Introduction: How to Make Chocolate From Scratch

Picture of How to Make Chocolate From Scratch
Chocolate is a food that is simultaneously ubiquitous and mysterious. Chocolate is everywhere - in cakes, in candies, in beverages. Yet few people really know how chocolate is made. Even fewer have actually set their eyes on a cocoa bean, much less a cocoa pod.

After extensive research, I've discovered chocolate's dirty little secret - it's a piece of cake to make at home.

And if your family is impressed by homemade truffles and cakes, imagine how they'll feel when you had them a bar of home-freaking-made chocolate.

Chocolate manufacture requires six steps.
  • First comes fermentation and drying. The beans are harvested from the pods, and allowed to naturally ferment over a period of two days to two weeks. Heat kills the delicate germinating seed, and natural yeasts grow to develop complex flavors. The beans are then sun-dried to preserve them for shipping.
  • Next, the beans are roasted. Cocoa beans are roasted for the same reason that coffee beans are - to develop complex flavors via the Maillard reaction, and to drive off unpleasant acidic compounds developed in the fermentation process.
  • Cracking and winnowing follow roasting. This step is purely mechanical, to separate the valuable nibs from the worthless shells.
  • After this, the nibs must be refined. The tongue can perceive particles larger than 30 micrometers in size, so extensive grinding is needed for a good mouthfeel.
  • The raw cocoa liquor is then "conched," a lengthy process which drives off the rest of the acidic flavoring compounds.
  • Finally, the finished product is tempered to give the chocolate good gloss and snap.
Unfortunately, cocoa pods are practically impossible to get your hands on. So we'll (unfortunately) have to start at the second step, with pre-fermented and dried cocoa beans.

Ready? Into the breach we go, my friends!

Or, you can just watch the video. (Which works now! Hooray!)

Step 1: Equipment and Ingredients

Picture of Equipment and Ingredients
The ingredients you'll want are as follows:
  • Cocoa beans. These can be troublesome to find locally. Fortunately, we have the internet! I bought my beans from Chocolate Alchemy, which also has a treasure trove of chocolate making information.
  • Something to sweeten the chocolate. You can use any solid sweetener - table sugar, brown sugar, "raw" sugar, splenda, etcetera. Don't use honey, agave nectar, molasses, or other liquid sweeteners unless you want to end up with a chocolate paste.
  • Spices (optional). Since this is your chocolate, you can add whatever you want! Cinnamon and cardamom are delicious. Chili powder is a classic. The sky's the limit! Curry powder! Wasabi! Coffee! Peppercorns! ...even bacon, perhaps.
  • If you are planning on tempering the chocolate by seeding, you'll need a small amount of tempered chocolate.
  • Cocoa butter (optional), to thin the final product.

On the equipment side, you'll need:
  • A food processor or spice grinder (blade grinder, not burr grinder).
  • A baking sheet (perforated, ideally).
  • A hairdryer, heat gun, or shop-vac.
  • A bowl.
  • A mortar and pestle/molcajete (for smaller batches) or a stand mixer (for larger batches).
  • If you're planning on tempering the chocolate by tabling, you'll also need a slab of marble, granite, or other smooth nonporous stone surface, and a pair of scraping tools (like these or these).

Step 2: Roasting the Beans

Picture of Roasting the Beans
Take some beans. I'm weighing them out, because I know no other way to live.

I'm starting with 100 grams. Spread them on your roasting pan.

The basics: you want to start roasting at a high temperature, to make the shells nice and hot. This sterilizes them, the encourages the bean to separate from the shell. Eventually, you need to decrease the heat so that the beans don't burn.

Roasting the beans seems to be much more of an art than a science, especially without a "real" roaster. You want to wait for two things - first, the beans will crack and pop. This indicates that the bean has separated and breached the shell, which will make removing the shells much easier in the next step. Second, keep an eye (a nose?) on the aroma of the roasting beans. At first, the smell will be very vinegary and acidic - when your kitchen starts smelling like brownies, that's when you know they're done!

Here's how I roasted this batch:
  • Five minutes at 400 degrees,
  • Five to ten minutes at 250 degrees.

Take them out, let them cool. Time to separate the good bits from the bad.

Step 3: Winnowing the Nibs

Picture of Winnowing the Nibs

Now that the beans have cooled, the outsides (hulls) need to be separated from the insides (nibs).

There are two ways to do this. You can always peel each bean by hand, thrown away the skins, and keep the nibs for yourself. This will take a long time, but you lose very few nibs.

The other, faster option is to imitate the way these separations are done industrially - we'll crack the beans up and blow air on them to separate the thin papery outside from the dense tasty inside.

Place the cocoa beans into a plastic bag, and crush them up with a rolling pin, cast iron skillet, or other similarly heavy object. Don't be too gentle! Crack them beans!

