Artisanal bars from Michael Mischer Chocolates of Oakland, California. Photo by Melody Lan | THE NIBBLE.
From Pod to Palate: The Birth Of The Bar
Page 5: Making The Chocolate ~ Winnowing, Grinding & Pressing The Beans
Making The Chocolate
7. Winnowing (Shelling)
Winnowing means shelling, and prior to the Industrial Revolution, this was a manual process (in many third world counties, grain is still winnowed by hand). After the beans have been roasted and cooled, their shells are thin and brittle. They move to a machine called the winnower, which cracks open the shells. Air blows away the cracked outer shell and the husk, and sorts the remaining nibs by size. The nib is the heart of the bean (also called the kernel or the meat), from which the chocolate is made. Nibs (photo above) contain about 400 different chemical compounds responsible for the flavor of the final chocolate product. Modern factories no longer use old-fashioned equipment like the antique at the right, which still gets the job done for the Grenada Chocolate Company.
The roasted nibs are now ready to be ground into a paste that will eventually become chocolate.
8. Grinding / Mélangeur
There are usually two stages of grinding in the manufacture of fine chocolate. In the first stage, the nibs (photo above) are ground into a thick paste similar to fresh-ground peanut butter, called the chocolate chocolate liquor (photo at right). The latter is a confusing name to anyone outside the industry, as it is neither liquid nor contains any alcohol. To add to the confusion, chocolate liquor is also called cocoa or cacao liquor, chocolate mass, cocoa mass, cocoa solid, or pâté de cacao (cocoa paste or chocolate paste). In the United States Food Standards of Identity, it is known simply as chocolate. Once further refined, it also is called unsweetened baking chocolate. Chocolate liquor is the main ingredient in chocolate. Photo courtesy of Stollwerck.
Since cacao beans are more than half fat, the chocolate liquor is made up of rich cocoa butter (53% to 60% depending on the varietal) with fine cocoa particles suspended in it. The heat and friction generated by the grinding metal plates causes the cocoa butter in the nib to melt into a fluid mass (photo at right), hence the name “chocolate liquor.” The chocolate liquor is not yet officially chocolate, but it smells like it! Photo courtesy of Amano Artisan Chocolate.
For eating chocolate, the appropriate amount of sugar is added (except for 100% cacao bars). The size of the particles in the chocolate mass is now about 100 microns. To avoid a grainy taste in the finished chocolate, another grinding takes place to reduce the particle size to about 18 microns (the tongue can sense grains of 18 microns or larger).
Chocolate liquor destined to be made into chocolate candy and confections then goes to be blended (Step 10). That which will be made into cocoa powder goes to Pressing.
9. Pressing (For Cocoa Powder)
If cocoa powder is being made, the chocolate liquor is further processed into “press cake” or pressed cake, and cocoa butter. The chocolate liquor or mass is put into hydraulic presses and extremely high pressure, 6000 pounds per square inch, is applied to drain off the clear, golden liquid cocoa butter. The press cake that is left is cooled, pulverized and sifted into cocoa powder. Photo of cocoa powder courtesy of CocoaTree.org.
Note that some companies sell “drinking chocolate,” which is sweetened cocoa or sweetened chocolate discs or squares, ready to be mixed with hot milk or water to become a beverage.
Belgian chocolatier NewTree makes boxes of 3 individually wrapped 0.32-ounce mini-bars that are just perfect for an invigorating snack. The Bittersweet bars include:
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