Chocolate Making at home 101

This is the short, fast, what you need and how it happens guide to get you going in the right direction.
Equipment list:
Roaster: (The Alchemist uses his home built one or a Behmor currently.) It’s possible to use your own oven, some varieties of coffee roasters beyond the Behmor, a pan on top of your stove, a modified pop corn popper — similar to coffee roasting it depends on how much experimentation vs equipment you want.

Cracking the Beans:  I like the Champion Juicer to crack beans.  It’s fast and efficient.  And gives you double duty since it can also make roasted nibs into liquor.  I no longer recommend the Crankandstein Mill as a first choice.  It is prone to slip on not perfect beans and does not automate well at all.  Peeling by hand is low tech and the way it was done long ago (and in some origins), takes a while, and may be more or less efficient for winnowing at the same time depending on your technique. It’s less efficient on time.

Winnowing:  The lowest tech method (after hand peeling) is  hair dryer set to cold, or a small shop vac set to blow; over a large bowl of nibs and husks. The bowl is circulated with a tossing motion of the hand bringing nibs and husks up slightly into the air, giving the husks a chance to blow away.  After that, there is the hand fed Sylph or the automated Aether.
Grinding: Champion Juicer: there doesn’t seem to be a good substitute for this one yet. With a small amount of nibs you can skip the grinding stage and go straight to the Melanger, but the bigger your batch the harder that is. You loose a set amount every time you put cocoa beans through the Champion — six ounces (6 oz) no matter what weight you are processing.

Refining/Conching.  You need a Melanger. Either the Spectra 11 for home use or one of the larger ones if you need more. There’s not a home substitute for this one either. This is the heavy granite slab with granite wheels that crunches the lumpy cocoa liquor (along with your other dry ingredients and extra cocoa butter, depending on what you’re making) into something you’ll want to hand to your friends and grandma.

Optional Equipment to make it a little easier.
Scale: The Alchemist uses and sells an Escali scale. In order to measure your ingredients, rather than putting them into a measuring cup, they need to be weighed. Wet (cocoa liquor and melted cocoa butter) and dry (sugar, powered milk if you’re making milk chocolate) all get weighed. This is a mass not volume business. Cocoa butter and cocoa liquor unfortunately don’t come with neat little lines on their wrappers to tell you how much makes a quarter cup. They don’t come with wrappers!

Molds: Molds are optional. If you have them you can make your chocolate into pretty little hearts or squares or fishes. Without them you can pour it into a zip lock bag for storage, onto wax paper in a big puddle which will dry in an uneven sheet that you can break up. An ice cube tray would work for cubes of chocolate. It all depends on what you want to do once you make it.

Cocoa beans: variety of your choice. Two pounds is a good amount to start with because you loose some weight in the winnowing process, and some more when you grind them. If you don’t get them from the Alchemist he won’t have sympathy for you if they taste bad. (the Alchemist is smiling at this as he reads it – not that it isn’t true)

Cocoa butter: optional, makes a softer chocolate for eating. You don’t have to have it if you’re making baker’s chocolate.

Lecithin: made from soy generally. Most people think of it as an emulsifier, this is not true for chocolate making. In this case it modifies viscosity, it makes a thinner chocolate. It is often used in place of cocoa butter since it is cheaper, but also isn’t a direct replacement.

Sugar: makes your chocolate sweet. Must be dry sugar, not honey, syrup, etc.

Milk Powder: You need dry milk if you want to make milk chocolate.  You can’t use ANY liquid ingredients.
What to do

Roast your cocoa beans, then cool them until they are back to room temperature. It’s easiest to do this at least half a day before anything else. A full day would be even better. Roasting cocoa beans often smell like baking brownies. Expect to attract spectators if there are any around.

Crack and Winnow the beans: Either with the Champion without its screen in, or by hand. You feed the beans in the top and the nibs and husk come out the bottom. Then you do the blowing air and tossing nibs part until there is little or no husk left in the beans if you using a blow drier.. You’ll also have about a six foot circle of husk around you. Winnowing is best done outdoors, or in an area that’s open and easy to sweep up. The kitchen is not such a good option.  Of you use the Sylph.
Turn the Nibs in to Liquor: put them through the Champion again, this time with the screen in place. Cocoa liquor comes out the bottom and the waste comes out the front. You want a bowl in each place. You can put the waste through a second time to get all the liquor out of it that’s possible. Winnowing and then the champion combined will “eat” about six ounces each time you make a batch of chocolate. If you’re only making a pound this is a lot to loose. Hence the suggestion above of two pounds of beans.

Refine/conch: Make sure your liquor is still nicely liquid, and put it in your Melanger to turn it from the sort of lumpy, gritty stuff to smooth chocolate. Start it running as soon as the cocoa liquor is in, and then add the other ingredients a bit at a time. That way the rollers don’t have to try to bump over a pile of sugar or dry milk. NO WATER BASED LIQUIDS! If you want to put in brown sugar, dry it for a while in your oven. If you’re using them, add the cocoa butter, lecithin, sugar, milk powder, etc. Put the lid on and let it go. We don’t leave ours running if we aren’t home generally. The thing runs from 18 to 48 hours depending on the chocolate and other ingredients. You can stop it and check how smooth your chocolate is by dipping a spoon in (like tasting batters). If you stop it for a long time it will cool off. You can put the metal and granite part of the Melanger into a slightly warm oven to warm it back up — this is slow. The plastic knob won’t take much heat — but 100-150 degrees F for an hour or two will remelt the chocolate until the Melanger can run again.

Tempering: If you want shiny chocolate you have to temper it, which takes warming and cooling and making it’s structure change. As for all of this, see the Alchemist’s real instructions for how to do it.

