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

Posted on April 07 2016

I am teaching a 'how to make chocolate' course with Mestiço Chocolates in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Please email for more information.
*Para informações sobre cursos bean to bar envia email para:
I became a chocolatier 14 years ago and a chocolate maker 6 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 cacao 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.

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 beans. You can use the entire bean with husk on or nibs only.  It's all 100% possible. But, the best chocolate in the world is made with well fermented, fine quality cacao beans without 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 ten, 50 gram, 70% chocolate bars. There are a few websites that sell good quality cacao in small quantities:,,

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 can only buy only one 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 spices, nuts, coconut, or cacao. They have several models, always updating for better results. The newer the model, the more expensive. They range from $150-250usd. Capacity is 1 to 4 kilos. 


Almost every chocolate maker has one of these. Once they purchase bigger machines, they keep these for testing sample beans or making small batches. I have five of these. 

Premier Wonder Table Top Wet Grinder 110v 1.5L


Start making chocolate

1. Clean the cacao beans. The image below shows the beans that will be removed when I roast the cacao. I remove the beans that are broken, stuck together, flat, or look like they might have mold. These beans did not ferment or dry correctly, will over roast, can carry unwanted bacteria, and will negatively affect your chocolate. There are many chocolate makers that include these beans in the batch, but I suggest you remove them. 

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 (to get 800g of nibs) and you would add 200g of sugar. 

3. Roasting method. You can roast in a normal oven, in a coffee roaster, on the 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/time and technique; this is one factor that separates all chocolate makers. I roasted these beans 35 minutes at 140c. 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 130c. 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- 100c to 115c, 20-60 minutes. Medium roast: 115c-135c, 15-45minutes. High roast: 135c-150c, 15-30minutes. There are also other techniques to follow: start at a high temp, end at a low temp, start low and end high, start with oven off or oven on. You have to figure it out for your beans depending what appliance you are using. The time and temperature I use in my convection oven would not work for a home oven nor a coffee roaster.  An infrared thermometer is nice for this step. An important thing to remember no matter how you roast; keep the cacao in motion as much as possible to prevent beans from burning and other beans from underrating. 
When you are finished roasting, remove from the oven and allow to cool for a minimum of 6 hours, 24 hours is ideal. The beans continue to release moisture for up to 6 hours after roasting. 

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 otherwise it will turn into powder. If you are familiar with a molino which is used to grind corn, this is ideal for cracking. A coffee mill works as well. I have included a list below of things that would work. 

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. John Nanci at sells small winnowers for beginners but if you are talented you can build your own with some plastic tubes. 
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, sometimes I do it and sometimes I don't. If I do not pregrind it takes a lot longer to finish adding the nibs to the 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 (liquor) in my grinder, let this grind for 24 to 48 hours, then add sugar. After I add the sugar, I grind 10 to 30 hours more. You can grind 2 to 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 and aroma. You are the 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, or panela. The mix was sticky and unworkable. I even tried dehydrating the rapadura for 50 hours before adding and it 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 releases aroma and the more the flavor of the chocolate changes. This is your chocolate. Stop it when you think it tastes great; 25 to 48 hours or grind time is good.
8. Remove from machine. Dump the chocolate into a container, through a sieve to catch any unground pieces. 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. When the chocolate is in the grinder it normally is at 50c, you could also take it from the grinder and start tempering. 


Best machines and tools for making small amounts of chocolate













Great books to learn about making chocolate:

Farms in Brazil that will sell to small chocolate makers:

  • Fazenda Camboa- 100% organic- phone: 55 21 9 8745 0809
  • Fazenda Venturosa-
  • Fazenda Lajedo do Ouro-

Websites to learn about chocolate

Where to buy cacao in the USA


 Tempering & Molding bean-to-bar chocolate


Mission Chocolate com Mestiço Chocolate:

Curso Chocolate Bean-to-Bar, Vila Olimpia, São Paulo, Brasil

JUNHO 2019, (5 dias) 10h as 19h-- informacões: This is an in depth introduction to making small-batch bean to bar chocolate, you will begin by selecting beans, roasting, cracking, winnowing then making your own batch of chocolate. We will also taste many chocolates from different chocolate makers and speak/tour some factories via skype. We will also be visiting Sao Paulo chocolate makers.  This course is for people that are interested in starting to make chocolate

curso bean to bar

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  • Susan E Bohlken: May 04, 2019

    Hi Arcelia!
    This is Susan from Zamas in Tulum! We miss you!!! I was looking for a replacement for our grinder and your post popped up! Love it! You are always so informative and generous with your knowledge. I hope you’re doing well in Brazil. And if you ever want to come back to Tulum for a visit, please let us know! We’d love to have you. Big hugs from all of us at Zamas. Susan xx

  • Katie : October 18, 2018

    Thanks for the info! Just wondering how you go running your wet grinder continuously for so many hours as many of them say to run for 30 minutes.

  • Arcelia: February 16, 2018

    @Imke, it depends what type you want to make and who your target is. If you want creamy and luxurious I would make a 70% dark chocolate melted with some full fat milk powder then mold in a square and spoon. If you want something lighter for children I would make a milk chocolate and mold it into a square with a spoon. If you want it to be easy for the consumer to make (and not require they have milk, it is a good idea to add milk powder to the mix so it still has a creamy texture. But if your target is vegan, fit, etc. then you can leave out the milk.

  • Imke Backens: January 26, 2018

    Hello Brazilian chocolate maker,
    I’m looking for a great recipe ,from bean to bar , to make hot chocolate. The presentation I m looking for is to be able to mold it into individual spoon servings which can be dropped into the hot milk. Asking for advice and recipe ideas.

  • Arcelia: September 09, 2017

    Hi Dianne, haha, you are not alone!!! Tempering is the hardest part of making chocolate.

    In the case of making chocolate with a grinder … that’s all you need, yes you should temper if you want to mold but it’s not necessary if you want to bake with it. But no conching is needed. Traditionally you would use a separate machine for conching but in this case the grinder does the grinding and “conching”.

    To keep the tempered chocolate at the desired temperature, you need at minimum a melter/warmer machine that holds the temperature as set. Otherwise you have to constantly heat to keep it from becoming solid.

    Naturally allowing the chocolate to cool wouldn’t work; time is a factor in cooling, so it would have to happen relatively quick in order for it to temper correctly.

  • Dianne: September 04, 2017

    Hello! Thank you for all this great information! This description seemed to end at grinding, but to make the bar, do you need to conch and temper (maybe not in that order)?

    I have a separate question, as I try to understand tempering better. I understand chocolate is heated to melt all the fat crystals (about 115F), and then lowered to achieve the phase V conformation. However, when the chocolate is naturally cooled to room temp (ie, for the regular chocolate bar temperature or any bon bon temperature), wouldn’t it naturally change from phase V to the lower-temp phases that occur at room temp? In other words, it seems impossible to keep the chocolate in the magical phase V conformation once it cools to room temp, which is the temperature most people eat the candy.

    Many thanks for any insights!

  • Arcelia: October 05, 2016

    Hello Luiz, I bought that machine at 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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