How to make bean to bar chocolate at home

I have always loved chocolate and had no idea how it was made until I watched a YouTube documentary. It took you on the chocolate journey where a fruit grown on a cacao tree gets transformed into cocoa beans and finally as a silky smooth chocolate bar. I was fascinated and was keen to try to make it myself, chocolate from the cocoa bean to the chocolate bar.

The bean to bar chocolate movement is spreading around the world as people seek more artisanal chocolate compared to the mass-produced chocolate from large scale manufacturers. The big companies buy beans from multiple farms and pack their chocolate with different ingredients to achieve a consistent taste. However, when you make bean to bar chocolate, it should taste different from batch to batch. This is because the flavours of chocolate are dependent on many factors, ranging from the climate during the crop to the fermentation and then to the way the maker roasts their beans. People want to know where the ingredients of their chocolate come from and they can when they buy from artisanal chocolate makers. This is because they usually make single origin chocolate, meaning the beans were produced from a single farm.

So, I bought myself a premier wet stone grinder, found a cocoa farm in Thailand to source my beans and set about making chocolate. I am still in the experimental stage of my journey and this is my third attempt at making chocolate.  So here’s how it went…

Bean Selection

Firstly and vitally, I needed some cocoa beans to make my own chocolate. I did a bit of research online and asked a few Thai friends to help until I found a cocoa farm in Chantaburi, Thailand. I found out that they also grow cocoa in various other places in Thailand, such as Chiang Mai, Koh Samui and as you can see from a previous blog post, at Discovery Garden in Nong Khai. But, I wanted to try and keep my chocolate as local as possible and the attractive photos online drew me to Siraya farm in Chantaburi. I plan to take a trip to visit this farm in the near future and I hope some of you check out the future post.

I ordered my beans online and they arrived in only a few days. You could instantly notice the earthy, nutty, cocoa smell of the beans. The first time I received the beans, I felt more excited than I had for a long time, my dream of making my own chocolate was about to become a reality.

A strip of raw cocoa beans

I opened the bag of beans, weighed the amount I needed and then spread them over a table. It is important to consider the fact that you will remove the husks of the bean and so you should roast a higher weight of beans than you will need for your recipe. If you had 1kg of beans, you will be left with about 800-900 grams of nibs after de-husking. I then started to remove the beans that didn’t look quite right, such as those that were flat, mouldy, stuck together or just a bit damaged. I read that these could negatively affect the flavour of the final chocolate. Then, I separated the beans into two piles of large and medium-sized beans. This was so I could roast the beans according to size, to try and achieve, as much as possible, a consistent and uniform roast.

Roasting

Cocoa beans need to be roasted in order to kill off any bacteria, to drive away some of the volatile flavours and to develop some final flavours for the chocolate. There are many techniques to roast beans and these are dependent on the choice of the chocolate maker. The beans can be roasted in an oven, in a pan on a stove, in a drum over a fire or in a roaster (like a coffee roaster). I think the coffee roaster or oven is the best technique if you are hoping to achieve consistency in your roast.

Roasting cocoa beans in a pan on a stove.

For this batch, I chose to roast my beans in a pan over a stove. I started on high heat to kill off the bacteria and then lowered the heat for the remaining time. I used my own senses to determine when to stop. You can use your sense of smell to ensure the beans don’t overcook and burn. I stopped when I could hear the beans popping, I felt satisfied with the smell and when the husks easily fell off the bean when I crushed them with my fingers. When I finished roasting the beans, I spread them on a cloth under a fan to rapidly cool them and to prevent them from roasting further in their own heat.

Cracking

Next, I cracked the beans so I could remove the husks from the nibs in the next stage, winnowing. I folded the cloth in half with the beans inside and used a rolling pin the lightly smash them. I tried to ensure I didn’t crush them too much as I didn’t want the nibs to turn to dust and get blown away when I winnowed them. When all the beans were sufficiently crushed, I poured them into a bowl and took them outside to be winnowed.

You can also remove the husks from the beans by just using your hands. But, I tried this the first time I made chocolate and it was hard work and took way too long. Large manufacturers have specially made but expensive equipment to do this whereas small chocolate makers tend to make their own DIY winnower using a hoover and PVC piping.

Winnowing

Winnowing is the process of using air flow to separate the outer shell (husks) of the bean from the nibs that are inside. Again, there are a few different ways to do this but the most simple and the one I chose was to use a hairdryer. I poured the crushed beans into a bowl and took it outside to be winnowed. It takes a short time to get your technique right but once you do it’s a very effective method. I kept the hairdryer about a foot away from the bowl and used the air to blow away the lighter husks from the nibs. I used my other hand to move the beans around in order to bring up some of the husks to be blown away.

From my previous experience, I learnt that it is best to wear a mask and glasses when you are winnowing cocoa beans. The first time I did it I had dust in my eyes, in my hair and what felt like all in my lungs from breathing it in.

Anyway, it didn’t take long to finish a bowl and then I was ready to weigh the nibs, add them to the grinder and then to make chocolate. Don’t worry too much about removing every last bit of shell as the industry standard allows if I can remember correctly, 4% of husks to be left over in chocolate. The little amount of husks left in will provide you with a bit of fibre anyway. Also, you don’t need to waste the husks as you can use them to make cocoa tea or to add to the soil of your garden plants for some nutrients.