Mold your chocolate: the chocolate’s smooth and no longer feels grainy. Pour it into molds, or whatever final holding device you’re using. Clean up for as long as it takes go get all the chocolate off the Melanger and you’re done. The molds need to cool for a few hours before the chocolate comes out of them.

As I said at the beginning. This is quick and dirty. It’s not meant to teach you how to make chocolate but to give you an overview. For the details on all of it, go read the full pages that the Alchemist is linking in.

Go forth and make chocolate!

24 Responses to “Chocolate Making at home 101”

  1. Hello. Thank you for all your assistance in the chocolatiering process!
    Wanted to share the recipe for those peanut butter balls you tasted. Very basic and a crowd pleaser to be sure.
    Mix peanut butter, butter and powdered sugar to a very thick, malleable consistency. Heavier on the peanut butter than the butter, and enough powdered sugar to make it thick enough to roll into balls.
    Roll into balls, and refrigerate. When thoroughly chilled, dip into the tempered chocolate of your choice. I’ve done it with everything from dark to milk chocolate, with equal success.

  2. Arrow, Thanks for the note. Can you list some quantities for the ingredients.

  3. what temperature should i bake the beans at?

  4. Great short course, I appreciate the perspective.

    I’m in Cottage Grove. Can I come visit?

  5. Those chocolates Arrow is speaking of are made in Ohio very frequently… they are known as “buckeyes” by locals of Ohio. My family, though we moved many years ago, has been making them as a holiday treat since the 40s or 50s.

  6. Just wanted to add that the distinction between buckeyes and plain old chocolate-covered peanut butter balls is that you leave a little round spot of peanut filling bare of chocolate — the buckeye. Buckeyes, by the way, are acorns and are the symbol of the state (and the Ohio State football team). And are very yummy, especially kept in the freezer.

  7. Martin, and all. I welcome visitors, but being 100% internet business, we don’t have set hours. E-mail me and we can set something up – usually on a weekend.

  8. Well I did chocolate as well at home but it seems that I cannot put mmy moulded chocolate at room temperature because it melts very easily since I am staying in a place where it has tropical weather like thailand. So what is the best way to be sure that the chocolate does not melt easily. Do I have to put cocoa butter in it?

  9. Yazmin,

    Make sure your chocolate is tempered. If it is not, then it may melt at temperatures around 80-90 F. Tempered chocolate will melt at a higher temperature.

  10. […] If your interested go take a look at the chocolate 101 article on their site Chocolate Alchemy Related Posts […]

  11. aside from cocoa beans, can i put other beans as a substitute in the Stone Chocolate Melanger? i’m doing a research and i was wondering if i that won’t ruin the machine.

  12. Grey,

    Yes, many things can go into the Melanger. Nuts, mustard, carob. The main thing to keep in mind is moisture and oils. It’s pretty well known that chocolate and water do not play well together, but the same is true for similar items. I tried a nut butter with honey…with near disastrous results. it tried to seize just as chocolate would.

  13. Can you put cacao powder and butter into the melanger (after melted together) or does it have to be chocolate liqeur?

  14. Cocoa powder does not make a good chocolate.

  15. What a great Intro to Chocolate making. Liz Rowe, here in New Zealand has me hooked on getting started in Chocolate making.
    Good to see the many pitfalls being discussed. Just gotta get the gear together and make a start. Many Thanks

  16. Great information! I made my first batch of chocolate yesterday. I was going for dark milk chocolate and used 750g roasted cocoa nibs, 500g cocoa butter, 500g nonfat milk powder, and 500g sugar. I conched it for 15 hours, tempered it, and then molded it in a large block. When the chocolate set, it had a marbled appearance on the surface and, when I cut into it, it was separated into thin layers of chocolate with what looked like bloomed cocoa butter in between.

    What can cause this? And is there any way to melt down the chocolate and fix it? It’s properly tempered, but because of the way the chocolate became marbled and layered, it’s quite crumbly.

    Thanks in advance!

  17. Actually, I did a little more reading, and perhaps it is just tempered improperly! I will try again.

  18. Well, I admit you may have tried to temper it properly, but the swirls and crumbly nature indicate it didn’t work. How did you try and temper?

    And my apologies if I’m being nit picky, but you didn’t conch for 15 hours. You refined for 15 hours. They are two different processes.

  19. In the melanger, how much time does it take to refine and what is conching? is it not same as refining? let me know.


  20. This answers it best

  21. Just wondering why you can’t use honey in making chocolate. I am new to this process and make a chocolate with honey, no dry sugar, and it comes out just fine. Nicely tempered, silky consistency. These are my first attempts at making chocolate. So I didn’t invest in raw materials and start from scratch. In fact, you’ll probably say that what I’m making is not chocolate at all, but a cheap imitation of it. I also like to be unconventional and try different ways of doing things. I have cocoa butter and cocoa powder at the house, and one night I just thought I should make some chocolate. I used equal parts cocoa powder and cocoa butter, added honey and hydrolyzed silk powder (almost as sweet as stevia and has 18 amino acids) and I added some beeswax to help firm up the chocolate. The chocolate tempers well with a nice shine and crisp snap. And people love it.

  22. I don’t have a name for it, but that isn’t chocolate. Beeswax? In that it needed it to help set up says something isn’t right. And I just can’t believe it is tempered. But if you and friends like it, great.

  23. Hi,
    I understand the no liquids rule, but I was wondering whether glycerin could work as sweetener?
    If it’s present in all natural fats, it shouldn’t be too much of a problem, no?
    I’m interested in its low glycemic index, and it seems ideal on paper. Is it possible or an I really off the mark?
    Thank you 🙂

  24. Answered in Ask the Alchemist 171 –

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