From Bean to Bar: Dark Chocolate From Scratch




What you're about to read has been highly guarded by the super mega corporate chocolate producers of the world. The short of it is that despite the ultra-complex images of chocolate factories you may have seen (Willy Wonka's included), high quality dark chocolate is very easy to make all by yourself in your own kitchen in a matter of hours. In the interest of not listing multi-hundred dollar pieces of equipment, the chocolate you will end up with will have a rustic texture, and will be excellent for eating and cooking.

Equipment list:
A normal household oven
A baking sheet that will fit in the oven
A timer
3-4 bowls
A calculator
A kitchen scale
A hair drier
A Champion brand juicer (or similar auger style--I have a Solo Star II)
A spoon
A rubber spatula
Aluminum foil or parchment paper
A coffee grinder (cheap whirly blade type, not the fancy burr type)
A fan
A friend (choose wisely since you will have to share your chocolate with this person :)

16 oz unroasted whole cocoa beans  (if you can only find roasted, just skip the roasting step).  You can find these at health food stores like Whole Foods.
***If you only have nibs available, get roasted ones and skip to Step 3.***
Granulated white sugar (DO NOT use powdered sugar --it contains corn starch, and you don't want that in your chocolate)

Step 1: Roasting

Roasting the cocoa beans is essential to develop the "chocolate" flavor. Its also pretty easy to do (there is a lot of science to roasting cocoa, but we won't get into that here)

1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and pre-heat your oven to 300F.

2. Spread your unroasted beans out on your baking sheet so they are in a single layer.

3. Once the oven is preheated, place the pan in and start your timer.  Roast the beans for 30 minutes. For your first time trying this, pay close attention to the smell. When your beans first start heating, you might notice an acidic smell coming off--this is normal. What we want to do is cook that off and wait until they start smelling like brownies. Because there are endless variations on how to roast and beans vary in how much they should be roasted, I've suggested a very "average" roast. You can experiment with future batches.

4. At 30 mins, pull the beans out and place the pan in front of a fan to cool.  If you don't have a fan, don't worry, just let them cool until they are cool enough to handle.

Step 2: De-shelling

Now comes the fun part--removing all the shells from the roasted cocoa beans!  Remember that friend I mentioned?  Now is their time to shine.  Each bean needs to have its shell removed.  After roasting, the shells will be brittle and should crack off easily (some will be harder than others).  The nibs inside will also break apart, this is ok.  This is tedious and can get tiring and will ruin a manicure, but the alternative is to spend lots of money and buy an industrial machine to do it for you. On second thought, you might want to get two friends to help...
As you de-shell, keep the beans/nibs in one bowl, and the shells in another (the shell can be thrown away or composted, but keep in mind cocoa shells are still just as bad for dogs as chocolate is, so don't let Fido find them!).  And don't worry if there are a few bits of shell in with the cocoa nibs, they will get filtered out by the juicer.

Step 3: "Refining"

Now is the messy part, and that friend will come in handy here, too. 

The de-shelled cocoa beans need to be run through the juicer.  If you aren't sure if your juicer can handle this, check the brochure--any juicer that can make nut butters should be suitable.  What you want is for the juicer to grind AND heat the cocoa so that the cocoa butter present in the beans melts**

With the filter screen in the juicer, and a bowl under the "juice" port and one under the "pulp" port on the juicer, slowly start adding the nibs. Don't rush, you can overload the juicer.  At first almost all of what you add will come out the "pulp" port. Once you have run it all through, do it again.  Each subsequent pass will heat the mass and more and more will melt through the filter screen and come out the juice port, while less comes out the pulp end. Each time, run what comes out the pulp end through, you will be collecting what is called cocoa liquor--partially refined, liquified cocoa mass--flowing out the juice port. At a certain point the only thing coming out the pulp end should be cocoa shell, since you have de-shelled by hand, almost nothing should come out. You are done when nothing or very little comes out the pulp end. You should have a nice bowl of melted cocoa liquor.

**If your juicer doesn't generate enough heat (i.e., nothing comes through the juice port), have that friend point a hair drier at the auger end of the juicer until everything starts melting and flowing smoothly.  Be careful not to blow all your cocoa away with the hair drier as it comes out of the juicer (I've learned this from experience).

Step 4: Pre-grinding and Formulating

You will need to weigh your cocoa liquor in order to formulate your final chocolate's percentage.  I like a dark chocolate so I never go lower than 70%.

Here's how it works:
if you want your final chocolate to be a 70% dark chocolate, take the weight of the cocoa liquor (in grams), and divide that number by 70. Take the resulting number and multiply that by 30--that is the grams of sugar you will need to add to make the final batch a 70% dark chocolate. See, math is fun when it makes chocolate!

Now, weigh out the amount of sugar you calculated for your custom chocolate. Pre-grind the sugar in small batches in your coffee grinder. You only need to grind for about 30 seconds to get a nice powdered sugar. With a rubber spatula, mix the freshly powdered sugar into the cocoa liquor, making sure there are no clumps.  While mixing, have a friend lay out a piece of parchment or foil on a baking sheet (aren't friend's great?)

Ok, i'm sure the suspense is killing you---once the sugar is mixed in, have a taste! (I'll pretend like I didn't see you tasting the cocoa liquor :)  Once you have a few batches under your belt, you can add spices and other dehydrated goodies at this step, so long as they don't contain water or moisture. Water will ruin chocolate (even just a drop or two).