Ingredient Selection

The ingredients you select is dependent on what type of chocolate you want to make. For this batch, I decided to make milk chocolate but you can also see some pictures of when I made dark chocolate previously. For dark chocolate, you only need to use cocoa nibs, cocoa butter and sugar. To make milk chocolate you simply add in milk powder. But, white chocolate, on the other hand, doesn’t use the nibs from the cocoa bean at all. White chocolate simply consists of cocoa butter, milk powder, sugar and sometimes vanilla. Check out my other post to see how to make white chocolate.

I decided to make a 50% milk chocolate. The percentage refers to the amount of ingredients that are drawn from the cocoa bean and so refers the percentage of cocoa nibs and butter in contrast to the other ingredients.

For my 1kg of milk chocolate I weighed up:

  • 250g of cocoa nibs
  • 250g of cocoa butter
  • 250g of milk powder
  • 250g of cane sugar

Grinding (Refining and Conching)

For me, grinding cocoa is the most satisfying part of the chocolate making process. To watch the cocoa nibs get ground down and transform into a beautifully silky liquid chocolate. It’s so difficult to not constantly taste the chocolate as it’s whirling around in the machine.

Once I decided on the type of chocolate and weighed the ingredients, I then slowly added them to the premier wet stone grinder. But before this, I pre-ground the nibs in a blender. This is done in order to somewhat protect the stones of the grinder. After that, I heated up the stones in the grinder with a hairdryer, before adding a small amount of cocoa butter.

Then, I slowly poured in the cocoa nibs ensuring the machine didn’t get overloaded and start clogging up. It only took a few seconds for the fat of the nibs to draw out and turn it into liquid chocolate. Once the nibs were in the machine, I slowly poured in the rest of the cocoa butter and then gradually the milk powder. I waited a few hours before adding in the last ingredient, sugar.

It is completely up to the person making the chocolate when they feel it is right to add the other ingredients after the cocoa nibs. I tasted the ingredients at each stage and it wasn’t until a few hours after the sugar was included that I felt extremely happy with the result. The chocolate should be left in the machine for between 24 – 48 hours to allow it to conch and to become as smooth and as silky as the chocolate you would find in the shops.

  • A Melanger
  • A Melanger

Tempering

I have found tempering to be the most difficult stage in making chocolate. It takes time and practice to get it right, although, some of the methods are easier than others. As I don’t have a tempering machine or a marble slab, I tempered my chocolate using a double boiler. I poured the chocolate out of the machine and into a glass bowl and placed the bowl in a pan on the hob of the stove. The pan had a small amount of hot water in it to slowly heat up the chocolate. . It is important that the bowl doesn’t touch the water and that the water doesn’t boil, as you want to prevent any water splashing into the chocolate. Water is chocolates worst enemy.

A bowl of chocolate with a thermometer being tempered.

I heated the chocolate up to a temperature of 116F/47C and then placed the bowl in an ice bath to rapidly cool it down to 81F/29C. Then using a hairdryer, I warmed the chocolate up slightly to 86F/30C to bring it into temper and to make it workable enough to put into the moulds. These temperatures are for making milk chocolate as dark and white chocolate tempers at different temperatures. Check out the chocolate making process page to read more.

Moulding

Moulding is also a very enjoyable part of making chocolate but also potentially very messy. Once I believed the chocolate was tempered, I heated the moulds slightly with a hairdryer and poured the chocolate into the moulds. I used a spatula to spread the chocolate around the mould to ensure it filled every gap. Then I tapped the moulds on the table to release any air bubbles. You can also use the spatula to tap the sides of the moulds. Then I scraped the excess chocolate off the top of the moulds, again using the spatula. Once all the chocolate was used up, I placed the moulds in the fridge to set for about 20-30 minutes.

Then there is the anticipation to see the result of all that hard work, to see the finished chocolate. I checked underneath the polycarbonate moulds to see if the chocolate had separated from the moulds and was ready to be released. Then I simply gave the moulds a quick sharp tap on the table to release the finished chocolate. I have to admit that I messed up the first tempering as the chocolate started to melt in my fingers and there were a few white streaks of cocoa butter on the top. I’m not sure why but my suspicion is that it was due to the cheap thermometer I was using. So, I knew it was important to buy a far more accurate infrared thermometer for the next batch of chocolate I make.  Of course, it was slightly disappointing but chocolate can be repeatedly re-tempered and so I decided to temper and mould the chocolate again. After a lot more care and attention, I tempered and moulded the chocolate again to reveal some shiny, glossy, milk chocolate bars, ready to be enjoyed.

Conclusion

The process of making chocolate from bean to bar was hard work but very satisfying. It is much easier if you have the specialised equipment but at the same time less fun. It is very rewarding to see the finished chocolate after nearly 2 days of the process getting there. Then you are left with some handmade, single origin and delicious chocolate to share with friends and family or to simply enjoy yourself. You can wrap the chocolate in foil and a wrapper to give to your friends as a gift or to sell, starting your future business. I hope you enjoyed my article and that you can try to make some chocolate for yourselves. Please comment below if you have any questions or to let us know how you got along. Please subscribe to my blog to be updated on any future chocolate related posts or videos.

Shop This Post

If you are looking to start making chocolate check out the Chocolate Equipment Page for the kind of equipment I use.

Disclosure: This post contains Amazon affiliate links. I receive a small commission at no cost to you when you make a purchase using my link. This helps to support this blog.