making chocolate at home

As told to me by Ricardo, a brazillian friend from rio and chocolate maker.

Roast the cocoa beans. The process is similar to roasting coffee beans, except with gentler requirements: 5-35 minutes at temperatures between 120-160 degrees C(250-325 degrees F). You must generally expose the beans to an initial high temperature, lower the temperature gradually, and stop roasting when the beans start to crack (but not burn). You can accomplish this in your oven or by using a store-bought roaster.

If roasting in your oven, you will need to do a bit of experimenting because roasting times depend on the type of bean you’re using. Lay the beans in a single layer across a cookie sheet. Start off with an 18 minute roast in a preheated oven at 120 degrees C (250 F). They’ll be ready when they start to crack and when they actually taste like chocolate (let them cool before tasting!).

For roasting larger quantities of cocoa beans, you may want to invest in a drum, which is rotated over a gas grill.

Crack and winnow the beans. After roasting, the beans must be cracked into nibs and winnowed, whereby the husks (chaff) are removed.

You can crack the beans with a hammer and remove the husks (which should be loose after proper roasting) by hand if you are working with a small batch.
For larger batches, you can use a very coarse, Corona type mill or purchase a specialized mill to crack the beans into nibs. (In case you were wondering, a meat grinder doesn’t work.)

To winnow the nibs, stir them gently with your hands or a spoon as you blow on them with a hair dryer or small shop vac until the husks are blown away.

Grind the nibs into a cocoa liqueur. You will need equipment strong enough to liquefy the nibs and separate the remaining husks. General food processors, Vita-Mix, coffee grinders (burr and blade), meat grinders (manual and electric) mortar and pestles, and most juicers will not work. You may need to experiment to find equipment that gets the job done. Many home chocolatiers find success with a “Champion Juicer“. Feed the nibs into the juicer one handful at a time, being sure to push them in gently (not forcefully) or else the motor may overheat. Cocoa liqueur will come through the screen and a mixture of husks and liqueur will find its way through the spout. Feed this mixture through the juicer again until only the husk comes through the spout.

Conch and refine the chocolate. By definition, conching affects the characteristic taste, smell and texture of the chocolate, while refining reduces the size of the cocoa solids and sugar crystals. Both processes can be applied at the same time with a powerful wet grinder (success has been reported with a Spectra 10 melanger, also called the “Stone Chocolate Melanger”. How you conch and refine the chocolate will depend on what equipment you use, but here are guidelines for the Spectra 10 melanger:

Melt the chocolate and the cocoa butter in the oven to about 120 degrees F.

Combine with non-fat dry milk powder, sugar, lecithin and a vanilla pod (split and soaked in the cocoa butter 1 hour; this is an optional flavoring).
Pour the chocolate mixture in the grinder, periodically pointing a hair dryer at it for 2-3 minutes to keep the chocolate melted during the first hour (until the friction created by grinding keeps the chocolate liquid without additional heat being needed).

Continue refining for at least 10 hours and no more than 36 hours, until the chocolate tastes smooth and balanced, but be sure not to over-refine (or it will get gummy).

To take a break from refining (e.g. at night while you’re sleeping, see Warnings), turn off the grinder, put the covered bowl into an oven that’s preheated to 150 degrees F but turned off, and leave it there overnight. It shouldn’t solidify but if it does, take the cover off and turn the oven on to about 150-175 degrees F until the chocolate melts (be careful not to let the bowl itself melt, though).

Temper the chocolate. This is likely the most difficult part of the process, but it ensures that the chocolate will be shiny and have a “snap” to it, rather than being matte and soft enough to melt in your hands. However, the great thing about tempering is you can do it as many times as you like and the chocolate won’t be ruined. Alternatively, you can purchase a tempering machine on the Internet for $300-400 (US). The most important thing is that you do not let any moisture in the chocolate, or it will be ruined.

