Brewing Cocoa

There has recently been a lot of buzz about various brewing chocolates.  Choffy and  Crio Bru are the two big ones that come to mind.  I’ve received more inquires than I can count about what makes them so special, if my roasted cocoa beans will work and how one can make their own hot chocolate drink with minimum fuss.

Up until this point, I didn’t have any really good answers.  Now I do.

I ordered up both products (I could not get any courtesy professional samples).  What I got was this

Looks a whole lot like ground cocoa with the husk on to me.  Here’s the two commercial ones and one I prepared.
choffy1.JPG

I set up a flight of 3 tests.  Choffy, Crio Bru, and Roasted Peru.

Their two I dosed as roughly recommended (2 T/ 4.25 oz ‘cup’ for Crio Bru, 2-3T/6 oz ‘cup’ for Choffy – side note, WTF is it with coffee (and now cocoa) measuring 4, 5 and 6 oz ‘cups’ – a cup is 8 ozs, thank you, end of story) and for mine, 40 g/8 oz.  I ground mine coarsely in my hand burr grinder.  A whirley blade spice grinder will work.  High speed burr coffee grinders may or may not (I think not, but don’t have one to try) work as the cocoa butter may melt and coat the burrs.
Just so we stay consistent here, 1 T = ~10 g.   I brewed up 8 oz of each (in a french press – steeped for 5 minutes), and luckily, they all fall into a dosing of 4T or 40g per 8 oz CUP.

Here they are all brewed up.

choffy-brewed.JPG

Can you tell the difference – neither can I.

Could I taste the difference – well, in a matter of speaking.  They are three different origins.  Dominican Republic for Crio Bru, Ivory Coast for Choffy, and Peru as I already mentioned for mine.  Here are my tasting notes, tasted ‘blind’ of course.
Crio Bru was a little fruity and mildly chocolatey in the nose.  It had a nice mouth feel, an ok chocolate flavor and a bit as astringency.

Choffy had more chocolate in the nose but not much else.  It had a full mouth feel, a moderate chocolate flavor, but not much else going on except a little sharpness.  About what I would expect from Ivory Coast – it’s Forastero, so has a good chocolate backbone, but not a huge amount of subtlety.

Chocolate Alchemy’s Peru matched the Choffy in chocolate aroma, and some soft fruits.  The mouth feel was between the other two, but more approachable in my opinion.  Nice chocolate, some plum and banana flavors and a ’round’ mouth feel.

I also tried these all with a little sugar and milk, just for the sake of completeness.  I can’t say any were better or worse than any other.  The milk definitely rounded out the rough edges that I noted in the Choffy and Crio Bru.  And with sugar, they all start approaching what many people think of as a hot chocolate flavor.

On that last comment about hot chocolate flavor, I should mention brewed cocoa, regardless of source, is not an intense, thick mouth coating drink like many are accustomed to in hot chocolate or the other various processed chocolate drinks.  It’s more subtle and sublime than that.  It is its own drink.  If you compare it to hot chocolate, you may come away disappointed.  If you evaluate it for it own flavor and merits, I think you will come away impressed.

So, in review,

  • They all looked about the same.
  • They all tasted very similar, with variation for origin
  • They are all roasted, ground cocoa beans.

Choffy claims some other proprietary processing method  (and they may have one) but if it looks like a duck, and it quacks like a duck and it tastes like a duck….you get the point.

The only other point I will make is this:

  • Crio Bru: $14.95/12 oz bag
  • Choffy: $15.00/12 oz bag
  • Chocolate Alchemy Roasted beans: $10-14.50/LB (update – you can now order Brewing Cocoa directly, and it will come all roasted and ground)

I’ll let my very intelligent customers decide which way to go.

Finally, I will say, in I hope the next week or so (in between winnower building) I will be setting up a Brewing Chocolate category, with 8 oz bags of roasted and ground cocoa beans, with tasting notes.  In the mean time, if you would like your roasted beans ground, just leave me a note when checking out and I will be more than happy to prepare them for you.  Otherwise, you can grind them yourself in a spice grinder and you will be on your way to a new luscious taste experience. Just remember:

  • 4 T/8 oz boiling water
  • Steep 5 minutes
  • Press (assuming you are using a press pot – drip works ok too)
  • Enjoy straight, with milk (or cream) and/or sugar.

40 Responses to “Brewing Cocoa”

  1. Hey John, thanks for doing the taste test. As much as I love chocolate, I was not compelled to replace my beloved coffee with a cacao drink. What I did enjoy was adding a few cacoa beans to my coffee beans. I bought Organic Raw Peeled Peruvian Criollo Cacao Beans and did NOT roast them!!!

