OUR PROCESS - FROM BEAN TO BAR
Step 1: ROASTING
After an initial sorting to remove any unwanted debris and poor-quality beans, we are ready to roast. This is the first interaction we have with the flavor of the beans. Through the roasting process a complicated set of chemical reactions not only helps develop the chocolate flavor of the bean, but also expels, or tempers, the bitter notes of the cacao. Each bean is delicately roasted in our restored and modified Royal #5 coffee bean roaster. We take time to develop a unique roast profile for each bean we use and often blend roast profiles in a single batch to uniquely shape the flavor of the chocolate. Roasting also helps to reduce the moisture content of the beans and loosen the husk from the nib.
Step 2: WINNOWING
The next step is to remove the husk from the roasted and cooled cocoa bean. We achieve this by first cracking the beans into small pieces. Using vacuum pressure we are then able to suck the lighter husk off of the heavier or more dense nib. It is very important that all the husk is removed as it can lead to off flavors in the chocolate. The nib is collected and is now ready for making chocolate while the husk is used for garden mulch.
Step 3: REFINING
The nibs and sugar are now ready to begin their transformation into chocolate. First, the nibs are ground using a stone melangeur. This initial grinding not only begins to reduce the particle size of the nibs but it begins the release of cocoa butter. The ground nibs (called chocolate liquor) are now ready for the sugar to be added. The sugar and liquor are allowed to mix and further grind until they are ready for the next step.
Step 4: MILLING
The viscosity and flow properties of chocolate are a function of many interrelated variables, one of which is particle size. The sugar has a very coarse and hard crystalline structure in contrast to the soft and fibrous nib. Using a three-roll mill we are able to accurately and precisely grind the coarse chocolate mass into a smooth paste. Not only is the particle size reduced, but the newly broken solid particle surfaces are coated with cocoa butter. Our milling stage is critical to giving our chocolate a silky mouth feel and delicate melt.
Step 5: Conching
After the chocolate has been milled it is now time to be conched. The milled chocolate contains particles that are of perfect size but not perfect shape. As the sugar and cocoa solids are violently sheered apart in the roll mill the newly ground sugar particles are coarse and have sharp edges. Not only this, but the flavor of the chocolate will be on the brighter side, still retaining many of the initial bitter notes. Conching, in general terms, is an extended period of agitation, stirring, or aeration under heat, allowing the chocolate flavor to mature and develop. This generally takes between 24 and 72 hours but can be shorter or longer depending on the chocolate. After proper conching the flavor notes of the chocolate are at their peak, and the chocolate takes on a glossy, silky smooth appearance.
Step 6: MOLDING & TEMPERING
By now the chocolate has undergone a lot and it is time for a brief rest. We age our chocolate for two to four weeks while the flavor continues to mature. At this point the flavor changes by subtle degrees rather than the drastic changes of the earlier process. After the rest we melt the chocolate and it is now ready for tempering. Entire chapters in textbooks are devoted to the elaborate process of tempering. To over-simplify it, cocoa butter is polymorphic, meaning it forms distinct crystalline structures at different temperatures. We are trying to isolate a specific crystal structure that gives chocolate its wonderful sheen, snap and melt properties. We use a sophisticated machine to help us do this accurately. Once we have achieved temper, the chocolate is deposited into bar molds and vibrated to eliminate as many bubbles in the chocolate as possible. Finally, the bars are hand-foiled and wrapped in packaging that we print almost entirely ourselves.