Melt your chocolate carefully. You can accomplish this in the oven if you are using larger quantities of chocolate, or you can use a double broiler on the stove. It’s your choice, just make sure that the chocolate does not burn (keep stirring) and you melt more than 1.5 pounds of chocolate. Any less and tempering could prove difficult. When the chocolate is melted to a temperature of around 110 or 120 degrees F, transfer it to a dry, cool bowl and stir until the chocolate temperature drops to about 100 degrees F. Use a candy thermometer to gauge the temperature. The chocolate in the bowl should remain at the same temperature while you work with chocolate outside of the bowl.

Pour about one third of the contents of the bowl onto a hard, non-porous counter top or other surface (granite or marble works best). Spread the chocolate out with the spatula, and then bring it all back together.

Continue doing this (for about 10-15 minutes) until the chocolate is about 85 degrees F. By the time the chocolate cools down to that point, the chocolate should be a thick, gooey mass.

Add some of the 100 degree F chocolate from the bowl to get the chocolate workable again. Gently work the chocolate around.

Return the chocolate back into the bowl with the 100 degree chocolate. Stir it gently, and try not to create bubbles.

Check the chocolate’s temperature. You want it around 90 degrees F, but never over 92 degrees F. Anything higher than this and you may need to temper the chocolate again.

Mold the chocolate while it is still at about 90 degrees F. Pour the chocolate into the molds, careful not to spill. Some people find it effective to use a large syringe to place chocolate in the mold, but it is all about personal preference. When all of the chocolate has been added to the molds, you may either freeze, refrigerate, or let them harden at room temperature. Again, it’s all about personal preference, and there is no right way to do it.

Remove the chocolate from the molds when the chocolate is hardened. The molded chocolate should have a glossy appearance and should snap cleanly in two. If you are unsatisfied with your chocolate, you may re-temper the chocolate as long as the chocolate remains dry and you haven’t burned it.

Tips from ricardo:

There are many things you can do with your chocolate when you’re done. You could sell it, give it as gifts, or even enjoy it with friends and family.

Homemade chocolate makes a great gift — experiment with it to make a variety of chocolate-based gifts. Give it for a holiday or birthday and expect it to be enjoyed. Any way you choose, the process will be rewarding and fun. I prefere to make mayan figures with chili powder mixed into the chocolate.

Making chocolate is a learning process. Don’t expect your very first batch to be absolutely perfect. If you make chocolate several times, you’ll find what works for you and what doesn’t. You might even consider adding ingredients of your own, or using your own methods of roasting or tempering that work well for you. Do research about different techniques and see what you can find, and experiment with your own.

Don’t skip the roasting. The beans need to be roasted in order to sterilize them and reduce the risk of infection, as well as trigger the chemical reactions that make chocolate taste like chocolate.

It is possible to use a grinder or food processor to refine the chocolate, but this is strongly discouraged as it doesn’t work nearly as well as an actual refiner.

It is likely that a mess will be made when you grind the cocoa.

There are many different chocolate-making tools, it may just take some searching. Look around in different stores and online. You might be surprised what you find!

There is a way to make chocolate by hand, but it produces chocolate cruder than that found here.

If you are using white colored chocolate and want to add coloring to it, never use regular food color or food color paste since this too contains water and your chocolate will the have artificial colors or flavors. You should only use powdered or gel varieties.

If your melted chocolate is too thick to paint, add some parafinflakes until you get the right mixture. If you don’t have this, you can also use vegetable shortening or cocoa butter.

Some people paint the chocolate after it has been taken out of the freezer.

To do this, you must hold the mold over you head so you can see it from the right side. If there are any air bubbles, tap the area where they are using your fingers until it pops.


1 lb. of raw cocoa beans (you can find these online or at a farmer’s market)or cocoa powder.
1/2 cup of sugar
Additional flavouring (mint)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
650ml of milk

Roast the raw cocoa beans. Put a single layer of beans on a cookie sheet.Roast them for about 30 minutes in a 300 degree oven. Let the beans cool, and pull the husks off. Discard of the husks or add them to a compost pile.

Break up the beans. This can be done with a hammer and washcloth, or you can use a mortar and pestle. When they are in pieces, grind them using the mortar. Or a clean pepper grinder wich we discussed.

