A chocolate maker is a person or company that manufactures chocolate from raw cacao beans. These beans are the fruit of the cacao tree and are refined into the two main ingredients of chocolate, cocoa solids and cocoa butter. The beans are typically sent through a variety of treatments, including fermentation, grinding, heating, and tempering, to process them to the desired flavor and consistency. The resulting chocolate is often allowed to harden into bars.
The term chocolate maker is often confused with chocolatier, which is a culinary professional who uses processed chocolate to create candies and confections. The cacao beans are typically converted into usable chocolate before the chocolatier makes his or her creations. Others use chocolate in cooking as well, including bakers, candy manufacturers, and private individuals.
A chocolate maker begins with raw beans of the cacao tree. The majority of these beans are grown in Africa, but many other countries produce them as well. They bear little resemblance to the chocolate that one finds in a store.
The raw beans are typically fermented before they are processed by the chocolate maker. Raw cacao beans are bitter-tasting and do not taste much like chocolate. The fermentation process helps to lessen the bitterness.
A chocolate maker also typically roasts the beans to better bring out the chocolate flavor. The roasted beans are then usually cracked and sifted to remove the fleshy, edible center from the shell. The fleshy meat of the bean is called the nib. The chocolate nibs may then be ground and refined to create chocolate liquor. Chocolate liquor does not contain alcohol, but is simply liquid chocolate in its purest form.
Conching is the next stage in the process a chocolate maker uses to refine cacao beans. The liquor is sent through heated grinders that break it down into tiny particles. As a general rule, the longer a batch of chocolate is conched, the smoother the chocolate will be when it is finished.
At this stage, a chocolate maker typically sends the chocolate liquor through several stages of heating and cooling. This process is called tempering. It allows the liquid cocoa butter and cocoa solids to harden into a solid chocolate bar. Chocolatiers often need to temper the chocolate again before they use it.
A chocolate maker may add sugar, powdered milk, and additional cocoa butter to a batch of chocolate before it is tempered. Chocolatiers often choose to purchase chocolate with these ingredients already added. High quality chocolate, called couverture, contains extra cocoa butter to give it more sheen and a milder flavor.