Importance of Cocoa Bean Roasting – Know Why & How?

We all know the signature aroma of chocolate, that deep rich aroma that we just can’t seem to get enough of. If you take a fresh cocoa bean from the tree you will be surprised to see that cocoa beans smell nothing like chocolate. It is only when you roast these cocoa beans that the intense aroma fills the air. Perfect chocolate is made by roasting the beans at the right temperature. It is the temperature at which the beans are roasted that determines how incredible or how poor the chocolate can be. Other than aroma there are many advantages to roasting the cocoa bean, some of them include:

1. Killing the bacteria

Before the roasting process, the cocoa beans were subjected to rigorous fermentation. Heaps of cocoa beans are piled on top of each other and are fermented for seven to fourteen days. During this time, bacteria and mold may get accumulated on the beans. Roasting is an important step in the production of chocolate because of the high temperatures in this process that will kill unwanted microbial growth.

Traditionally beans are fermented on the ground, this gives an opportunity for bugs and biological components (such as twigs, leaves, etc) to contaminate the beans. Roasting eliminates all the biological components and prevents the spread of E.coli and Salmonella.

2. Reducing the moisture

Research shows that chocolate contains 7.5% water and it is important to make sure that the water level is as low as possible since water and chocolate don’t mix. Roasting the beans reduces the water content by a significant amount thereby making the grinding process much easier. You can tell if the bean is properly roasted when the bean shrinks and makes a popping noise while roasting.

3. Separating the husks

Roasting plays an important role in separating the husks from the bean of the nibs. Roasting makes cracking and winnowing much easier.

4. Development of flavor.

Roasting the beans plays a crucial role in developing flavor. During roasting certain chemical reactions occur that the amino acids and natural sugars present in the bean are converted into flavor compounds. Cocoa beans that aren’t roasted have a bitter flavor but roasted cocoa beans are more rich and intense with less amount of acidity.  The acidic smell that the beans get due to fermentation is replaced with a chocolatey aroma. This process unlocks all the bouquets of aromas that the cocoa bean has to offer.

What is Cocoa Bean Roasting?

Roasting is the exothermic process of heating cocoa beans. When cocoa beans are heated certain flavor compounds are created.

Before the roasting process starts, The type of cocoa beans and how to roast them must be known. The type of cocoa beans known as “Forastero beans” are usually roasted at a higher temperature, whereas the cocoa beans known as “Criollo” or “Trinitario” beans have to be roasted at a lower temperature.

After selecting the type of beans, the beans are sorted based on size so that the beans are roasted evenly. The beans are separated into large,  medium, and small beans and then roasted in batches. Each batch will roast at varying levels of temperature.

How does roasting take place? When cocoa beans are placed into the machine, heat is being transferred to the bean and steady airflow takes place through the drum. The beans are roasted in roasters, on grills, or large rotating drums using hot air. The temperatures will be set to 130 and 150 degrees celsius. This process causes the beans to develop their exquisite aroma and intense brown color. During this step, the shells become loose and they separate from the kernels. Roasting takes place for 10 to 35 minutes.

There are two ways of roasting cocoa beans

> Continuous bean roasting system

> Continuous nib roasting system

Continuous Bean Roasting System

The shell protects the bean from being over-roasted, thereby that the flavor is retained. The bean is then passed through the roaster by gravity and is placed in layers. The beans are then roasted, with each cycle the batch tumbles to a lower level. The roasting air is passed onto each layer from the bottom of the machine to the top. Every bean receives the same amount of hot air, allowing the bean to be roasted equally and gently.

In Continuous bean roasting system process allows the beans to beans to be roasted at low temperatures and allows aroma development. The heat is usually generated from steam, oil, or a gas heater. This process is very energy efficient and has almost no maintenance.

Continuous Nib Roasting System

In Continuous Nib Roasting System process the cacao nibs are roasted, the predried nibs are poured into the roaster. The small batches are gently rotated for uniform flavor distribution. High acidic beans favor this process since it can reduce the acidity of the beans. The roasting temperature is very less because of which there is a very low odor. This process also has a cooling section to bring the nibs to the ideal temperature.

Roasting cocoa beans takes a longer time than coffee and it also roasts at a lower temperature than coffee. Cocoa also contains an outer cover that keeps its shape. While cocoa is roasting thick smoke is not emitted from the machine as it does with coffee.

Roasting is an essential step for the build-up of flavor and aroma. Now that you know all there is to know about roasting, Here are some of the machines, we recommend  for roasting:

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