Ask the Alchemist #29

I have heard that chocolate benefits from a slight resting or maturation period before eating. Is this true? Why? How long? Is there a shelf life?

Well, for once, there is going to be very little definitive I can give you here, at least in the form of specific practices. Keep in mind, the majority of chocolate I make is for evaluation purposes, so I make it, and taste it within just a few days. But then again, I am looking for defects, not perfection. And while you are keeping things in mind, recall I started this whole journey because I tasted fresh chocolate and was blown away by its vibrancy, which is sort of the opposite of an aged flavor.

Without just repeating it here, there is a great discussion on the Chocolate Life about just this, and I cannot disagree with any of it (which isn’t quite agreeing with it if you understand what I mean there). .

That said, I’ve made many things that improve with age – wine, ale, cheese, mead, sausage and say un-categorically that there are changes in flavor that only aging can produce (which I love), and there is no reason the same cannot happen in chocolate. I do know I can taste a difference in just roasted beans that are fresh out of the roaster (and cooled) and ones that have had a day to ‘rest’. In the rested beans, the flavors are more developed, more melded. And that is basically what is said about chocolate. It’s basically a chemical tying up of loose ends, and being in a solid state, it’s going to happen pretty slow. .

I think I lean more toward longer aging over ‘slight’ aging. This is mostly because from what I have tasted it is a S L O W process and a day here or there is not going to be that drastic. Similarly, given just how slow and gradual it is, I’ve never tasted a chocolate that has gone bad. It might be possible, but under cool ‘aging’ temperatures, I lean toward thinking it’s not. .

So, make your chocolate and temper part of it. Taste it and make some notes. Now wait a month and temper the rest. Taste them side by side and make notes. Now wait another month and taste them again and make those notes. Now compare all the tasting notes. If you tasted differences, great. Was there one set you liked better or were they simply different? You didn’t taste any difference? Well, put them away 6 months and try again. Rinse and repeat. I suspect until you get to many months or even many years you are not going to see huge differences….but you may depending on your bean and tastes. .

That’s about all I can tell you. In theory age will make a difference. In practice, that difference may or may not be better to your tastes.


Coming soon – new beans…..Belize, Sur del Lago, Madagascar oh my….

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