Step 5: Dispensing and Setting Up

You are almost done---All that's left to do is to dispense your chocolate into portions onto the lined cookie sheet.**  If you have chocolate molds, use them.  With a spoon, portion out the liquid chocolate onto the cookie sheet.  When done, pop it in the fridge for 15 minutes.  Once they are solid, they are ready to eat.  They will melt in your hands because they are untempered, but if you keep them in a tupperware in the fridge or freezer, it will slow their melting (and slow the formation of fat and sugar "bloom"---the swirls and speckles in the picture).  

Pat yourself on the back, because you just made handmade chocolate from scratch!  Now go out and brag to your friends about your accomplishment, but be prepared to share!

**I'm deliberately skipping tempering the final chocolate because that is a whole science by itself, but there are plenty of websites that explain how to do it.

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    13 Discussions


    4 years ago on Introduction

    If you're looking to buy cocoa beans, sells them by the lb.


    5 years ago

    Most methods of tempering require heating, cooling, and reheating the chocolate several times, but I watch a show on Food Network called Good Eats and in one episode Alton Brown was making truffles and stuff and he used what seemed like a very simple method to temper his chocolate. Since it's mostly just a matter of getting the melting points of the ingredients synchronized, if you can just get it all melted without actually letting the crystalline structure of the fat collapse, then you can temper it fairly easily. He put it in a metal bowl with a heating pad underneath set on medium to provide the heat. You have to stir occasionally and check the temperature almost non-stop, keeping it between 90°F and 92°F and absolutely NOT letting it get above 94°F. Once everything has melted and blended nicely you should have nice, shiny, snappy chocolate.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    I can't afford the champion juicer at the moment but I do have the premium wet grinder, which can run for >48hrs and recommended by but for some reason, after I conched my chocolate and came to temper it, the chocolate just wouldn't melt. I don't know where I went wrong. I blended the cacao in a small food processor at first until it became liquid. I then conched it up to 2hrs and then added the sugar. I added 50g in 75g cacao. So I'm not sure if the sugar crystals have prevented the chocolate from melting or something else has gone wrong? I didn't grind down the granulated sugar, I literally just threw it all in with my chocolate in the refiner.... I know it's such a small amount but I am just testing different types of cacao at the moment before I decide on my favourites. Help!!

    As soon as I can find the beans I'll be making this. Chocolate holds a spot in the hearts of many, yet homemade chocolate is a treat of the few. A gift of homemade chocolate would be a definite winner for a lot of situations. Thanks for sharing such knowledge!

    There are very few appliances that will effectively refine cocoa beans. Some people suggest a whirly blade coffee grinder. This is NOT the way to go.  I tried one for my first ever batch of chocolate and the thing essentially caught on fire in my hands---not only are they not designed to run for more than a minute or so at a time, but once the cocoa butter liquifies, it can flow into the motor housing causing an electrical short (in my case). I like chocolate, but not so much to get electrocuted making a few grams of it.

    A blender is a safer bet, since it does the same thing as a coffee grinder with none of the risks---you just need more beans (=more chocolate :). its safer and batch size is not limited to just a few beans. You will still need to stop every minute or so to scrape everything down since there is a "dead" spot under the blades that won't get ground. Like the juicer, if your blender doesn't generate enough heat, just use the hair drier on the side of it.

    If you're not opposed to investing a few hundred dollars, I can suggest a few stone refiners.  There are really only two brands, Santha and Ultra, and I'd be happy to discuss the pros and cons of them if you wanted to go that route (I have one of each running now :)

    well i have a blender that i used when i dont have time to get some powdered sugar and the only problem with the "dead spot" is that the sugar gets so refined that it compacts really well and the ones at the dead zone get supremely ground to extra fine and i wanna be also interested in the stone refiners

    First off, you can buy a hair drier at most any thrift store for a few dollars.

    In the blender, as the cocoa butter content of the nibs liquifies, the dead spot will be less of a problem, since you will have a liquified mass instead of a solid.  You will want to scrape the blender down and clean out the dead spot every minute or so (this is depending on how many beans you have, the less you have the more often you need to scrape).

    The two stone refiners are essentially the same, with the exception of the shape of the rollers.  To be honest, what I've found is that the Santha style cylindical rollers have few problems, but the machine overall is built much more poorly (i.e., expect to have to fix it).  The Ultra has conical rollers that seem to get gummed up and stop rolling while a batch is going, making it less efficient, but the machine overall is built better and will likely run trouble free for many batches.  They have the same capacity, and motor, and the Santha is $50 less.  Is the price difference worth having to fix it periodically?  You need to decide that to make your choice.

    Both machines will make "real" chocolate though--perfectly smooth (final particle size 30 micons and below), and both will as an effective conch.  There is more going on during conching than just stirring the chocolate around. Stirring/agitation is NOT conching.  Conching is a chemical and mechanical transformation of the flavor and texture of chocolate. The key is in applying shearing forces on the cocoa-sugar agglomerates, to break them down, and to "round out" the sugar crystals.  This is also an extremely oversimplified explanation, but there are volumes written about it if you want to explore further.

    Hope this helps.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    So you don't need a chocolate waterfall to churn the chocolate?!