There are quite a few people making chocolate these days, and with them come a variety of ways to produce the chocolate. All of these unique takes can essentially be reduced to two different overall categories. There are chocolate makers and then there are chocolatiers.
While the traditional chocolate maker creates their product directly from cacao beans and other ingredients, chocolatiers create confectionery from chocolate that is already produced. We here at Sacred Summit are chocolate makers, and we specialize in bean-to-bar chocolate. The essence of bean-to-bar chocolate can be unlocked by understanding the specific process that is required for its production. To understand this process is to understand bean-to-bar chocolate.
Sourcing the beans is the first step in the chocolate making process. We source nothing but organic, fairly traded cacao from co-ops in distinct regions from an array of countries. The climate, soil, fermentation process, and variety of cacao all effect the end product. Our favorite beans are Criollo and Trinitario, which each offer unique attributes and flavors. The sourcing process is vital to the end product, as a bad bean will reflect in the flavor of the chocolate that it produces.
Once the beans are sourced they must be sorted. This process is rather self explanatory. The chocolate maker sorts beans by size, and removes debris as well as the poor-quality beans.
This step involves a series of chemical reactions that allow the flavor of the bean to develop, as the more bitter attributes of the cacao bean simultaneously dissipate. Every bean requires its own nuanced approach in order for the flavor profile to really take hold. Additionally, the roasting process curtails the moisture within the bean, and begins to liberate the husk from the nib.
Cracking or winnowing refers to the process of removing the husk from the bean after it has been roasted. By this point the bean has cooled down after being roasted, and we begin to crack the bean into petite pieces. With the help of vacuum pressure, we extract the husk off of the nib. If the entire husk is not removed adequately, the flavor of the chocolate will suffer.
Now that the nibs are free of the husk, the true metamorphosis into chocolate begins. We start this process by grinding the nibs, which reduces the size of the nib and starts to release the cocoa butter. The result is referred to as chocolate liquor, which is mixed with sugar and ground even further.
This step in the process is where the coarse aggregate of chocolate is reduced into a smooth paste. As this step occurs, the surfaces of our broken fragments become coated with cocoa butter. The milling process leads to the refinement of microns which ensures that your tongue doesn’t distinguish any grittiness within the chocolate. We aim for .15 microns in order to achieve chocolate that is incredibly smooth and creamy.
Conching refers to a prolonged period of stirring or aeration that takes place under heat. This allows for the flavor to develop. Typically this process takes somewhere between 24 and 72 hours, however it depends heavily on the chocolate being conched. After this step is complete, the end flavor of the chocolate is almost fully achieved, and the appearance becomes glossy and polished.
Before this step occurs, we usually allow our chocolate to rest and cultivate a bit. The changes in flavor occurring during this period of rest are very faint, but important. Once the chocolate is given the opportunity to rest and develop, we then melt it down and begin the step of tempering. This process is quite complicated, but the goal is to pinpoint a structure that provides chocolate with it’s snap and melt properties, as well as its pretty shimmer. Once the desired result is achieved, we place the chocolate into our custom molds and vibrate. Vibrations remove bubbles from the chocolate as it settles into the mold. After the chocolate hardens, we package it for distribution.
So there you have it. These 8 steps all create the process that leads to bean-to-bar chocolate. If you are interested in exploring our unique brand of bean-to-bar chocolate, check out our delicious bars here.