Updated: Jan 7
Chocolate is made by crystallizing cocoa mass and sugar in cocoa butter. If things go a little wrong, a recipe can still be called chocolate. In the world of craft chocolate making, your tools are time and temperature and you cannot call what you have made chocolate if it tastes bad. If it looks weird, feels weird in your mouth, or sounds weird when you snap it, that is all fine. It is a new year after all and it will have its own learning curve just like chocolate. Let things go wrong, until you get it right.
Okay, a lot can go wrong. It takes a lot of work for everything to go right. You’ll know what happened to chocolate when you taste the specific and measurable flavors, off-flavors and smell the right aromas. If you don’t know what those are yet, read my Free Bean to Bar Chocolate Tasting ebook here.
Chocolate is made by growing a fruit. This fruit, called cacao has very little fruit. Actually, its mostly just seeds. There is very little pulp to collect or eat. The seeds however, are very important. They grow into new cacao trees! Of course, they are also used to make chocolate. First, the seed, or bean, must be sterilized. It cannot grow into a tree AND become chocolate. Think alcohol and vinegar. Have you ever used those to kill bacteria, clean or disinfect? Its not a coincidence. The alcohol, produced from fermenting the seed pulp, kills the seeds ability to grow leaves and branches and everything. It “cures” the seed. Now, this sounds complex but it is only as hard as making vinegar. You see, alcohol is produced on the way to making vinegar so the cacao soaking in its own juices will cure the seed and produced a gnarly unpalatable acetic smell that will palpably burn all nostrils. The vinegar is important because the microbes in it, eating alcohol and digesting enzymes will further cure the little nut so it wont just taste like a drunk seed.
Thats actually the coolest part. Fermenters develop what are known as flavor pre-cursors. They are also measurable, documented and in fact not the final flavor of the cacao. So, the pre-cursors smell like alcohol and vinegar and if they don’t, your chocolate may sprout a root. The unfamiliar and albeit academic flavor pre-cursors are left to off gas as the cacao may dry and age for months. It can also be stored after drying for up to 5 years in some cases.
The pre-cursors turn into real recognizable flavors once roasted. As they go, its almost like beneath vinegar’s eclectic taste and aromas, cocoa depth and its myriad of flavors are actually just underneath layer of sensation.
So, after roasting and cooling and peeling and pre grinding, the cacao must be ground again. At what point does it become cocoa or does it get referred to as cocoa instead of seeds or cacao beans? We think its after the beans are purchased.
You see after they are roasted, not all beans are turned into cocoa. Some are turned directly into chocolate. Cocoa as we know it is water-soluble. This is only because of extensive processing. Cocoa butter as we know is the by product of producing cocoa. There is a lot to learn but we love working with all kinds of chocolate lovers at all different levels.
We mean we love feeding chocolate to all kinds of chocolate lovers.
When its made without being processed and separated into cocoa powder and cocoa butter and then reconstituted, chocolate has a different name. Read about all the different names here.
Chocolate that is reconstituted is also typically shipped all over the world and is made from multiple international origins. This is typically known as “Big Chocolate”. Some of the “Big Chocolate” brands that make reconstituted and industrialized chocolate from multiple origins make chocolate differently. But they start with the base ingredients of cocoa powder, cocoa butter and sugar. Typically vegetable oil is added or high fructose corn syrup, and in most cases, dairy.
Cacao and chocolate is vegan and sugar free in its purest form but not in its most enjoyed form.
It can be made a lot of different ways but it won’t all taste good!
So if you want to know how chocolate is REALLY made, you can just look at the box it came in. Or wrapper. Cross reference it with THIS article and you will see chocolate is made in a lot of different ways. They are not all equal. You can share this factoid with friends and family this NEW YEAR by sending them a gift card from Island Sharks. Sometimes sharing is the best way to learn. If you want others to make it for you, don't worry, we have an online store. Let us know if you have any questions1
Happy New Years!