Skip to main content
Updated date:

How Is Chocolate Made?

Author:
how-is-chocolate-made

Chocolate is a solid or semisolid food prepared by the fine grinding of roasted, shelled beans of the cacao, or cocoa, tree.

As the beans are ground, a free-flowing liquid is produced. This liquid, called chocolate liquor, is the basis for all chocolate products.

Chocolate liquor consists largely of fat called cocoa butter, which makes up slightly more than half its weight. It also contains carbohydrates, protein, a small amount of mineral matter, and about 1% residual moisture. Its rich brown color is derived from the natural bean pigments and its unique aroma is due to the bean's various essential oils.

Although chocolate and cocoa are commonly regarded as very different foods, they differ only in the amount of cocoa butter they contain. Then chocolate liquor is subjected to hydraulic pressure until its cocoa butter content is reduced from about 54% to 24% or less, the residue forms a solid mass called press cake. This cake is broken, pulverized, cooled, and Sifted, producing commercial cocoa powder. Chocolate is made with chocolate liquor whose fat content has not been reduced.

Kinds of Chocolate

In the chocolate factory the three products-chocolate liquor, cocoa powder, and cocoa butter-are converted into an almost endless variety of consumer products. Most chocolate manufacturers closely guard their formulas and procedures for blending the beans and their methods of processing added ingredients. However, according to the Definitions and Standards of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Law of 1944, all forms of chocolate sold in the United States must be manufactured within the limits of the regulations set forth.

Milk chocolate is by far the most popular kind of chocolate. As defined by law, several types of dairy products may be used in making milk chocolate, but fluid and powdered whole milk are the traditional and most widely used products. Similarly, a variety of sweeteners may be used, since unsweetened chocolate is too concentrated in flavor to be eaten as such and would have little appeal if made into a sugarless product. By law, milk chocolate must contain not less than 12% milk solids and not less than 10% chocolate liquor.

Certain optional ingredients are permissible, but they must all conform to the prescribed standards.

Sweet chocolate differs from milk chocolate in that it contains no milk solids, but it must contain not less than 15% chocolate liquor. Bittersweet chocolate is sweet chocolate that contains not less than 35% chocolate liquor. Baking chocolate, or bitter chocolate, contains no milk solids or sweeteners.

Chocolate Manufacture

The manufacture of chocolate begins with the delivery of dried, fermented cocoa beans to the factory. The beans arrive in large burlap bags weighing an average of about 140 pounds (64 kg). The first step in the manufacturing process is cleaning the beans, by using screens and air currents to remove extraneous material. The different kinds of cocoa beans may then be blended, although this step sometimes occurs after roasting. During roasting, the beans are placed in rotating cylinders through which air, heated by gas or oil, is forced. The temperature of the air exceeds 5000 F (2600 C) , and the entire process, in which the moisture of the beans is reduced from 7% or 8% to about 1%, is completed in about one half to three quarters of an hour.

After cooling, the beans a re cracked or shattered and the shell, which is lighter than the inner mate rial, is removed from the cracked bean by air currents. The remaining particles, called nibs, are then ground by one of several processes to obtain the chocolate liquor.

Once the chocolate liquor is collected, a portion of it is sent to the hydraulic presses, not only to produce cocoa powder but to obtain cocoa butter, which is later used in making milk chocolate and sweet chocolate. The remaining portion of the chocolate liquor is added to various mixtures to make different kinds of chocolate.

For milk chocolate, the chocolate liquor is combined with either powdered milk mixed with pulverized sugar, or with a mixture of fluid milk and dissolved sugar that has been reduced to a powder by boiling under high vacuum at low temperatures to prevent caramelization. For sweet chocolate, the chocolate liquor is mixed with pulverized sugar.

After the various mixtures are blended, they are usually subjected to their first fine grinding by steel roll refiners. After this initial grinding, the cocoa butter obtained in the hydraulic presses is added to convert the fine powders into pastes of desired consistency. Spices and flavorings are usually added at this stage, and further grinding and flavoring procedures are carried out with or without the application of heat. The only processes that remain are those of viscosity standardization, tempering, molding into bars, blocks, or cakes, and the wrapping, packaging, and shipping of the chocolate. All these procedures are conducted under strict controls because of the perishable nature of most chocolate products when subjected to exposure and particularly to heat.

History of Chocolate

The words "cacao" and "chocolate" stem directly from the languages of the Maya and Aztec Indians of Central America. It is not known exactly when cacao trees were first cultivated, but it is known that cacao beans played an important role in these Indians' lives as a form of currency and as the chief ingredient of a cold sugarless beverage that they called cacahuatl, enjoyed by members of the upper class. In the early 1500's Spanish explorers in Central America noted the popularity of the drink but were not attracted to it because of its bitterness.

Being familiar with sugar, they sweetened the drink to produce a new kind of beverage, served hot. Named chocolatl by the Indians to distinguish it from cacahuatl, it was brought back to Spain by Heman Cortes.

During the next two centuries, as the popularity of the drink spread from the Spanish court to the courts of other European countries, it became the fashion to serve chocolate to royal guests. In 1720 the Swedish botanist and taxonomist Carolus Linnaeus gave the cacao tree the scientific name Theobroma cacao, derived from Greek words meaning "cacao, the food of the gods." The food value of the drink, however, had been recognized two centuries earlier by Cortes who, in a letter to his emperor, Charles V, wrote that chocolatl is "the divine drink that builds up resistance and fights fatigue."

In the late 18th century, French and Dutch processors began experimenting with methods of defatting chocolate liquor, leading to the manufacture of chocolate powder. The idea of adding finely ground sugar to the residual cocoa butter followed, and it is believed that the first solid eating chocolate was sold in England in the mid-1800's. The food value of the solid chocolate was soon recognized. Chocolate bars were included as standard rations items for troops in the South African War and World Wars I and II.

Related Articles