Here are photos of batch 9 going from nibs, to chocolate liquor, to nearly finished chocolate. One of the things I really like about making food is the dramatic changes that occur on the way from ingredients to finished item. Bread goes through fundamental transformations from grain to dough to baked bread, both in form and texture, but also in flavors. Chocolate unfolds through a series of these transformations also. It starts as a dull bean, roasts to a fragrant, hard nib, then breaks down to a thin liquid. After hours of refining and conching, it gathers body and viscosity and thickens up.
Step 1: Roasted Nibs These are beans that have been roasted, cracked in a mortar and pestle, and had the hulls removed.
Step 2: Slightly Crushed Nibs Normally, I’d send the nibs through a grinder to make chocolate liquor, but I’m experimenting to see what happens if I make the liquor in the melangeur, add sugar, and then just continue through refining. The motivation here is to try to get to refined chocolate but keep the temperature as low as possible throughout the process. The grinder tends to really heat the liquor. (Terminology note: chocolate liquor is not alcoholic. It’s just the confusing technical term for crushed nibs.)
Step 3: Rough Liquor As they are crushed, liquid cocoa butter is released from the nibs, and the whole mass turns to liquid. Nothing has been added at this stage. Note that there are still pretty big particles in there.
Step 4: Smoother Liquor This is after about an hour in the melangeur. It’s nearly totally liquid now, and it’s time to add sugar and increase the roller tension to start creating really small particles.
Step 5: Chocolate! This is after about 24 hours in the melangeur. Note that the chocolate is much thicker (even though the particle size is smaller), glossy, and very smooth. I run the melangeur with a cover up to this point, and taking off the cover, you get a big, nasty hit of acetic acid smell from the aromatics that have been driven off the chocolate. The chocolate is working at about 50C at this point, which is cooler than I’d like. Fixing this is going to require going to a heated conche. At this point, I’ll take the roller pressure off, and just let the chocolate mix for another 48 hours or so. This is crude conching, but really does improve the texture and flavor.
Soon, the important step of taste testing! (Funnily enough, it’s much easier to get volunteers for this part than for the hulling….hmmmm.)