The Living KoKo process
Testing, Cleaning, and Roasting
When the selected cocoa beans arrive at the manufacturing plant they go through a very extensive sampling and testing procedure. Sample cocoa beans are tested for size and defects, such as insects or mould, and then converted into chocolate liquor, which is evaluated for flavour and aroma by our tasters. Once the testing is complete and the shipment is accepted by our factory, the beans are thoroughly cleaned to remove any foreign matter. The cocoa beans then go into the roaster for anywhere from 10 to 35 minutes.
Cracking and Grinding
While roasting, the shell of the cocoa bean separates from the bean kernel and is removed in the first step of the cracking process. The beans are cracked (not crushed) by being passed through serrated cones. The cracked beans are now called cocoa nibs.
As the shell is dry and lightweight, it can be winnowed from the cocoa nib. Winnowing is done by exposure to a current of air, so that the shells are blown free of the heavier nibs. The nibs contain approximately 50% cocoa butter, depending on the cacao species.
Grinding or Refining
The first grind of the beans is usually done in a milling or grinding machine such as a melangeur. The nibs are ground or crushed to liquefy the cocoa butter and produce what is now called chocolate liquor or chocolate liquid.
For the second refining process, our factory used the melangeur to further reduce the particle size of the cocoa mass (and any other ingredients, such as sugar or milk powder) and to distribute the cocoa butter evenly throughout the mass, coating all the particles.
The second stage creates heat that melts and distributes the cocoa butter. As well as the flavour of the chocolate, our manufacturers must decide on the particle size for each of their chocolates. This is the first step to developing chocolate’s smooth and creamy mouth-feel.
Different percentages of cocoa butter are removed or added to the chocolate liquor. Cocoa butter carries the flavour of the chocolate and produces a cooling effect on your tongue that you might notice when eating dark chocolate. Also, depending on the chocolate flavour desired, some or all of the following ingredients are added: sugar, lecithin, milk or cream powder or milk crumb (used to produce a caramel-like taste in milk chocolate), and spices such as vanilla. The formula the chocolate manufacturer develops for combining specific ingredients with the chocolate liquor is what gives the chocolate its unique taste.
This process develops the flavour of the chocolate liquor, releasing some of the inherent bitterness and gives the resulting chocolate its smooth, melt-in-your-mouth quality. The conch machine has rollers or paddles that continuously knead the chocolate liquor and its ingredients over a period of hours or days depending on the flavour and texture desired by our factory tasters.
Tempering and Forming Chocolate
For the last two steps in the chocolate process, the conched chocolate mass is tempered and moulded into bulk bars or it may go into another production cycle to produce specialized retail products, such as coated-candy centres and moulded items.