Pour the mixture into a bowl. Next, gently direct the hairdryer towards the bowl. Agitate the cocoa mixture, either by stirring it with your hands or by shaking the bowl. If you've got the hairdryer at the right distance, the cocoa bean skins will fly out of the bowl, leaving the nibs behind. Check the nibs out to make sure all the skins are gone.

Oh, by the way - you should do this outside. And you might want to wear goggles.

Step 4: Refining the Cocoa

Picture of Refining the Cocoa

The next step in the process is to grind the roasted nibs into a smooth, uniform mass. You want to take the nibs and "refine" the cocoa solids into the smallest possible size particles that you can. The human tongue can detect particles larger than 30 microns (about a thousandth of an inch), so the smaller they get, the smoother the final product.

The best possible piece of equipment you could use for this would be a commercial chocolate melangeur or Indian flour grinder. Unfortunately, these are expensive and hard to obtain. You can also use a juicer, with the folks online generally picking a Champion brand juicer. Again, a masticating juicer is an expensive piece of equipment, and not something one would generally be expected to have at home.

So, in the stead of the more expensive machines, it's possible to use a standard blade-type coffee/spice grinder to refine the chocolate. It's unlikely that the grinder will be able to refine the mass all the way down to 30 microns, so the resulting chocolate might have a "sandy" mouthfeel; don't despair, the taste will still be excellent!

First, we need to refine the desired sweetener. To do this, figure out how much chocolate you want to end up with (about 100 grams is really the maximum that my grinder can handle), and work from there. A 100 gram batch of 60% dark chocolate will require 60 grams of nibs and 40 grams of sugar. Add the sugar to the spice grinder and grind it until it's a superfine powder.

Add in the nibs.

They'll need to be processed for about 5 minutes total. If your spice grinder is like mine (cheap), it can't handle 5 minutes of constant on-time. Grind for about a minute at a time, and give the gadget some cool-down time if it should start to feel warm.

At first, the grinder will reduce the nibs to a coffee ground-like consistency, but as the blade continues to grind and heat the mass the cocoa butter will melt and be released.  This will cause the mass to take on a thick, tar-like appearance - at this stage, it will be necessary to scrape up the mass that is stuck to the bottom and sides of the grinder.

The grinding is done when the mass flows easily.

When the chocolate is refined as much as possible, spices can be added. Make sure that they're thoroughly mixed into the mass!

If the chocolate needs thinning, small amounts of cocoa butter can also be added. Try to keep the total amount of additional cocoa butter below 10% of the total weight (no more than 10 grams for a 100 gram batch of chocolate).

Step 5: Conching the Chocolate

Picture of Conching the Chocolate

After refining, the chocolate needs to be "conched."

Conching serves two purposes. First, it helps to drive off undesirable flavor compounds developed during fermentation and roasting, and it helps coat the cocoa solids with fat to reduce the viscosity of the molten chocolate.

In an industrial setting, chocolate is conched for several hours. Since we're conching our chocolate by hand, this is, for lack of a better term, impractical. Still, even 10-15 minutes of conching will help un-harsh your chocolate's mellow.

First, heat up the mortar and pestle, either by placing them into a warm oven for a few minutes, or with a hairdryer. Add the chocolate from the spice grinder, and grind away.

When is it done? When you're happy with the taste, of course! Every 5 minutes or so, give the batch a taste. Once it tastes done, it's done.

If you've made a large batch of chocolate (on the order of a pound or so), you can conch it effectively in a stand mixer. Fit the mixer with the paddle attachment, and whip the chocolate on a low speed for an hour or so. If the chocolate begins to thicken, heat it up with a hairdryer or by putting an incandescent lamp near the bottom of the bowl.

Step 6: Tempering the Chocolate

Picture of Tempering the Chocolate

Tempering the chocolate is optional, but recommended.

Tempering is necessary because cocoa butter can crystallize into several different forms with differing stability and properties. Unless the cocoa butter is handled in a manner to encourage the formation of the most stable form (form V), the final product will have an inferior mouthfeel and texture, and may melt too quickly in the hand.

The easy way is to take a commercial sample of tempered chocolate and use the seeding method detailed in Scoochmaroo's instructable to temper your chocolate. This is very effective, but you have to accept that your chocolate will be "contaminated" with the commercial stuff.

If you want to temper yours for the ultimate "from scratch" touch, you need to use the tabling method.

To table untempered chocolate, you need a stone slab and scraping tools.

Melt the chocolate to be tempered to at least 110 F, to melt all of the cocoa butter crystals.

Take about two thirds of the total batch and pour it onto the marble slab. Fold and agitate the chocolate with the scrapers, ensuring that no lumps form. Agitation encourages the formation of form V crystals to the exclusion of others.

