From the Bean to Chocolate
We now come to the remarkable art of chocolate making, a process that is comparable with the skill and finesse of the world’s greatest chefs. The manufacturing process requires much time and painstaking care. Just to make an individual-size chocolate bar, for instance, takes from two to four days or more.
The problems involved in chocolate production especially in regards to kosher chocolate production are not generally understood and it is hoped that this review, will contribute to an appreciation of the efforts made in order to achieve this.
Manufacturing methods will differ in detail from plant to plant, but there is a general processing pattern that prevails everywhere. It is this pattern that makes the chocolate industry distinctive from every other industry.
For example, all manufacturers carefully catalogue each shipment according to its particular type and origin. This is very important, because it enables them later to maintain exact control over the flavour blending of beans for roasting. Belgian companies go after the rare criollo cocoa beans and the trinitario variety (a cross between criollo and the hardier, less subtle forastero cocoa), both of which have complex, non-bitter flavours.
Prior to Roasting
While awaiting the blending process, the beans are carefully stored. The storage area must be isolated from the rest of the building so the sensitive cocoa does not come into contact with strong odors, which it may absorb as an off-flavor. Every step of the way so far reflects the close regulation of conditions that is needed to ensure the production of uniformly high quality chocolate.
The first step to actual manufacturing is cleaning. Passing the cocoa beans through a cleaning machine that removes dried cacao pulp, pieces of pod and other extraneous material that had not been removed earlier does this.
When thoroughly cleaned, the beans are carefully weighed and blended according to a company’s particular specifications. These formulas are based on experience and desirability. In the science of chocolate making, much depends upon the ability to achieve the right formula for the desired end product through the proper selection of beans available.
To bring out the characteristic chocolate aroma, the beans are roasted in large rotary cylinders. Depending upon the variety of the beans and the desired end result, the roasting lasts from 30 minutes to two hours at temperatures of 250 degrees Fahrenheit and higher. As the beans turn over and over, their moisture content drops, their color changes to a rich brown, and the characteristic aroma of chocolate becomes evident.
What Follows Roasting
Proper roasting is one of the keys to good flavor, but there are still several more steps to follow. After roasting, the beans are quickly cooled and their thin shells, made brittle by roasting, are removed. In most factories, this is done by a “cracker and fanner,” a giant winnowing machine that passes the beans between serrated cones so they are cracked rather than crushed. In the process, a series of mechanical sieves separate the broken pieces into large and small grains while fans blow away the thin, light shell from the meat or “nibs.”
The nibs, which contain about 53 percent cocoa butter, are next conveyed to mills, where they are crushed between large grinding stones or heavy steel discs. The process generates enough frictional heat to liquefy the cocoa butter and form what is commercially known as chocolate liquor. The term liquor does not refer to alcohol, it simply means liquid. When the liquid is poured into molds and allowed to solidify, the resulting cakes are unsweetened or bitter chocolate.
Up to this point, the manufacturing of cocoa and chocolate is identical. The process now diverges, but there is an important interconnection to be noted. The by-product of cocoa shortly becomes an essential component of chocolate. That component is the unique vegetable fat, cocoa butter, which forms about 25 percent of the weight of most chocolate bars.
How to Make Cocoa Powder
The chocolate liquor, destined to become a cup of cocoa, is pumped into giant hydraulic presses weighing up to 25 tons, where pressure is applied to remove the desired cocoa butter. The fat called cocoa butter drains away through metallic screens as a yellow liquid. It is then collected for use in chocolate manufacturing.
Cocoa butter has such importance for the chocolate industry that it deserves more than a passing mention. It is unique among vegetable fats because it is a solid at normal room temperature and melts at 89 to 93 degrees Fahrenheit (32 to 34 centigrade), which is just below body temperature. Its success in resisting oxidation and rancidity makes it very practical. Under normal storage conditions, cocoa butter can be kept for years without spoiling.
The pressed cake that is left after the removal of cocoa butter can be cooled pulverized and sifted into cocoa powder. It is called in the trade, ‘cocoa mass’.
This cocoa powder or ‘cocoa mass’ is blended back with the butter and liquor to make the different types of chocolate as follows:
- Plain Chocolate – cocoa powder, cocoa liquor, cocoa butter and sugar.
- Milk Chocolate – cocoa powder, cocoa liquor, cocoa butter, milk or milk powder and sugar.
- White Chocolate – cocoa liquor, cocoa butter, milk or milk powder and sugar.
The finest plain chocolate contains at least 70% Cocoa solids. Whereas the best Milk and White Chocolate couverture contains 33%+ Cocoa solids. Inferior and mass produced chocolate contains much less cocoa, (as low as 7% in many cases) and strictly speaking these “Brand Name” milk products can not be classed as chocolate, because of the low or non-existent cocoa solids content.
