I’ve been lucky enough to spend the last month living on a cacao plantation in Colombia. I’ve been experimenting with chocolate making (and eating). It is so rewarding to make your own chocolate with the very cacao pod you picked! You can do it too! Chocolate is often industrially manufactured and huge quantities of sugars and scary ingredients are added. So here’s how to DIY and enjoy the benefits of cacao.
Want to make your own delicious chocolate in your kitchen? LET’S GO.
Our chocolate making process can be started from different stages depending on which ingredients you can get your hands on. We can start with (A) cacao pod, (B) cacao beans or (C) cacao nibs.
You will need:
A cacao pod/ cacao beans/ cacao nibs
Sweetener (granulated sugar, stevia or alternative)
Milk (dehydrated coconut milk or milk powder)
Cacao butter (optional)
A container (for the beans)
Thick salad leaves/ a container lid
a frying pan
A food processor
A pestle and mortar
2 thin metal spatulas
A flat surface
Here’s what we’re going to to be doing -> -> i.e summary of bean to bar process: ferment, dry, roast, winnow, conch, temper, age, CONSUME.
(A) From the pod:
Got yourself a whole cacao pod?! Nice. Break open the pod and scoop out the fleshly white beans inside. These bad boys need to be fermented for 5-6 days. So take the beans and leave them in a container covered with leaves. Traditionally they should be covered with banana leaves. If you’re not living on the equator and there are no banana leaves to hand, grab some big thick salad leaves or just cover loosely with a container.
Now you will have yourself some brown sticky beans. These need to be washed and left on a rack to dry for 24 hours.
(B) From cacao beans (post fermentation, washing and drying):
Now for the roasting. Heat a pan on a high heat and add the beans. The roasting process should take about 10-15 minutes. Make sure to keep stirring them every minute or so to stop them burning. You’ll know they’re ready when they start popping.
Leave them to cool. Next step: winnowing! A fancy word referring to the process of separating the shell from the cacao bean to leave us with the cacao nib. Large scale chocolate manufacturers use machines to carry out this process, but ain’t nobody got time for that. Manual shelling begins! Start peeling the outer layer and you’ll be left with a soft bean. Try it! It’s delicious. If you’ve actually managed to set some beans aside (and haven’t eaten them all), it’s time to grind them up into powder.
(C) From cacao nibs:
Grab your nibs and blend them in the food processor. The goal here is liquid chocolate! This should take about 20 minutes. Keep scooping the liquid out from the sides to make sure that all the contents are exposed to the blades.
Time to add your extras! Have a quick try of the chocolate. Still a bit grainy? Add some milk powder and/or cacao butter to improve texture and flavour. Too bitter? Sweetener time! Add powder or liquid flavours now (vanilla essence, matcha powder..) but save solid extras like cacao nibs and nuts (We’ll add these later). Whizz this up for another 2-3 mins.
Next step? Conching. Another fancy word to describe the mixing and grinding process of the chocolate. Ideally you would have a conching machine (about $300). Considering this isn’t a common household appliance, let’s go with a pestle and mortar (or similar).
Pour in your liquid chocolate and start grinding and stirring. For how long you ask? The longer the better! Industrial conching machines complete this process in anywhere between 24 to 48 hours! This process is essential for adding texture and adding to flavour. Get grinding.
Now your arm probably hurts. Time for one more arm work out. Tempering the chocolate! Pour the chocolate onto a flat surface and use the spatulas to turn it. Keep turning for a minimum of 20 minutes. When your arm hurts too much, time to put it into moulds. Pop them in the fridge for a few hours to age.