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Chocolate Making Process



Grow Beans

The cacao pod is growing on a tree. The tree is starting to develop pods after 2-3 years and full yield after 6-7 years.

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Farmers gather the cacao pods carefully by a long pole off the tree. They open the pods with a machete and pull out the pulp and cacao beans.

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There are different ways to ferment cacao. Box fermentation or heap fermentation are popular options. Fermentation process usually takes between 5-6 days.

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Where the weather permits, beans are getting dried by the sun. The required moisture level of 7-8% is reached after about 7 days.

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Traditionally the dried beans are getting packed into big jute sacks. Cacao is often delivered via ship, but shipping with a rocket would be cool, too.


From this point on ChocolateSpiel is taking over!




We start with roasting the raw cacao bean. This is a crucial step for flavor development. Roasting for too long or at too high temperatures might damage the delicate flavors.

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The beans need to be cracked open for the next step. There’s a thin shell around each bean, called husk. While cracking, the husk breaks open and we create small bean splitters, which are called cacao nibs.

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Winnowing is the process of separating the roasted nibs from the husk. Separation is obtained by suction, because husks are lighter than cacao nibs.

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At this point we add nibs, cacao butter and sugar into a stone grinder. But grinding down the particles is only one goal of this step. Flavor development plays a huge role as well.

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Chocolate is polymorph and will crystalize into 6 different stages if you don’t follow a certain temperature procedure. Which would leads to dull, crumbly and bland tasting chocolate - nobody wants that!

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Molding and Packaging


Our molds carry 6, 1oz cavities for our liquid, tempered chocolate. Bubbles are the enemy here and are getting knocked out. Each bar is lovingly packaged by hand.




We made it! Our bars are ready for you!


Icons made by Flaticon  is licensed by Creative Commons BY 3.0"



Cacao Pod Tree

The cacao tree, also called Theobroma Cacao, is growing 20° south and north of our equator. Hot and humid - perfect conditions for cacao. Hawaii is therefore the only state in the US where cacao is growing. The tree is usually located in lower altitudes, about 700 meters above sea level or even lower. In higher altitudes the wind is stronger which could damages the crop.


Farmers intercrop larger trees, such as cashew or banana to protect the cacao tree from wind and weather.

The picture shows the tree with the cacao crop - called pod. The colors of the pod varies, depending on the cacao ripeness and type. Theobroma Cacao bears pods after 2-3 years and yield full after about 6-7 years.


Cacao Flower

It takes about 5-6 months for a pod to develop. Everything starts with the pretty little cacao tree flower (see picture). Because the tree is growing so close to the equator, cacao pods can be harvested over the whole year. But the thriving pods on the trees are not all ripe at the same time. This means for the farmers, that they have to harvest every couple of weeks over a period of several months.

Cacao Pod Harvest

Finally when the crop is ripe, the pods are carefully cut off the tree with a machete or a knife.Each pod contains a white fruit pulp, also called mucilage (yummy), and 30-40 beans. The fruit pulp covers the beans.



Fermentation is a crucial step for flavor development in the final chocolate.

But what exactly is fermentation?

“Fermentation is a metabolic process that produces chemical changes in organic substrates through the action of enzymes." Source Wikipedia

Well.. doesn’t really help right?

Let’s take a closer look.

Beans and pulp are removed from the pod and placed either on a heap for heap fermentation or into a box for box fermentation. But the same reactions are happening in either process.


Heap fermentation:

Fresh beans and pulp are placed in a heap and covered with banana leaves. This is a method widespread among smaller plantations.

Box fermentation:

Fresh beans and pulp are placed in wooden boxes. Those boxes have holes, which provides ventilation and allow the water, produced from the beans and pulp, to run out. Each day the beans are getting tipped from one box to another to improve aeration (see picture).


The yeast from the air, as well as bacteria from the environment convert sugar from the bean and pulp to alcohol and carbon dioxide. Fermentation is an exothermic reaction, which means the reaction releases energy in form of heat. 


This heat is necessary to kill the bean, so it won’t germinates (reminds me of Game of Thrones). The decreasing pH value, due to the development of acids have an impact on the beans death as well. Once the bean is killed, enzymes start to go to work. They rapidly decompensated the bean and pulp. Sugar and acids are developing, and those guys have a big impact on the chocolate flavor. The ventilation stimulates bacteria that require oxygen and encourages the production of ethanoic acid. Reactions that require oxygen, like the reaction between yeast and sugar are retarded and less alcohol is formed. Which means that box fermented beans are more likely to taste acidic compared to a heap fermentation. 