Cocoa that is packaged for sale to grocery stores or put into bulk for use as a flavor by dairies, bakeries, and confectionery manufacturers, may have 10 percent or more cocoa butter content. “Breakfast cocoa,” a less common type, must contain at least 22 percent cocoa butter.
In the so-called “Dutch” process, the manufacturer treats the cocoa with an alkali to develop a slightly different flavor and give the cocoa a darker appearance characteristic of the Dutch type. The alkali acts as a processing agent rather than as a flavor ingredient.
How to Make Eating Chocolate
While removing some of the cocoa butter makes cocoa, adding it makes eating chocolate. This holds true of all eating chocolate, whether it is dark, bittersweet, or milk chocolate. Besides enhancing the flavor, the added cocoa butter serves to make the chocolate more fluid.
One example of eating chocolate is sweet chocolate, a combination of unsweetened chocolate, sugar, cocoa butter and perhaps a little vanilla. Making it entails melting and combining the ingredients in a large mixing machine until the mass has the consistency of dough.
Milk chocolate, the most common form of eating chocolate, goes through essentially the same mixing process-except that it involves using less unsweetened chocolate and adding milk.
Whatever ingredients are used, the mixture then travels through a series of heavy rollers set one atop the other. Under the grinding that takes place here, the mixture is refined to a smooth paste ready for “conching.”
What is Conching?
Conching is a flavour development process, which puts the chocolate through a “kneading” action and takes its name from the shell-like shape of the containers originally employed. The “conches,” as the machines are called, are equipped with heavy rollers that plough back and forth through the chocolate mass anywhere from a few hours to several days, kept liquid as a result of fractional heat. The best producers’ conch their chocolate for days rather than a few hours, as standard manufacturers do. Under regulated speeds, these rollers can produce different degrees of agitation and aeration in developing and modifying the chocolate flavours. Extended conching creates a smooth, even texture and reduces acid levels, enhancing the chocolate taste.
In some manufacturing setups, there is an emulsifying operation that either takes the place of conching or else supplements it. A machine that works like an eggbeater to break up sugar crystals and other particles in the chocolate mixture to give it a fine, velvety smoothness carries out this operation. After the process is completed the chocolate mass is stored in heated tanks at about 45-50Â°C, ready for final processing.
The final process is called Tempering, because cocoa butter exhibits a polymorphous or unstable crystal formation the mass must be cooled very carefully to encourage the crystals to stabilise in the right order to produce the desired properties of snappy bite, tender melt and a good gloss in the finished product. All this is achieved by the tempering process, first the mass is cooled in stages from about 45Â°C to about 27Â°C and then warmed up again to about 37Â°C followed by cooling down to it’s solid state in moulds to be formed into the shape of the complete product. The moulds take a variety of shapes and sizes, from the common chocolate bar to a ten-pound block used by confectionery manufacturers.
Ready for Shipment
When the moulded chocolate reaches the cooling chamber, cooling proceeds at a fixed rate that keeps hard-earned flavor intact. The bars are then removed from the molds and passed along to wrapping machines to be packed for shipment to distributors, confectioners and others throughout the country.
For convenience, chocolate is frequently shipped in a liquid state when intended for use by other food manufacturers. Whether solid or liquid, it provides candy, cookie, and ice cream manufacturers with the most popular flavor for their products. Additionally, a portion of the United State’s total chocolate output goes into coatings, powders and flavorings that add zest to our foods in a thousand different ways.
Inside a Chocolate Factory
In touring a chocolate factory, one is particularly impressed by the close controls maintained throughout operations. Work is carried out in an atmosphere of scientific exactness and nothing is left to chance.
Precision instruments regulate temperatures, stabilize the moisture content of the air, and control the time intervals of manufacturing operations and other items necessary to achieve quality results.
The equipment of a factory is heavy, massive and complex. Often representing an investment of many millions of dollars, there are literally tons of equipment that the cocoa beans must pass through on their way to becoming chocolate.
Automation Does the Job
Besides the equipment already described, the industry employs a number of fascinating machines to do the work of shaping and packaging chocolate into the familiar forms that we see every day on store counters. Some of the shaping machines perform at amazing speeds, squirting out jets of chocolate that solidify into special shapes at a rate of several hundred a minute.* Other machines do a complete job of wrapping and packaging at speeds that human hands would find impossible.
* Separate from the chocolate industry but of interest nonetheless, is the enrober-a machine employed by many candy manufactures in the creation of assorted chocolates. The enrober receives lines of assorted centers (nuts, nougats, fruit or whatever desired filling) and showers them with a waterfall of liquid chocolate. This generally covers and surrounds each center with a blanket of chocolate. Yet other confectionery machines create a hallow-molded shell of chocolate, which is then filled with a soft or liquid center before the bottom is sealed with chocolate.
The mechanized nature of the entire chocolate-making process contributes greatly to the industry’s high standards of hygiene and sanitation. To keep check on these standards, chocolate factories constantly run quality tests, which show whether the process is proceeding within the strict limitations designed for each product. These tests cover an amazing range-there are tests for the viscosity of chocolate, for the cocoa butter content, for acidity, for the fineness of a product and, of course, tests for purity and taste of the desired finished product.
