Corrections and Amplifications

Some corrections and amplifications, courtesy of Steve DeVries, chocolate master:

  1. Steve pointed me to Cacao domestication I: the origin of the Cacao cultivated by the Mayas, by Motamayor et al. This paper outlines a genetic study of a few types of Forestero, “Modern Criollo”, and “Ancient Criollo” cacao plants. It definitely supports the theory that modern Criollo is not a definite type of cacao, but that there is a spectrum of Trinitario plants that span the genetic spectrum from Forestero to Criollo.
  2. I got the difference between wet and dry conching wrong. His explanation is far better. Basically, when chocolate comes out of the roll refiner, it is a light, feathery mass with a huge surface area. Dry conching is conching this mass without melting the surface area out of it (which may entail leaving lecithin out to maintain low viscosity.) Wet conching occurs when the mass collapses, leaving a smaller surface area, and hence less driving off volatiles.
  3. Peters, the original inventor of milk chocolate, used a condensed milk process to get the first milk chocolate. Producers have since moved through clabbered milk, to spray/roller drying, or creating milk crumb. (side comment: It’s interesting that there is so much focus on dark chocolate, when milk chocolate is a more elaborate product in many ways. It doesn’t show the characteristics of the bean like dark chocolate does, but milk chocolate has an incredible variety of flavor possibilities.)

Thanks Steve! For more erudition from Steve, check out his interview at


2 Responses to Corrections and Amplifications

  1. Frank McLean says:

    OK, so reading around, I have probably bought a useless bag of cacao nibs (raw). Ever the tinkerer, I found a bag in the local wholefood shop that said one of the things you could do was ‘make your own choclate’. But now it seems like I needed to start with raw beans.

    Is there anything I can sensibly do with these? I knew that I’d probably be looking at a LOT of manual effort, having only the basic kitchen tools, but I thought I’d learn a lot that way. I did when making ice cream – great stuff, but SO much stirring. 🙂

    I would appreciate any ‘idiot’s guide’ pointers. Thanks.

  2. tspyz says:

    With just basic kitchen tools, you can probably make them into a crude kind of chocolate (after all, the Mayans made chocolate with no power tools at all), but it’s going to be pretty grainy. If you have raw nibs (kind of crumbly dark-brown to blackish chunks) as opposed to beans (which has a shell on them), you can roast them in an oven at 250-300F until they start smelling like a baking brownie. You now need to get four things done with the roasted nibs: grind them (which should result in a grainy liquid), mix with sugar (I’d pulverize the sugar first), refine this to make it less grainy, and (optionally) conche this in a mixer for a while.

    If you take a look at, they have an outline of the process using some specialized tools, but will give you an idea of what needs to get done.

    If you are doing this manually, you are going to need to work pretty hard to get the nibs ground. A spice grinder might work, and perhaps a coffee grinder, if you are willing to work in small batches at a time. You could then pulverize sugar in a mortar and pestle, mix, then work the whole mass in the mortar and pestle for a while. It’ll probably stay grainy, but you can maybe get the particle size down a bit. If you get a doughy kind of paste or think liquid out of this, you are in decent shape. Id then take this into a mixer, and let the mixer work on it for a number of hours.

    This will take some ingenuity, but you might be able to get decent results. Good luck!

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