But not only the sugar of the beans is converted.

Proteins are getting oxidized and as a result polyphenols occur, which gives chocolate its brown color (that’s why bananas become brown, too. If you want to learn more about polyphenol oxidase check out this article on Wikipedia). Another part of the proteins get broken down into amino acids, which are key player in flavor development. 



After the fermentation process the beans need to get dried, otherwise the beans would get mouldy. Where the weather permits, they are getting dried by the sun. The beans are spread out on trays, moveable tables or mats and get racked periodically. In case of rain, the mats can be rolled in, the trays and tables can be put under a rain shield. Sometimes a fire is lit up to dry the beans faster. But the smoke can cause the beans to taste unpleasant smokey - if you like a barbeque flavored chocolate, that might be something for you :)

Drying is happening on the open field, which means contamination of wild animals, farm and surroundings is an issue. That’s why cleaning and roasting are crucial and important steps. The required moisture level of 7-8% is reached after about 7 days.

Cacao Bean



Roasting - my most favorite part in the whole chocolate making process. Why? The intriguing smell. Think homemade brownies freshly out of the oven.

But more to the details:

We roast in very small batches: 1135g or 2.5lb. The raw beans get roasted in coffee roasters and the principle is pretty straight forward:

  • A heating element is warming up the chamber

  • The drum with beans is spinning around for an even roast (always have to think about Döner or roasting chickens in a food truck).

The length of the roast and the program can be adjusted, according to the bean origin.

That’s how we roast, but let’s take a closer look what actually happens during roasting.

Benefits of roasting:

  • Killing microbial contaminations like salmonellae (check out the drying process and learn more about contamination).

  • Roasting makes the life of a chocolate maker easier, when separating the nibs from the husk.

  • Flavor development

Roasting is a complex process and various different reactions are happening at the same time. Fermentation built a lot of acids (like ethanoic acid) which can be unpleasant sour, bitter and astringent. We can remove these volatile acids when roasting and refining, which can improve the chocolate flavor at the end.

We want to get ride off some volatile acids, but keep or improve other chemicals naturally occurring in the cacao bean. During fermentation chocolate flavors have already been developed in a preliminary stage. The goal is to trigger chemical reactions ad adjust these chemicals to our taste.

The Maillard Reaction one important reaction we want to trigger.

To get the reaction going, we need:

  • heat (at least 150°C or 300°F )

  • sugar (carbohydrates or glucose in bean)

  • protein (aminoacides)

The reaction needs energy to start, that’s why we have to add heat in our case: roasting. The chemical reaction between protein and sugar leads to the desired caramelization process, which creates the typical sweet, nutty flavors and aromas.

Want to learn more about Maillard Reaction? Check out Wikipedia or this paper.


Cacao Beans ChocolateSpiel

Cacao beans are surrounded by a papery thin husk. The husk consist of fibers and carbohydrates. Fibers will decrease the smooth and silky texture of chocolate, which is the reason why the separation of husk and cacao in the next step is crucial.

We crack the roasted beans with a juicer. Through the cracking process cacao bean splitters occur. Those splitters are called cacao nibs.



After cracking the beans, nibs and husks need to be winnowed, which means separating cacao nibs and cacao husk. Suction and gravity are the key players here.

Husk and nibs are fed into the upper tube opening. A shop vac is creating suction in the bucket. Because husks are lighter than nibs, they get sucked into the bucket and the heavier nibs (thanks gravity!) fall down into a bowl.

Voilà, nibs and husks are separated.




This step is necessary to reduce the particle size of cacao nibs and the added sugar. Our tongue can detect particles as small as 30 microns (thickness of an average hair is between 30-100 microns). The goal particle size is between 15 - 20 microns, so that we can’t feel any grittiness and to achieve a smooth and silky texture.

To decrease the particle size we use a stone grinder. Originally they are used to grind rice, grains or wheat. The wheels are made out of granite and they run on a granite slab.

The grinding process can take between 24 and 96 hours. Depending on the origin and the result we want to achieve.



Tempering chocolate is an essential step for making smooth and glossy chocolate and chocolate coatings.

When we don’t temper chocolate it becomes grayish and dull. This happens because the cacao fat is separating from the cacao particles.

Tempered chocolate produces a crisp, satisfying snap when you bite into it or brake it. The tempering process takes chocolate through a temperature curve, a process which aligns the chocolate’s crystals to make it smooth, silky, and glossy.

If you want to learn how to temper, check out my videos about tempering on my YouTube channel Angi learns how to chocolate.