Firstly, sorry for my absence from this blog! I know that I keep saying it but life has been crazily busy!
The third stage of my home chocolate production involves refining. In order to make the chocolate smooth, the particle size of the ingredients must be below 20 microns; which is undetectable by the tongue. It's actually quite difficult to get hold of equipment which will grind the cocoa beans (and sugar) to this size. I discussed refining with Willie Harcout-Cooze and he recommended a small machine which he uses to produce small batches of chocolate when sampling new cocoa beans.
I decided to go for it and buy the machine! It is a stone grinder for Indian cooking. It wasn't too expensive, and I managed to convince my father to buy it for me as a combined late birthday and Christmas present! I figured that since I would be able to carry out two key stages of the chocolate processing (refining and conching) in the one machine, it would be well worth it.
Firstly, I put the roasted and winnowed beans into a standard food processor to turn the beans into a paste. I also used a hair dryer to melt the cocoa butter in the beans. Then I added the paste to the stone grinder. This, in my opinion, is where the magic really happens in chocolate production. This is the point at which the cocoa beans turn into chocolate; the gorgeous glossy cocoa liquor! The friction in the machine produces some heat which helps keep the ground beans liquid.
It took a few hours for the chocolate to lose all of its graininess (particles less than 20 microns) and became smooth. However, further flavour and texture development of the chocolate is required which is achieved by the conching process.