  2. Thank you John. I really appreciate the information.

    Sincerely,
    Dianne

  3. Kathie,

    I love coffee and won’t be replacing it either. All I can say about raw peeled cocoa is too each his/her own. In my tests, very little flavor is extracted from just the beans and nearly none of the nutrients as most are fat soluble so I don’t see the point. But more power too you if you enjoy it. That is really all that matters.

    Dianne, you are welcome.

  4. Hey guys,

    I thought I should chime in since I developed the product for Choffy and I am the founder of Crio Bru. You can definitely get amazing results from preparing your own cocoa beans. I actually started my initial tests using cocoa beans that I purchased here!

    There are many varieties of beans that can not be produced on a commercial scale due to some of the inherent differences in chemical composition. However, for small home batches you should get some very interesting results. Some of them may not be brewable in traditional coffee pots but should work great in a french press.

    It is definitely not intended to take the place of coffee, just to be an additional hot beverage choice. We were just at the Seattle Coffee fest and we were blown away by the response we got from coffee fanatics. It is definitely worth trying.

    A few words of advice. DO NOT try this in commercial grinders of most burr grinders. It will turn to liquor and ruin your grinder. The blade grinder is about the only thing that works well and even it gets a lot of powder. I actually developed a $60,000 grinder that is the only one like it in the world and I can do 2000 pounds per hour!! Not exactly home use.
    Anyway, John is amazing but this is a brand new product that most people are just learning about and I would love to offer advice through this site if anyone has questions that John may not be able to answer.

  5. John, thank you for testing the brewed cocoa beans and posting this…I really appreciate it as I have been wanting to try it with the goal being combining the rich coffee taste I love with a bit of rich chocolate. I don’t use any sugar in coffee so it’s important to me to not have much bitterness in my coffee or cocoa beans. I tried roasting some raw cocoa nibs from Navitas (Theobroma) using your recommended 20 min at 250 degrees. I then ground and did about a 70/30% split of coffee/cocoa. Not good; I didn’t care for the taste at all, it ruined the coffee (organic Ruta Maya arabica dark roast). Maybe I didn’t get the roasting part right because it still had that funky taste of raw cocoa bean, not chocolate, and I didn’t get a good chocolate smell while I was roasting them either. They looked pretty dark so I was afraid of them burning so I stopped right at 20min.

    Anyway, I would like to try your roasted Peru beans that you think are mostly Criollo. When brewing/pressing with my coffee, what percentage would you recommend so as not to take over the coffee flavor, maybe 80/20 or even 90/10? Also, I make up my own hot chocolate mix with minimum sweetness using a lot of the organic ground cocoa from the bulk spice section of WFs but it is expensive so could I just grind the roasted Peru beans down to a powder (I have a blade grinder that worked well with the nibs) and add to my hot chocolate mix? Do I have to worry about the husk being in there? Thanks for any input!

  6. I received your roasted Peru today. I know you can grind coffee beans in Vitamix blenders, and decided to use my wife’s Vitamix to grind the cocoa beans.

    I started it on variable low, turned it up all of the way, and then flipped it to high. It was done grinding in 10 seconds or less. I did a half pound at a time, and if I did it again, I would probably do a quarter pound at a time for a little more consistency, but half a pound wasn’t bad. I probably ground it just a little on the fine side, but I brewed some up, and the french press handled it fine. The blender didn’t heat up, and cleanup was a snap (couple of inches of hot water in the container blended for about 10 seconds). It almost seemed too easy.

    I took before and after pictures, but I’m not sure how to post them here. I also recorded video of the second 1/2 pound batch I did.

  7. Hey there, I have just about completely switched over to “choffy”…. I bought my first bag of Choffy and I was hooked… I love it and will purchase a bag of your roasted beans (ground of course!) today.

    Vanessa

  8. Neil, With both Choffy and Crio Bru, we started out using modified blenders. It worked fine and we were even selling the product like that for the first few months until we were not able to keep up with production. The only real benefit of having a grinder custom built was increased production capabilities and MUCH more control of the finished product.

    We actually used sifters and screens to make the product more uniform at first. I’m glad you guys are having fun with this. You should definitely try some Madagascar beans. IT makes a CRAZY brew. Roast it a little darker than most other beans for the best brewed results.

  9. Hey Eric. Great fan of your work. I have some of your Crio on order, and can’t wait to try it. I actually thought about sifting (but didn’t because I didn’t want to lose any of it), but by blending a slightly larger batch of beans, I did notice there both fine grounds and course grounds. Obviously the fine grounds make it a little harder to French press.

