We are always talking about bean to bar. What exactly is it though, and what is the difference between bean to bar chocolate and industrially manufactured chocolate?
The main aspects of the production processes for bean to bar chocolate and industrially produced chocolate are not that dissimilar. The main differences lie within the rigor with which the process is carried out, in the ingredients involved, and in the longer utilization of the machines, which leads to higher energy consumption and thus, higher expenses.
In bean to bar chocolate production, the already fermented and dried cocoa beans are supplied directly from farmers in the countries of origin, without any trade intermediaries. The farmers who send the beans check their product quality first, using various testing procedures such as the cut bean test, in which the beans are visually examined for insect damage, mold infestation or discolouration. When the beans arrive at the chocolate manufactory, they are inspected again for additional defects. Afterwards, the beans are cleaned and roasted at 100-160°C. This causes the cocoa beans to develop their specific and unique flavor.
The roasted beans are peeled and broken by sieves, blowers and shakers. The remnants of husk can be used as fertilizer or to make tea. Sustainability is, therefore, a key term. The resulting cocoa nibs are then ground in a stone mill for at least 20 hours. The naturally occurring cocoa butter within the beans melts during this process and emulsifies with the cocoa powder found within the beans, and together the ground nibs form a viscous cocoa mass. Unwanted flavonoids such as bitter and astringent compounds are released during this time, and the raw cocoa mass is further refined.
Fun Fact: While cocoa powder is often used to make drinking chocolate, the cocoa butter is often used for the production of beauty products.
Ingredients such as sugar, milk powder and spices (depending on the final product - for white chocolate it’s usually vanilla) are then added to the cocoa mass. This resulting mass is conched for hours. Conching means that the product is stirred, oxygenated and heated until the desired flavor is obtained. In order to temper the chocolate after conching, the cocoa butter is re-liquefied and made to spread evenly throughout the molten chocolate by a process of heating and cooling. The chocolate’s temper is important for the finished chocolate to snap cleanly and to achieve a fine gloss. After the chocolate has been tempered and while it is still in liquid form, it is finally ready to be poured into molds. Since chocolate shrinks minimally during its cooling, it is easy to release the chocolate from its molds after it has re-attained a solid state.
In order to retain a handmade product, layers of chocolate, as well as the desired filling, are gradually coated onto the chocolate confection until the final layer of couverture finishes the process.
Fun Fact: The term “handmade” was coined by Josef Zotter in 1992. It does not say anything about the quality nor the taste, but merely covers the process of the production of layered chocolate.
Want to meet producers of handmade chocolate, as well as the inventor of the term? Visit the EuroBean to finally meet the makers. :)