|Cocoa beans arrive at the chocolate factory in burlap sacks. Their processing has already begun, since the farmer fermented and dried them. Before they can enter the manufacturing facility, they must be inspected and approved as part of a stringent quality control process, just like all raw materials.|
Workers also catalogue each shipment of cocoa beans, recording their variety and region of origin. Only in that way can the chocolate-maker control the flavor of each mix of beans. In the science and art of chocolate-making, beans must be blended precisely to achieve the desired flavor of each product—and the consistent flavor that the consumer expects.Once pedigreed and approved, the beans are cleaned in a machine that takes off dried cacao pulp, pieces of pod and any other bits of matter that may have joined the journey to the factory.
Next, workers load the beans into large cylinders for roasting. The beans spend anywhere from half an hour to two hours in heat of 250 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. The length and temperature of the roasting step varies with the kind of bean and the kind of taste the manufacturer wishes to create.
As the beans rotate and dry inside the cylinder, their brown color deepens, and their chocolate aroma intensifies.
The part of the bean needed to make chocolate is the meat inside, called the nib. To extract it, the newly roasted beans are quickly cooled, then sent through a “cracker and fanner” that splits the thin brittle shells and blows them away from the nibs. Mechanical sieves catch the broken pieces and sort them by size.
Next, the nibs ride to the mills, where they are ground—in the same process used since the time of the ancient Olmecs. Only now, the beans are crushed mechanically between large grinding stones or heavy steel discs. Modern mills produce so much pressure and friction that the cocoa butter, the natural fat inside them, melts.
The newly liquefied beans are called chocolate liquor, but no alcohol is involved. The term simply means "liquid." The liquor is poured into molds and, when it hardens, is plain unsweetened chocolate.
If not destined to be sold as baking chocolate, this unsweetened concoction is made into one of three different products, using two different processes: