be a different roast than Venezuelan cacao beans. And a 2014 harvest might be a different roast than 2015 harvest.  In my convection oven I follow these guidelines: low roast- 100-115c, 20-60minutes. Medium roast: 115-135c, 15-45minutes. High roast: 135-150c, 15-30minutes. 
When you are finished roasting, remove from the oven and allow to cool for 2 hours. 

5. Crack the beans. Since I am only cracking 1 kilo of cacao, I put my beans on a rock (metate), and broke them with another rock. You can also place the roasted beans in a towel and crush with a rolling pin, place in a plastic bag and crush with a wine bottle ... the goal is to remove the husk from the nibs without cracking the nibs too much. 

In Mexico, women who prepare chocolate for ceremonies or special festivals will spend days hand peeling the beans. This is also another option and it avoids the next step. 
6. Winnowing. When you are done cracking, you will be left with a lot of husks with your nibs. The easiest way to separate is to use a hair dryer. Point the hair dryer directly on the beans and the husks will blow away. Do this outside. You can also place the bowl near a fan and lift the cracked cacao, the fan will blow away the husks. 
It is ok to have small pieces of husks but try to remove the remainder with your hands. 
6. Pre-grind. Pre-grind is not necessary but it prolongs the life of your grinder. You can pre-grind the nibs in a food processor, juicer, or molino (normally used for corn). At this point I make sure I have my 700 grams of nibs. I place all my pre-ground nibs (licor) in my grinder, let this grind for 24-48 hours, then add sugar. After I add the sugar, I grind 6-10 hours more. You can grind 2-60 hours; grind time is determined by the chocolate maker. The more you grind, the smoother/creamier the chocolate will be. But, the longer you grind, the more the flavors escape. Your chocolate will have a very strong flavor in the beginning, you will notice that as you grind, you will lose flavor. You are th chocolate maker and you have to decide when you want to stop the machine. 
 
7. Sugar. I add 300 grams of sugar 24 hours after I place the nibs into the grinder. I use organic cane sugar but you can use white sugar, raw sugar, coconut sugar, etc. As long as it has a low moisture content. Once I tried to use a type of dark brown sugar sold in the Americas called by different names; rapadura, piloncillo, panela. The mix was so sticky and unworkable. I even tried dehydrating the rapadura for 50 hours before adding and it still was a disaster. You don't have to add any sugar at all. You can make a 100% cacao bar. Or you can make a 95% bar and only add 50g of sugar. You get to decide. 
 
The longer you allow it to grind, the more the chocolate is conched and the more the flavor of the chocolate changes. This is your chocolate. Stop it when you think it tastes great; 25-48hrs is good.
8. Remove from machine. Dump the chocolate into a container, through a sieve to catch any unground pieces, and store in the refrigerator. Make sure to label it. You can leave the chocolate like this forever. It will change flavors and color but it will always be edible. I like to put it in the fridge right away because it is easier for me to temper it later. I live in Brazil where daily temp is 32c (90f), if I left it on the shelf it would stay liquid for weeks and the cocoa butter will separate to the top. 
 

 

Best machines and tools for making small amounts of chocolate

Roasting

Cracking

Winnowing

Grinding

Tempering

Melters

Thermometer 

Micrometer

Molds

Foil

 

Great books to learn about making chocolate:

Farms in Brazil that will sell to small chocolate makers:

  • Fazenda Camboa- 100% organic- arthurjcarvalho@gmail.com phone: 55 21 9 8745 0809
  • Fazenda Venturosa- jimlucas1940@gmail.com
  • Fazenda Lajedo do Ouro-  pedro.neto@lajedodoouro.com.br

Websites to learn about chocolate

Where to buy cacao in the USA

  

 Tempering & Molding bean-to-bar chocolate

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5 comments

  • Arcelia: October 05, 2016

    Hello Luiz, I bought that machine at Chocolatealchemy.com in the USA but you can make it yourself. Search the internet for cacao husk winnower and you should find simple instructions on building it. You can buy all the supplies at a construction store.

  • Luiz Paulo: October 04, 2016

    Olá, vi seu programa com o Edu Guedes e peço que me informe onde eu posso comprar aquela máquina para separar o nibs da casca. Obrigado. Hi, i’m from Brazil and i saw tour program on brasilian TV with Edu Guedes. Please,Tell me where i can buy the machine which separares the nibs using air aspirate. Thanks, best regards. Luiz Paulo

  • Al Silva: July 20, 2016

    I liked the recipe just a little correction, you most have 950 grams instead of 700 grams of cocoa nibs in order to get 95% concentration.

  • Arcelia: May 23, 2016

    I use the premier wonder grinder I posted above.

  • Catherine Parr: August 16, 2015

    Hello Arcelia,

    Thank-you for your chocolate bean to bar blog, the pictures you included are really helpful. Can you tell me what kind of grinder you are using in the picture for the nibs , it looks like it works very well in getting the chocolate very smooth. Thanks, Catherine

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