I see a lot of questions come up about how to use chocolate in brewing. The replies I see show that there is a general misunderstanding of the chocolate making process. This past semester, I took a class through the horticulture department called "Vines, Wines and Brews". It focused on the use, production and history of coffee, tea, beer, wine and chocolate.
I want to impart my new knowledge of chocolate so it can be best used in the brewing process.
Chocolate is made from the seed of the Cacao plant (Theobroma cacao
). This plant thrives withing 10* of the Equator. The pods resemble rough footballs.
To understand how we can use chocolate in brewing, we need to know the cultivation, harvesting and processing methods.
On the "farm"
-The pods are harvested
-workers split open the pods
-the beans and white gunky stuff are spread on mats
-Since the mucilage is slightly sweet, the covered beans undergo a kind of fermentation. Yeast eat on the sweet mucilage. This does several things. Of course it cleans off the beans. More importantly, fermentation creates heat, which chemically changes the seeds. If producers skipped this process, your chocolate would not taste good.
-the beans are washed then dried in the sun to around 5% moisture (like coffee)
-they are sent like this to manufacturers.
"at the manufacturer"
-the seeds are sorted then roasted
-seeds are dehusked (dehusked seeds are called nibs)
-the nibs are ground up into a paste called cocoa mass or cocoa liquor. The nibs are so high in fat that they make a pasty substance when ground. This is unlike coffee which makes a powder when ground.
From here, 2 things can be done:
-the mass goes into a press. The press seperates the cocoa solids from the fat. This leaves cocoa powder (solids) and cocoa butter (fat).
-the mass goes into normal chocolaate production where it is liquefied again and blended with sugar, vanilla, more cocoa butter and sometimes milk.
I think some people might be confused on nibs vs. powder. Really, you get more flavor from the powder since it is around 95% cocoa solids. Nibs are really mostly fat. I think some people might be under the opinion that powder=ground nibs, which is not true. Cocoa powder is also not inferior than nibs. That being said, a lot of people have had great success using cocoa nibs in beer. Experiment to see what works best for you.
Now if you really want to get technical, you need to look into what variety your cocoa is. In terms of coffee, forestaro=robusto, criollo=arabica. Unlike coffee though, criollo beans are VERY expensive and hard to grow. The are known for their earthy/fruity taste. Forestaro grows easily and is resistant to disease. It makes an inferior chocolate though. Most of the chocolate in production is of the Forestaro variety.
Quick Lookup for chocolate terms:
Bean: un-roasted seed from a cacao pod
Cocoa Nibs: roasted, de-hulled cocoa beans
Cocoa Powder: mostly pure cocoa solids which cocoa butter (fat) has been pressed out of
Cocoa Mass: Ground up nibs. A thick pasty substance resembling thick melted chocolate
Criollo: A variety of T. cacao that produces complex flavored chocolate
Forestaro: The commonly grown variety of T. Cacao that is easy to grow