The Beginning


We believe anyone can make chocolate
and we're here to help you.

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The Beginning


We believe anyone can make chocolate
and we're here to help you.

The first thing you need to grasp is Anyone can make chocolate.

Honestly. You can make Chocolate. You can be as hands on as you want at every stage. We also provide options to get you to the bar faster if you want. 

The first step is You have to choose a cocoa bean.  

We offer over 2 dozen (link) cocoa beans that are specifically chosen to make great chocolate. You don’t have to worry about quality, level of fermentation, cut tests, defects or sort.  I actually talk all about those thing in the Apprentice level articles (NEEDS LINK). Likewise, you don’t need to worry about (for now) their strain, or cultivar or genetic heritage.  That’s Alchemist level information (NEEDS LINK).

You can also skip the several steps by purchasing pre-roasted nibs.  You can hop straight to Refining.

For now just read over the tasting notes *LINK*, and find one (or two or three) that sound good.  They are all going to taste like chocolate.  But there are ‘extra’ flavors there.  Some are fruity, some are earthy.  There are flavors of nuts and citrus and flowers.If at the end you just can’t decide you are welcome to ask me.  I answer all questions.

Great! So Now you've got your beans picked out and you're eager to keep learning. The Alchemist applauds you. This is an Art as much as a Science and we want to help you get through that first bar as gently as possible. We're always here to answer questions and feel free to just send us messages about how we can improve our teachings too. 

FYI: This page is for the absolute beginner who has no knowledge of the terms, or processes involved in making chocolate. More advanced makers should move on to apprentice (NEEDS LINK).


Get up to speed fast with the Alchemist's Novice Starter Kit

This kit includes:

  • 2 lbs roasted cocoa nibs (alchemist choice)
  • 8 oz certified cocoa butter (in pieces for ease of use)
  • 1 oz lecithin
  • 3 chocolate molds (again, alchemist choice of design)
  • basic directions to walk you through your first bit of Alchemy
 

There are four stages to making chocolate:


1. Roasting

Flavor Development
Sanitation
Ease of Cracking & Winnowing
Removal of Moisture

2. Cracking & Winnowing

Cracking separates the husk from the nib
innowing blows the husk away

3. Refining & Conching

Refining smoothes the texture of your chocolate
Conching happens at the same time and smooths the flavor of your chocolate

Tempering w-center & O-2.png

4.Tempering & Moulding

This gives your chocolate a nice shine and a crisp snap

 

That wasn't so bad was it?

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.

If you feel like you're ready to give this a try, here's a few more things you'll need if you want to go through the step by step process of making your very own chocolate. 

 

EQUIPMENT LIST:

Roaster:

Tip: 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.

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.

Cracking The Beans: 

I like theChampion Juicerto 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 theCrankandstein 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) ishair 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.

EDIBLES

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)

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.

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.