Eventually, the chocolate will take on a thick, sludgy consistency. When it does, re-mix it into the remainder of the batch. At this point, you can pour the chocolate into molds.

Step 7: Using the Chocolate!

If you need some hints on how to use the chocolate, I think Instructables mighthaveyourback.

Bon appetit!


jessbug (author)2016-12-04

hey your cocoa beens came from hawaii... i will have to find that farm

What food processor are you using? I tried a Hi-Blend food processor and it still came out a tad gritty....
Great video!!

Check out the Melanger / Grinder on Ebay

shaikI3 (author)2016-02-24

Grinder on Ebay

IThoughtOfT (author)2015-08-27

great tutorial! Thank you! A masticating juicer would make this go by a lot quicker!

ronbarak (author)2015-08-14

Could you clarify if the oven temperatures you mentioned (at ~1:27) are in Fahrenheit or Celsius?
(From you accent I assume these are in Fahrenheit, but better safe ...)

AnnaB8 (author)2015-04-13

Thank you very much, I have been practicing making chocolate a while and this is the most clear instruction I found.

EllenF2 (author)2015-04-04

Excellent instructions-I would like to sweeten with maple syrup instead of sugar-anyone's opinion on what step to add it?

mlg85 made it! (author)2014-09-15

Hi, thanks so much for taking the time to prepare such a thorough tutorial. I already had raw organic cocoa nibs so I just roasted them for 12 mins at 150 degrees celcius. When I took them out, the whole kitchen smelt like brownies, as promised by someone's blog I followed. However, a quarter of the nibs were almost black. I went ahead with the recipe, following the instructions closely (except for the cocoa butter suggestion – I didn't add it as my machine was handling it fine). In the end, it had a bitter aftertaste, but maybe that's to be expected as I probably slightly burnt the beans and plus it is a 70% chocolate. To distract from the bitterness I spread the chocolate on some baking paper and added roasted almonds and Craisins. Thanks again :)

Dongo92506 (author)2014-04-30

I just want to thank you for your fine instructable! I was having second thoughts about this but, after seeing your video, I did it! It came out sub par, but I know what I did wrong and I will have this down in no time. I did kill my spice grinder.

CHeers and thanks again!


kremer97 (author)2014-04-28

I like chocolate......

illgamer (author)2014-02-02

Hi loved your instructable, I actually got my beans from a fresh cacao pod, I followed another tutorial I found on how to ferment them. I roasted them per your directions but I never got the grinding to liquify like yours and it turned a deep purple color instead of brown. I was wondering if I roasted them for to long.

öcoşkun (author)2013-08-08

How can i find cacao beans in Turkey?!

Dustycookie (author)2013-03-08

I learned how to make chocolate powder when I was eight because my grandmother owned a cacao tree. We even ate the flesh. Too bad they had to cut that beautiful plant down when they had to renovate the house. Goodbye homemade chocolate.

travelplannermama (author)2013-01-22

Wow - talk about from 'scratch' - this was cool, thanks for putting it out here for us.

goldthimble (author)2012-07-10

Hi Mongpoovian,

Congrats on your winning! I followed your tutorial...but used sugar cane instead of white end product tastes tarty/sour...and once held after the tempering it melts in the it possible that I am not tempering enough? Any suggestions would be appreciated!

dslovejoy (author)2011-05-26

Thanks for the great instructable. My cocoa tree just started producing fruit, and because it grew so well, I plan on replacing the Macadamia nut trees with cocoa trees.

wow! hey so cocoa trees can grow where macadamias do? awesome!

ducktape.mac (author)dslovejoy2011-05-26

doesn't cocaine come from the cocoa tree? is it legal to grow those in the US?

dslovejoy (author)ducktape.mac2011-06-06

No. this is Theobroma cacao - chocolate, cocaine is from the Coca, Erythroxylum coca plant.
These are two entirely different plants.

Mongpoovian (author)dslovejoy2011-05-31

That's awesome! You'll have to keep us all posted on any fermentation you're planning on doing!

dslovejoy (author)Mongpoovian2011-05-31

Will do. Right now, I want to focus on creating more trees (and fruit) and once I have that, I need to figure out how to ferment small batches successfully.
From what I've seen, it takes several hundred pounds to generate enough heat to ferment properly.
Alternatively, there is a company in town that buys the pods from the farmers. I would prefer to do my own though.

cupritte (author)dslovejoy2011-05-31

Very cool!

