Cocoa Story: The production
process - from cocoa beans to semi finished products
From bean to mass
The processing of raw cocoa beans into cocoa mass contains a
number of stages. Before arrival at the factory the raw cocoa
beans have been fermented and dried, while during transhipment
the first quality control has taken place in port. On arrival at
the processing factory the beans are subjected to an other
thorough inspection, thereafter to be cleaned, mixed into the
desired blend, fragmented and stripped of their husks. What
remains is the inner part of the kernel, called ‘nib’. The
nibs are heat-treated to eliminate possible bacteria ans
subsequently roasted and ground into a liquid cocoa mass. The
nibs are alkalized before, during or after the roasting process.
This determines the colour and taste of the cocoa mass, which,
as an intermediate or semi finished product, is supplied to the
chocolate industry and is also basis for the production of cocoa
powder and cocoa butter.
From mass to butter
Fat is pressed out of the cocoa mass under high pressure (up
to 550 kg/sq.cm). The butter is subsequently filtered, to remove
the last remnants of solid cocoa ingredients. The manufacturer
supplies the cocoa butter in liquid form in tankers, or in
solidified form in cardboard boxes. This product is an important
ingredient of chocolate.
If the client so wishes, cocoa butter can be made odourless
by means of steam and vacuum extraction. The chocolate
industry’s demand is usually for cocoa butter with a neutral
taste. Cocoa butter is also used in the production of cosmetics
From mass to powder
What remains after the removal of the cocoa butter through
pressing are cocoa cakes, disks with a thickness of
approximately five centimetres. These cakes are broken up and
ground into a fine cocoa powder. Each manufacturer supplies its
own type of powder, with its own distinctive colour, aroma,
pH-value (degree of acidity) and fat content. The powder is the
substance which contains the aroma, taste and colour of cocoa.
That is why it is the ingredient which is added to numerous food
products for flavour and colour: biscuits, puddings, deserts,
creams, filled chocolates, ice cream etc. Mixed with sugar and
diluted with milk it turns into a mild chocolate drink. It also
provides the finishing touch for confectionary, truffles and
cappuccino coffee, while new applications are being made all the
From mass and butter to chocolate
Chocolate is made from cocoa mass, with sugar, cocoa butter
and, optionally, milk added. The resulting mixture is rolled and
‘conched’. Conching is a treatment whereby chocolate is kept
in continuous movement to allow the cocoa mass to thicken and to
develop into a homogenous substance. This process also allows
volatile acids to escape, whereby the aroma is improved.
Conching lasts for a number of hours. The name originates from
the shell-shaped container in which the treatment took place in
former days ('concha' being the Spanish word for shell).
Depending on the desired taste, other ingredients may be added.
Finally, the hot chocolate mass must be allowed to cool
slowly. This process, called 'tempering', is important for the
right crystallization of the cocoa butter. After tempering, the
chocolate can be poured into any desired form and hardened.
During the hardening process the volume of the chocolate is
reduced, allowing the chocolate to come out of the mould
White chocolate is made in a manner similar to
"ordinary" chocolate, the only difference being that
white chocolate does not contain any chocolate mass; just cocoa
butter, sugar, milk and vanilla.
Until the middle of the last century it was customary for
manufacturers to do their own roasting, make semi manufactured
cocoa products and, in addition, market their own consumer
products. Those days are practically gone. At present two groups
can be distinguished in the Dutch cocoa industry: producers of
intermediate cocoa products and manufacturers of chocolate