When the pieces of bean are small, continue mashing with the mortar and pestle. By this point the beans will have turned into a brown mush. It may look good, but it tastes very bitter.

Heat a large pan of water until it is hot, but not boiling. Transfer the cocoa bean paste to a smaller pan. Place the smaller pan in the pan of hot water. When the paste is heated, but not cooking, transfer the paste back into the bowl and continue to work with the mortar. Continue to use the mortar on the paste until it is of a smooth consistency.

Add the sugar and the milk or half and half and vanilla, if you decide to use any flavoring. When the sugar and flavorings are mixed in, pour the chocolate into molds, or a large pan that you can cut into small bars. Let the chocolate cool and harden. This can be done a room temperature, in the fridge cover with foil if you’d prefere a more modern hand made chocolate.

He warns that this chocolate is not like store bought chocolate…this is a purer form of chocolate that maybe considered extra bitter.

We then discussed growing! Thats right how to get beans all by your self.

It isn’t easy to grow cocoa beans, especially if you don’t live within 15 degrees of the Equator. Beginning to grow that delicious chocolate you love to eat has very specific requirements. However, if you are determined, you can set up the proper growing conditions, purchase a cocoa tree cutting and get started on the two- to three-year adventure it takes to grow.

Clay pots large enough for six-foot tree
Heater (optional)

Create the right conditions. Cocoa trees will only grow and produce cocoa beans in a very particular set of conditions: The temperature must be always above 60 degrees Fahrenheit, the humidity must be at least 50 percent and the trees need to be protected from sun and wind. If you want to grow cocoa beans outside, you must live in USDA plant hardiness zone 10 or higher, and grow the cocoa plants under a shade cover. To grow them inside, use a humidifier and heater to recreate windless, tropical conditions. (Green house might work for those not in zone 10!)

Plant a cocoa branch cutting. Get a cutting of a cocoa plant from a tropical plant store, such as Growing a cocoa tree from cocoa beans is difficult and can produce a tree with unpredictable fruit (cocoa).

Water the cocoa tree. Be sure to water it regularly. Thoroughly saturate the soil each time you water, but wait until the soil is almost completely dry between waterings. This means you should water every other day if the soil drains quickly, or every three to four days if the soil drains slowly.

Fertilize the soil once a week with 1/4 tsp. balanced fertilizer mixed in a gallon of water. The fertilizer should be 15-15-15 or 7-9-5 of nitrogen to phosphorus to potassium (the latter is a special blooming feed).

Pollinate the cocoa tree’s flowers. You’ll need to do this by hand unless you live in a region with tiny midges, a type of fly that reproduce in moist, deteriorating vegetation. Though if you have a self compatible cocoa tree, you will not need to do this.

Thin the cocoa bean pods if necessary. If more than one or two fruit pods grow from a single flower cluster, the pods will grow more slowly and stay smaller. Thin the pods for maximum cocoa beans.

He warns to NEVER BUY DRIED SEEDS. They loose their viability when they are dried.

Cocoa pods are ready to pick when they’ve turned green. They have to be harvested at just the right time to ensure the correct amount of cocoa butter, which in turn will have a big impact on the final flavour of the chocolate. The seeds are removed from the pod, along with the rind and the rest of pod is tossed aside, no longer required. After harvesting comes fermentation and this is basically the process that separates the seeds from the pulp and begins the transformation into the more recognisable and usable cocoa beans. All the seeds and pulp are laid out on racks for a number of days. The pulp goes gooey and drains away, leaving behind the wonderful seeds. It’s at this stage that the seeds are promoted and can now be called ‘beans’. The beans then need to dry out completely before they can be used to create chocolate. This can be done naturally under the blazing sun, or artificially in big heated vats. Most producers choose the natural method and I have to say I like the idea of my cocoa beans having a bit of a sunbathe.

He recommends for buying your beans from here.

Ricardo’s cocoa bean recommendation.

He recommends them because they are part of the fair trade beauru. This means the workers are not mistreated, and they are not slaves.


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