BEAN to BAR
How to make a bean to bar chocolate from scratch? What are the crucial factors which make or break this process?
Bean to bar is a process of producing chocolate from dried cocoa beans. The cocoa beans undergo various processes to get an aromatic fluid chocolate.
Major factors which affect the making of a chocolate bar
1. Type/subspecies of the cocoa tree
2. Country of origin
3. Cultivation & pod storage
4. Fermentation – crucial step at farm level which will decide the development of flavors
5. Drying duration
6. Roasting – the first crucial area where expertise is required. This is a skilled job as proper roasting will facilitate the perfect aroma to develop.
7. Cracking and Winnowing
10 Conching – the second crucial area where you need to have the skills of a chocolate taster and chocolate maker. To ascertain that the astringency levels are correct and acids which are not required have evaporated.
So let’s break down the steps:
TYPES OF BEANS AND COUNTRY OF ORIGIN
1. Upper amazon forastero: primary regions Ecuador, Columbia, Brazil and Peru. The property is bold and complex.
2. Criollo: major regions Central America. The property is nutty and fruity notes but lacks bitterness.
3. Nacional: primary development happened in Ecuador coastal regions. The property is floral and aromatic
4. Amelonado: lower amazon region and primary growth in Brazil. The property is full bodied and fudgy.
It is utmost important for you to understand the underlying property of the bean so that you know what has to be enhanced. If you don’t understand the regional impact and inherent property of the bean what will you develop?
Put together the region of growth and cultivation practices makes the DNA of a cocoa bean and every bean has its nuance.
CULTIVATION AND POD STORAGE
If the beans have a great DNA that doesn’t mean they will result in great chocolate. Terroir plays a vital role too. Farming practices and regional cultivation habits have great impact on end result. This is a farm level process and mostly out of reach of chocolatiers unless they are involved in the activities like some big companies Cadbury, Nestle, Barry Callebaut, Felchlin etc.
The apt example to make you understand the regional play is ‘Sarson’ or mustard. Why it is best from northern belt only. Why can’t we have same taste in Mumbai, Chennai or Bangalore?
Answer is Terroir and regional skills to make it.
Within 10 -12 days of harvest cocoa beans are removed out of pod and sent for fermentation. Fermentation is done by piling up beans on the ground covered with banana leaves or in wooden boxes with enough holes to let the resulting liquid to flow out.
During fermentation lot of heat is generated and germination in the bean is killed. It is known as bean death in chocolate industry.
Fermentation is the key process and the number of days depends on the origin of beans. It varies from 2-7 days. During this process the complex flavor of the bean is developed.
A good fermentation will result in better flavor and you will take less roasting time to optimize the bean flavor.
This is a very crucial step at the farm level where all the possible notes will develop in the bean. The inherent flavors of dairy, nuttiness, fruity, wine etc. all develop at this step.
Beans are very moist at fermentation stage. They must be sun dried to get rid of moisture.
A typical bean has 900 hidden flavors in it. How many can you recognize?
Whatever happens at farm level we can’t control? But now the control shifts to the chocolatiers hand.
This is the stage where you can ruin or enhance all the flavors which were locked in the bean during fermentation.
A careful selection of temperature and time will decide the final resulting flavor of the bean. Most importantly first you have to understand the DNA of the bean, whether it requires the low roast, medium roast or high roast. A uniform roasting is mandatory for the proper flavor development.
Remember, you can’t sauté beans like vegetable. A good roasting equipment is a MUST.
To execute this step you should be first qualified to evaluate chocolate by conscientious tasting. If you don’t know what flavor it should be then what will you develop?
Even if you have criollo (the most coveted bean) in your hand and you don’t know which roast profile to follow, it is doomed.
CRACKING AND WINNOWING
After roasting, the beans are cracked and winnowed to remove the husk and get cocoa nibs. A strict winnow is required to maximize the flavor in the resulting product.
The next step is to make a paste of the cocoa nibs so that we can refine them further. The resulting paste is known as cocoa liquor.
It is the process of breaking down the particle size of the paste. A chocolatier can decide to add sugar and other ingredients at this stage or later.
This process develops the flavor of the chocolate liquor by releasing some of the inherent acids and bitterness. This also gives the resulting chocolate its smoothness, melt-in-the-mouth quality by rounding the particle flakes and dispersing the cocoa butter evenly around all the particles of cocoa solids, sugar and flavorings.
The conche machine has rollers or paddles that continuously knead the chocolate liquor and its ingredients for hours or days depending on the quality desired by the manufacturer. The refiner produces particle “flakes” which the conche then rounds off and coats with fat. While there is no thumb rule for the conching time of the cocoa liquor, it can be anywhere between 12 – 72 hours which is the standard until the moisture is less than 1%.
Conching has two stages. Dry conch where no cocoa butter is added and the latter when cocoa butter is added is called wet conch.
This is another key area where lot of experience is required to judge how much to conch. The melt in mouth texture, lasting flavor and controlled astringency is developed at this stage.
Some beans are very acidic, they don’t release all the acids at the conching stage. They need further ageing to mellow down. So in this step we choose to hold the cocoa liquor paste or finished chocolate for few weeks or months.
Bean to bar is a beautiful journey of a creative art with a lot of science.
Each chocolate bar has a story behind its creation which is pain and time taking to create a perfect piece. The demand for quality chocolate is making MICRO BEAN TO BAR MAKERS to spring up rapidly across the globe. With the support of consumers and keen chocolate learning enthusiast the market will see more innovativeness.
Hope you enjoyed the read. Let me know in comments if you have any questions