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I have some of Criollo beans that have the most intense apple smell but no matter how light I roast it I can’t keep it in the chocolate.  How do I keep that flavor in my chocolate?

Roasting lightly seems to be the typical response to preserving flavor in chocolate and especially what is deemed Criollo.  As you have discovered, it also doesn’t work on any predictable basis.

The largest issue here is not preserving the flavor, but a handful of assumptions you are making that are clouding the issue.

The first issue is that you are equating apple aroma in the raw beans with apple flavor and aroma in the chocolate.  This makes sense in the context of apples and learned associations.  An apple smells good, you eat it, it tastes like apple, association made.  But context is the problem.  The chemicals responsible for the aroma are not the same chemicals responsible for the flavor.  In an apple, they correlate.  Outside the context of the fruit itself, there is no reason for the link.

In my first organic chemistry lab we were introduced to a class of compounds called esters.  Many of them are responsible for the fruity aromas we detect, but also toxic in pure form.  Due to the natural association most of us had between aroma and taste they warned, admonished and downright threatened us not to taste any of the liquids we were given, no matter how great they smelled.  We were only to smell them.  They drove that point home so strongly that to this day I have trouble drinking good plum wine since it smells to me like one of the esters in lab and my new conditioning is to not put it to my mouth.  Sigh.

This is a nice discussion of aroma compounds in wine.  https://learn.winecoolerdirect.com/wine-aroma-compounds/  The thing to note is that those aromas (leather, vanilla or whatever) are usually not present as flavors in the wine.  Chocolate is no different.

Last year I had a bean from Peru.  Piura Blanco.  It also had the most intense freshly squeezed apple juice aroma in the raw beans.  And just like you I tried to keep in in the chocolate.  I went so far as to heat it to a lowly 165 F to make sure it was safe to eat and made it into chocolate.  The beans still retained some of their apple aroma.  The result was still absolutely no apple flavor in the chocolate, and not even any apple aroma in the chocolate itself.

On the other side, Peru Superior has intense grape aroma and virtually any roasting you give it will not affect it.

Roasting develops flavor.  It rarely destroys them (unless taken to extremes).

Basically, and I’ve not found any exceptions so far, that there is no correlation between roasting delicately and whether or not you will retain certain aromas in your chocolate.

By roasting delicately, whether that means a slow ramp or low EOR, the only thing you tend to retain is astringency. 

Why do some Criollo that is roasted ‘long and low’ then not have astringency?  My experience is that it was not present in the beans to start with.

That all said, there are times you want a delicate roast. 

If there is low chocolate flavor and low fruit flavors, you want to keep the EOR on the lower side (250 F and under).  If you roast above that temperature then the bitterness that would usually be covered by chocolate and/or fruit becomes accentuated.

If you have very high nutty flavors, and again low chocolate flavors, keeping the ramp low during the development phase (<9 F/min) and an EOR < 255 will keep the nut flavors from going bitter and/or astringent.  But if chocolate and/or fruit flavors are present and sufficiently adequate levels, they will mute and/or balance any bitter or astringent flavor produce, leading to a more complex flavor profile.

I get why you want to roast Criollo light.  In many cases they are low in fruit and chocolate and are nutty.  And in those cases a delicate roast can be appropriate.  But there are LOTS of Criollo that develops wonderful fruit flavors and has enough chocolate to warrant and even benefits from a strong hand during roasting.  You won’t be driving off delicate flavors.  Instead you will be creating them.

I’ve had a Costa Rican Trinatario that had very low chocolate and fruit levels.  Being a Trinatario you would think you could just roast it.  Unfortunately if you do, it turns very bitter.  You have to keep it delicate and a low EOR.  The same went for a Forastero from India.  A high nut flavor coupled with a low chocolate level required it to be handled delicately or the nut would go very astringent.

The current  Forastero from Nigeria has fruit present and utterly huge chocolate potential and so the harder you push the roast the more fruit and chocolate you get and because those flavor develop, the higher you can take the EOR to color those fruits into deep dried fruit tones without any perceptable increase in bitterness..

So it is time to retrain your correlations.  The correlations to roasting should be based on the flavors present and that can be formed, and not to the type of cocoa. 

Does this cocoa have good chocolate and/or fruit flavors?  Yes, great, then there is no reason to go light, or low, or delicate. 

Is it really light in chocolate and fruit.  Ok, fine, take it a bit careful in the roast.

The type (Criollo, Trinatario, Forastero) can be an initial rough guide, but presence of fruit, chocolate and nut flavors (learned from a test roast or my own tasting notes) should direct you to how delicate or hard to treat the beans during roasting.  Yes, Criollo is light in chocolate and fruit often enough, but not enough to be your primary guide.

There is overlap, clearly, but you will do way better using flavor metrics over bean type.

delicate roast venn.jpg


Oh, one last thing.  How do you know if you are roasting too aggressively for a given bean?  Let aroma be your guide.  What is good for a big flavored bean may be too much for another.  They will tell you by how they smell.  At no point in a roast should you have acrid and nose biting aromas (disregarding acetic acid) coming off.  If you do, turn the heat down some.

Happy roasting everyone.