The next step in chocolate-making is to mix all the ingredients together and smooth them into America’s favorite sweet.
To make eating chocolate, factory workers combine the unsweetened chocolate, known as chocolate liquor or ground nibs, with extra cocoa butter for added flavor and a luscious mouthfeel. The extra helping of cocoa butter also makes the chocolate more fluid. This extra serving goes into all kinds of eating chocolate
, from dark to bittersweet to milk. (White chocolate is only cocoa butter, plus milk solids, sugar, lecithin and flavorings.)
A few other ingredients go in the vat as well—sugar, lecithin and vanilla, plus milk for milk chocolate. (See more about ingredients
and kinds of chocolate
). Then the stirring begins.
The ingredients are melted and turned in a large mixer until they gain a dough-like consistency. Next, the mixture travels through a series of heavy rollers stacked one atop the other. These rollers grind it yet again, refining it to a smooth paste ready for conching.
The conching machine kneads the paste for anywhere from a few hours to a few days. The conches have heavy rollers that can produce different degrees of agitation and aeration. This process strongly affects the final flavor and texture of the chocolate.
Some manufacturers either replace or supplement conching with an emulsifying machine that works like an eggbeater to break up sugar crystals and other particles. This step lends a fine, velvety smoothness.
Then the chocolate is tempered—stirred while heated, cooled and reheated. Tempering affects the way cocoa butter crystals form, and it determines how hard, shiny and glossy the final chocolate will be.
Some cacao trees are more than 200 years old, but most give marketable cocoa beans for only the first 25 years.