    Look forward to seeing more of your products. Still trying to figure out which of these beans I like the best in a brew as I’m not a coffee drinker.

  10. BTW Eric, where does one find the Madacascar beans?

  11. Am I missing something here? Brewing cacao? Why? What’s wrong with the traditional method of drinking chocolate? You just boil water, drop in your chocolate (I like to use pure “white-almond” criollo cacao mass), and froth it up using on molinillo or, seal it up in a thermos or other metal bottle and shake it till you have your delicious foamy chocolate ready to drink!

    People have been drinking chocolate in some form or other for thousands of years here.

    Brewing it just seems wasteful to me.

  12. […] I take them out. Basically, you are making a ‘brewed cocoa’ with your wort. I just leave them in during the cooling. That way any cocoa butter remains on top and very little makes it into the brew to wreck havoc with your head retention. This is the kind of thing I am suggesting you use: Chocolate Alchemy Brewing Cocoa BTW, I want to point out I’m not here trying to hawk my own product, but I DO sell this. I brew, but happen to do chocolate also. That said, the more fine the cocoa is that you put in, the more issue you are going to have with the cocoa butter, hence the coarse grinding suggestion. And also the husks provide quite a bit of of extractables. I’ve tried a ton of chocolates, sweetened and unsweetened and the always sound so much better than the result. How would I translate that? 2.5 + 2 = 4.5 oz. Given the lower surface area, I would double it and round to 10 oz. That’s what I would try. All these recipes I see calling for 1 and 2 oz just make me shake my head. The best comparison I could make would be to add 1 oz of whole coffee to 5 gallons of cold beer. There is so little there to extract that it just won’t do any good, and that would probably give you more flavor than 2 oz of nibs. I hope that helps. […]

  13. Hi. Is it any better than brewing from cocoa liquor, as how it is traditionally done in cacao producing countries like the Philippines? With cocoa liquor, you can simply put the tabilla (as it is called in Spanish) into a pot and boil (while stirring).

  14. I have been reading about this product for a while now. I have needed to get off the coffee train for a long time. I have squired all the bad medical problems directly related to drinking too much coffee on a daily basis and really needed to quite. So, I had great hope of using cacao instead of coffee. Last month I ordered the three types John recommends for brewing. I tried it the way I received it for a week, then I started experimenting a little. Since I don’t have a french press yet, I’m doing it probably the way they did it hundreds of years ago . . . Boil the water, turn down the heat a little and stir in the cacao (I like to grind what John sent me just a little more – #12 Drip grind) bringing it back to just a small rolling boil for about 3 Minn. I can say I think it’s going to be every thing I hoped for. I haven’t had a cup of coffee in three weeks and haven’t missed it or the roller coaster ride I get with coffee. So, John I will say “Thanks” by submitting my next order now!

  15. I enjoyed the review of the three brands of cacao and just wanted to agree with the 8 oz cup observation. I guess we have a certain “K” coffee company to blame for that. After I finished laughing at the comment, I had to agree. 8 oz is a cup.

    I just purchased my first bag of Crio Bru as a replacement for caffeine (sigh) and have been pleased with the “effect” of the theobromine–though it may be a placebo.

    I believe I will be back for a future purchase.

  16. After hearing about brewable chocolate and its health benefits I decided to try it. I ordered some brewing cocoa a week and a half ago and it has already changed my life. I was always a bit high strung and had a hard time relaxing. Meditation didn’t work and neither did yoga. I just couldn’t let go. Well I tried some brewed cocoa, and not expecting anything, I was amazed and so happy with the outcome. I didn’t feel like I was on the edge of my skin ready to jump at any little thing. I could actually enjoy my time with my daughters and felt like the me I was supposed to be. What a fantastic surprise. I bought one pound of all 3 varieties and I am glad that I did. Besides drinking it everyday I have been talking to others about my experience and giving them some to try. Everyone of them want me to let them know when I’m ordering more cause they want some, too. Thank you so much!

  17. What does one do with the remaining grounds? Put them in the garden, bake them in bread or cookies?

  18. I compost mine. I’ve never tried baking, but as a lot of the oils are left, it might work. Can’t hurt to try.

  19. I bought Choffy on a lark at a local store that was offering free samples. Then thinking I could find it readily available, I went on the hunt for more of it. I finally found Crio Bru on Amazon and ordered several packages of it there. I have searched health foods stores, whole food markets, etc. most recently in 10 states as we traveled on vacation thinking I would find it somewhere. I have ordered three kinds from this website and am very happy with the quality or your product. I use the grounds over and over and add new grounds when the old lose their flavor, I bake the used grounds in cookies (which have become the absolute “hit” of the coffee hour at church, in breads (chocolate banana bread is fabulous), use the grounds as a scrub in the shower and as a hand wash which has made a world of difference this winter in my cuticles. I will continue to order my beans from the Alchemist as I do love this product! Thank you for providing this service in addition to your other great products!

