This entry was going to be part of a longer one on which I was going to write also about brewing two different Porter beers, but since it could be too long and hard to read, I decided to make three shorter different entries. Inspiration for this first one came after watching an online video from Stone Brewing about one of their beers, Xocoveza. Actually, the video was more about the story of one of the ingredients of that beer, cocoa.
In that video, Greg Koch, one of the co-founders of Stone Brewing, tells the story of cocoa used for Xocoveza, from its cultivation and production in Belize, until its processing in the Stone facilities and its addition during brewday. I thought it was pretty interesting, but it stayed there.
However, a few months later, I came across with another video, this time from a Spanish cooking blog, in which they described how to make home chocolate form raw cocoa beans. This new video made me remember the first one and I started thinking about the possibility of doing something similar at home. After wondering how it could be made for a while, I decided to do it, combining the information I thought was interesting from both videos.
First thing I had to do was to find raw cocoa beans. It is not too difficult to find them, but they are not too easy to find either. Finally I found what I was looking for in a Portuguese online shop and, after ordering them, I received raw cocoa beans at home a few days later. However, a few weeks passed by until I was able to find some time to start with it. During those weeks, I researched some extra information about the matter and started to summarise what was useful from the videos I talked about.
Firstly, I put 400 g (0.88 lbs) of raw cocoa beans on an oven tray, evenly distributed. I had previously set the oven at 120º-125ºC (248ºF-257ºF). Once that temperature was reached, I put the tray with the beans into the oven and I kept it there for one hour, spreading them after half an hour looking for a uniform roasting.
Once the beans were roasted, it was time to peel them, one by one. You must be patient because it takes some time. Here, I regretted the fact that I was doing this all by myself without any help. With some of the beans it was easy to separate the hull from the nibs, but others required more time and effort. Probably roasting at a higher temperature would have been a better option to make the hulls more friable. However, being the first time I was doing this, I preferred to be conservative with roasting temperature and time.
Precisely, one of the alleged advantages of this method is the versatility that gives playing with roasting time and temperature to get aromas and flavours as preferred. Next time I will probably keep the time of roasting but I will set the temperature a few degrees higher.
Anyway, cocoa aroma in the kitchen was awesome, and flavour from the roasted and peeled beans (nibs) was very strong. Next step was to grind these nibs. To do this, I used the always reliable Corona mil which we used to mill grains before we bought a roller mill. It should be taken into account that this step should be done with nibs at a warm temperature, since that way it is easier to form a cocoa paste. To get a suitable texture, I passed nibs three times through the mill, getting a soft cocoa paste as a result.
I put this cocoa paste in a square shaped recipient used as a mould, which was kept in the fridge until next day to allow the cocoa paste to harden. Picture above shows the final result. From the 400 g (0.88 lbs) of raw cocoa beans I got a cocoa tablet of almost 300 g (0.66 lbs). So if you decide to try this at home one day, remember that you should account for a 25% weight loss during the process. As it could not have been otherwise, I took a little bit of this to taste it. It was quite bitter and full of cocoa flavour. In future entries we’ll tell you how we used it to brew two different Porters.