Roasting and Pressing

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.

Cocoa beans roasting. Courtesy of Mars.Roasting

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.

Milling cacao beans. Courtesy of Mars.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:

  • Cocoa Powder and Cocoa Butter: By pressing it, to separate the two
  • Eating Chocolate: By mixing it with extra cocoa butter, sugar and other ingredients.

To produce cocoa powder and cocoa butter, the unsweetened chocolate is pumped into giant hydraulic presses that weigh up to 25 tons. Under pressure—up to 6,000 pounds per square inch—the cocoa butter becomes a yellow liquid that drains away through metallic screens and is collected for later use. What remains is a dry, pressed brown cake that is cooled, pulverized, sifted and sold as cocoa powder.

More About Cocoa Butter

Cocoa butter has high importance for the chocolate industry. It is unique among fats because it is a solid at normal room temperature and melts at 89 to 93 degrees Fahrenheit, which is just below body temperature. This property gives chocolate its unique melt-in-your-mouth quality. Unlike dairy butter, cocoa butter is extremely homogenous and melts evenly at the same temperature.

It’s also a practical ingredient, because it resists oxidation and rancidity. Under normal storage conditions, cocoa butter can be kept for years without spoiling.
Cocoa powder (V: Cocoa)
More About Cocoa Powder

While the pressing process removes most of the cocoa butter from chocolate liquor, a small amount of the natural fat remains in cocoa powder. Cocoa that is packaged for sale to grocery stores or put into bulk for dairies, bakeries and confectionery manufacturers may have cocoa butter content of 10 percent or more.

Dutch (or dutched) cocoa, also known as alkalized cocoa, is darker than other cocoa powder and has a slightly different flavor. Manufacturers treat it with an alkali, often potassium carbonate, to bring about these characteristics. Many baking applications call for the use of Dutch cocoa for these reasons.




Did You Know?
Cote d'Ivoire is the single largest producer of cocoa, providing roughly 40 percent of the world's supply.
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