Egah66 (author)dslovejoy2011-05-26

so jealous!

totally_screwed (author)2012-01-09

I can't but help conclude you are a very sad and ignorant person.

daintytweety (author)2011-06-30

very impressive! Mongpoovian I would like to know, can you make chocolate Cadbury's unsweetened cocoa powder? 70%cocoa +30% sugar. The reason why i ask is because in the past i made my own chocolate,which was cready made unsweetned cocoa powder and sugar and water,after a week out of the fridge it became moldy.I was surprised since I didnt think cocoa could get mouldy.It was kept at room temperature in the kitchen. Thanks

Mongpoovian (author)daintytweety2011-07-20

The water's the problem - chocolate has very little water in it (less than 1% by weight!) and so is inhospitable to bacteria and mold. Instead of using water to mix the solids together, you should use a fat that's solid at room temperature. Cocoa butter would be ideal for this, as it was what was originally removed from the cocoa solids to make the cocoa powder in the first place! Many drugstores sell pure cocoa butter for cosmetic use.

A mixture you might use for a "dark" chocolate containing additional cocoa butter might be something along the lines of 60% cocoa powder, 20% cocoa butter, 20% sugar.

If you can't find cocoa butter, coconut oil might serve as a reasonable substitute, but it melts at a much lower temperature (76 °F/24 °C) than cocoa butter (approximately body temperature).

bajablue (author)2011-06-01

Such a thorough Instructable that yells "YES, YOU CAN DO IT!"

Huge congrats on this well-deserved Grand Prize Winner!!!

Mongpoovian (author)bajablue2011-07-20


security16 (author)2011-06-01

Celcius or farenheight for the temperatures??

Mongpoovian (author)security162011-06-01

I've tried to stick to Fahrenheit, since that's the custom here in the US. In the Metric world, that would be about 200 C for the high stage, and 120 C for the low stage.

flyingpuppy (author)2011-05-23

Hmm. I like the idea of spicing up the chocolate. Thanks!

Egah66 (author)flyingpuppy2011-05-26

Me too - I am a big ginger lover. I'm thinking a little powdered ginger and some chrystallised ginger chunks MMMMMMM

Mongpoovian (author)Egah662011-05-31

Ooh, ginger sounds delicious! I'll have to try that one. :)

Egah66 (author)Mongpoovian2011-05-31

tried it with pre-made chocolate this weekend, very yummy. Got my chocolate nibs today - can't wait to make my own!

Egah66 (author)2011-05-26

If I want milk chocolate - do I just stir in milk to the melted heated chocolate during the Tempering process? Can't wait to try this - thanks

PearlZenith (author)Egah662011-05-27

I"m guessing you want to use powdered milk, if you're adding milk, but probably at the time you add the sugar or spices.

Egah66 (author)PearlZenith2011-05-31

Good point - thanks

Mongpoovian (author)Egah662011-05-31

Milk itself won't work, because the moisture will cause the chocolate to seize. Cream wouldn't seize the chocolate, but you'd end up with something closer to ganache. :)

PearlZenith's got it right - you'd want to add powdered milk, either at the end of the grinding process or during the conching step - that will ensure that the milk is evenly distributed. Typical milk chocolates are around 45-55% cocoa solid, so you'd want to add about 30% sugar (by weight) and then 20% powdered milk (also by weight). For a hundred gram batch, that would be 50 grams cocoa nibs, 30 grams sugar, and 20 grams powdered milk.

Egah66 (author)Mongpoovian2011-05-31

Thanks. Just got my roasted chocolate nibs today in the mail - can't wait to try this.

sitearm (author)2011-05-26

Mongpoovian; Hi! I've sent your Instructable video links to my sister-in-law and daughter, who both like to cook. (And of course they both like chocolate!)

This process reminds me of watching my grandad and grandmother make ice cream from scratch on the back patio, at their home in Birmingham: a lot of work but oh so fun to watch and get to eat.

Good on ye! :)

Mongpoovian (author)sitearm2011-05-31

Hi! Thanks for the lovely comment!

I've had some friends tell me "that looks like a whole lot of work for not a lot of product."

They must not like chocolate enough, I think. :)

Harlley Sathler (author)2011-05-26

Good recipe!

Here in Brazil, cocoa trees are relatively easy to found, but I never realized what the processing for the seeds to become in chocolate.

Thank you to share this!

You're welcome! I'm glad you enjoyed it!

kleinmaggie (author)2011-05-27

your demonstration was so professional!loved it!!!!!!

Mongpoovian (author)kleinmaggie2011-05-31


Happy2Think (author)2011-05-28

It was one of thw best instructables I have seen, it is well explained and the video is excelent.

Please keep up the good work, and thanks for this instuctive.

Mongpoovian (author)Happy2Think2011-05-31

Thank you!

PenfoldPlant (author)2011-05-31

Congratulations on winning the chocolate compo!
A well-deserved win for a great instructable and a very useful video!

Mongpoovian (author)PenfoldPlant2011-05-31

Thanks! I'm glad you liked it!

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