  20. I have decided to continue taking my chocolate STRAIGHT and DARK … no thank you … coffee to remain coffee no confusion. The feeling of dark chocolate melting in my mouth is just too devine to turn it into something that I would drink hot.

  21. I found your site while trying to find a way to get the Choffy taste st home. I need it this weekend, or I would order. Can I ground nibs and put in the french press? Or do I need to find roasted cocoa beans and ground them? Thanks for any help you have a very fun site

  22. You will not get much flavor from just cocoa nibs. Much of the flavor is in the husk. You really need roasted beans.

  23. I’d really like to try this. Have you tried a percolator? That is what I have and as it works well for coffee…would it work for the nibs?

  24. Adrienne, No, I’ve never tried brewing cocoa in a percolator. Personally, I find that a terrible thing to do to coffee (maybe the worst – but to each his/her own tastes) but in this case, brewing cocoa does like to be boiled, so it might well do rather well. I’d say give it a try.

  25. Hi,

    I just started using brewing chocolate and, as I was researching brewing techniques, I read the advice on your website. Your taste test of the three brands was an excellent review (and now that I realize that your shop sells brewing chocolate at a great price, I will be purchasing from you in the future.

    My question deals with resteeping the chocolate grounds for a second time. I have seen some sites that recommend that process, much in the same way that one would resteep tea leaves. What do you think about doing that and is it even worth the bother due to the possible sacrifice of flavor?

    Thanks!

    Erika Smith

  26. has anyone used the Nutrabullet special
    grinding blade to make this cocoa drink?

  27. Erika – it really comes down to tastes. Brewing cocoa does do better than tea for re-brewing. Many people just keep a pot simmering, and topping up.

    Ron – I’ve not tried it, but it might work. What I’ve found is it’s all about the design of the blades. Some chop well, and some just toss it to the side and you won’t know until you try. I’d say if you have one, try it, but I would not buy one just to try it.

  28. Hello, What is the nutitional aspects of the brewed cocoa beans? I am opening a dessert cafe and want to offer this as well but I want to understand more about it.

  29. Hey guys – I saw some of you are posting about using the grounds in compost – just a reminder that chocolate is toxic to dogs, (it may be toxic to cats, too – I don’t know) but you might want to check w/ your vet before you put it outside where animals have access to it.

  30. The spent grounds are really no issue to dogs. The key is that they are spent. The dog toxic compound (theobromine) is water soluble and has already been extracted. As for cats, I have three and have never seen them show the slightest interest in chocolate. They are carnivorous.

  31. ChocolateGirl,
    It’s really unclear. I’ve been doing some research of raw vs roasted vs oil extractables vs totals vs water extractable and what I am finding is there is no one answer. The compounds change radically depending on origin, fertilization, weather, type, etc. I suspect (but no NOT know) that simply eating a ounce of traditional dark chocolate is going to give you significantly more of a nutritional boost than brewing cocoa – but that’s just a chemist’s gut feeling so far.

  32. Hi,

    You mention that the husk is a major source of flavor for the brewing cocoa.

    I was wondering if you’ve tried brewing straight husk. I see that you sell straight (but non-specified) husk at the discount rate of $2 per pound.

    Thanks
    Jon

  33. Yes, I have. It’s a very thin, astringent flavor. You really need the combined extraction of nib and husk. Likewise, nib is pretty bland also.

  34. Can you brew Brewing Cocoa in a coffee maker?

  35. Linda,

    Generally speaking I would say no. Brewing cocoa usually requires more of a contact time and has a tendency to clog coffee (metal and paper alike) filters.

  36. Hi. As a lifelong morning coffe gal (night time tea), I was thrilled to find the brewing cocoa. On weekends, I double up the cocoa and my favorite full oxies coffee in a single brew, add some vanilla syrup and top the finished drink with a splash of fresh cream. It is worth waking up in a Sunday morning just for this. I plan to keep brewing cocoa in my beverage repertoire

  37. Thanks for posting this experiment. Very helpful information. Any recommended brewing temperature for best extraction?

  38. I like 195-205. After that it is to your personal taste.

  39. I’ve been grinding coffee beans in an old-school hand grinder. Would I be able to use this to grind the whole cacao beans? And if so, can I purchase them whole and roasted?

  40. Nope, it won’t work. The burrs will clog due to the oil just like its motorized cousin. You pretty much need a blade grinder.

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