All chocolate manufacturers, it is important to note, must meet the standards as set forth in the rules and regulations of The Food and Drug Administration. These govern manufacturing formulas, even to the extent of specifying the minimum content of the chocolate liquor and milk used. They also impose strict rules regarding the flavorings and other ingredients that may be used.
Reasons for Secrecy
Where methods of manufacturing are concerned; however, manufacturers have a completely free hand and have developed individual variations from the “pattern.” Each manufacturer seeks to protect their own methods by conducting certain operations under an atmosphere of secrecy. Modern technology, in this respect, is reminiscent of the day of the Spanish monopoly.
Today’s “secrets,” unlike those of old, include many small but important details that center on key manufacturing operations. No chef guards his favorite recipes more zealously than the chocolate manufacturer guards his formulas for blending beans or the time intervals he gives to his conching. Time intervals, temperatures and proportions of ingredients are three critical factors that no company wants to divulge.
A Sanitary Atmosphere
A visit to a chocolate factory certainly will not reveal any secrets; however, the visitor will be impressed by the gleaming appearance that such a place has. Chocolate manufacturers conduct all operations under sanitary, laboratory-like conditions in keeping with the purity of the products they make. They follow a daily regimen of machine maintenance and general housekeeping that is not exceeded in the food industry.
Cleanliness is, indeed, the universal byword of the chocolate industry. Chocolate factories not only have careful programs for industrial sanitation and for the personal hygiene of their employees, but they are continually striving to improve their programs.
A Plant within a Plant
Technicians use laboratories to analyze every phase of chocolate preparation-from raw materials to finished products. They test samples for the market as well as experimental products produced in a company’s pilot plants.
These pilot plants consist of miniature equipment that duplicates a company’s entire chocolate making process and those of some of their customers, as well as providing sample quantities of any product desired. Chocolate manufacturers are making increasing use of pilot plants in conjunction with their laboratory research programs to develop interesting new products and find new ways of making the old ones.
So seriously does Belgium take its reputation as a chocolate producer that in 2000 its Ministry of Economic Affairs created a mark of quality assurance, AMBAO (which means “cocoa” in Swahili). The formation of AMBAO was a quick response to the European Union decision earlier that year that ruled that up to 5% of the cocoa butter in chocolate could be replaced by other vegetable fats and the result could still be called chocolate. To industrial manufacturers this was a windfall, as other vegetable fats are much cheaper than cocoa butter. To chocolate purists, however, the resolution was a scandal. Members of the AMBAO association use only 100% cocoa butter in their chocolate, and uphold higher overall quality levels than those dictated by the E.U. bureaucrats. Members of AMBAO range from large international companies such as Barry Callebaut to small artisan producers.
One thing you should know, that the principle ingredient of commercial mass produced chocolate is not chocolate or cocoa, (the average cocoa content is generally less than 20% by volume and can be as low as 7%), but sugar, saturated and vegetable fats, powdered milk and sundry other additives, many of them artificial. These are the dietary villains responsible for chocolate’s undeserved reputation as being fattening, tooth-decaying and generally unhealthy.
Most people go wrong by choosing volume produced “brand name” milk and white chocolate, low in chocolate solids (less than 20% but some brand name Milk and White Chocolate can contain less than 7% chocolate solids) all are high in sugar content and other nasties and consequently, ruinous for your health.
But all’s not doom and gloom, real chocolate, containing at least 60% cocoa solids and just a fraction of the sugar of the typical mass produced “brand name” product, is much healthier by far
It’s a fact that products containing a minimum 70% or more cocoa solids are the healthiest and the best way to satisfy a craving for chocolate, without consuming too much sugar and saturated fat.
Chocolate is one of the most popular foods in the world, long enjoyed for its wonderful taste. The cocoa butter in chocolate is unique because it melts at mouth temperature, slowly releasing rich chocolate flavour during eating. In addition to its savoured taste, researchers are discovering new information about this cherished treat.
In fact, there are more good reasons than ever before to enjoy chocolate. CMA points out that chocolate is loaded with healthy antioxidants, contains substances called tannins that may help prevent tooth decay and is a good source of minerals the body needs, including magnesium and iron. Even the main fat in chocolate, stearic acid, does not increase blood cholesterol levels.
Let us now consider the Kashrus implications of the various processes we have described. The raw beans will have been imported from the tropics and the preparation of the cocoa liquor (that is, the stages of cleansing, roasting, crushing, winnowing and grinding) is generally undertaken at a separate establishment and then transported in bulk liquid form or in blocks to chocolate manufacturers. The larger groups would have different branches, sometimes in different countries, for different types of chocolate. Heating is involved both in the preparation of chocolate liquor and in its transportation, often done in bulk using heated tankers.