Chocolate is among the most popular non-essential food items globally . An essential ingredient of several delicacies such as candy bars, milk shakes, cookies, and cereals , it makes a particularly important component for puddings, cakes, brownies, and other desserts .
Before it gets to the dining table, the chocolate has literally travelled around the world. The journey of chocolate begins on the evergreen cocoa trees located in the equatorial and tropical regions of South America, Mexico, Africa, and Southeast Asia.
After manually harvesting cocoa beans, workers ferment and dry them. Fermentation turns them brown and drying reduces their weight to half . Next, cocoa beans are shipped to manufacturing facilities where they are roasted, winnowed, ground, and blended to form the chocolate we are familiar with .
From Roasting to Wrapping
Manufacturers first clean the beans to remove unwanted material. Next, they roast and winnow the beans to obtain the edible part called “nib,” which is the edible part of the bean.
Thereafter, they melt the nib, and add sugar and flavor to it. The liquid chocolate so produced is either stored or molded into the required solid form .
Let us examine each stage of the manufacturing process in detail:
Roasting: is the important first step and plays several important roles:
Brings out the taste and flavor because it is the roasted cocoa beans that taste like chocolate, not the raw ones . Typical cocoa bean color and aroma develop around 130-1500C .
Sterilizes the bean, eliminating any bacteria, molds, and fungi that are widespread in the tropical equatorial regions – the home of cocoa beans .
Simplifies cracking and winnowing by disconnecting the inner bean from the outer husk . Roasting makes the outer cocoa shells brittle, making it easy to separate them . Breaking down the inner cocoa bean gives tiny cocoa nibs .
Reduces moisture content from around 7% to about 1% . This is important because chocolate and water do not mix. Lowering moisture simplifies grinding . For effective roasting, three conditions are essential viz. transfer of heat to the bean, smooth airflow in the roasting drum, and cooling .
Winnowing: involves delinking the husk (outer shell) from the nib (edible part) of cocoa beans. The process directly impacts the final quality of the chocolate as better separation delivers top quality . Any residual husk will introduce unwanted tastes . Winnowing takes off 20-25% of the roasted beans’ weight . Equipment for winnowing cracks open the outer husks, which are then segregated from the nib by multiple stages of sieves (filters). Air blowing fans complete the separation as husks are lighter than nibs . Roasted beans are cracked open by passing them through serrated cones  or screw motion . Vibration mechanisms may also be employed in addition to filters and fans for superior separation .
Grinding: passes nibs through rotating metal drums to convert them into liquid called chocolate liquor . Nibs contain 50-55% cocoa butter , which is a crucial ingredient for making chocolate. Depending on the requirements, manufacturers utilize three or even more grinding stages . The roller speed rises in every successive stage . Eventually, the size of chocolate liquor particles is crushed to 0.0254mm . From the middle of the grinding stage, the process handles liquid chocolate and this continues till step 8 i.e. molding stage.
Separation: involves the use of hydraulic press  or rollers  to hike the pressure on chocolate liquor. This makes most of the cocoa butter inside the chocolate liquor flow out as a yellow liquid. The residue is the press cake and is processed into cocoa powder .
Blending: manufacturers add cocoa butter to the press cake . The quantity of added cocoa butter influences the consistency and texture, and, therefore, determines the type of chocolate produced .
Conching: is the most critical stage in chocolate production . Operating somewhat similar to eggbeater, the machine paddles move to and fro through the chocolate mass slowly to mix it thoroughly and aerate it . Such action further reduces the chocolate particles’ size and removes any minor, residual bitterness. Process speed and temperature influence the quality of chocolate . Other determinants of quality are the speed at which other ingredients (sugar, milk powder or milk, cocoa butter, flavors etc.) are mixed and when they are added .
Tempering: is the slow cooling of the conched chocolate. Such machines can have heating and cooling mechanisms as well as mixers to maintain the molten chocolate’s homogeneity . Steady temperature drop in tempering imparts stability to the chocolate  i.e. prevents the ingredients from separating on solidification – when poured in molds for example . It also maintains the chocolate’s crisp texture and luster . It is the tempering stage that prevents chocolate from melting when people touch it .
Molding: is the pouring of liquid chocolate into molds designed to provide the specifically shaped chocolate. Types of chocolates are pure chocolates, wafer or cookie including chocolates, raisin or dry fruit containing chocolates, or those with a core containing different materials such as jelly . Totally automatic, semi automatic, and manual are the three types of mold machines based on the level of automation . Stage 8 i.e. molding starts with liquid chocolate and ends with a solid one. Hereafter, all stages deal with solid chocolate.
Wrapping: protects the chocolate from contamination while also lending it a catchy appearance and enabling the makers to brand their produce. After loading the wrapper material and chocolate (of the required size and shape) in the wrapper machine, the machine wraps the chocolate, cuts the wrapper, and seals it. Thereafter, the wrapped chocolates are packaged into cartons . Types of wrapper machines are Bar Wrapper, Coin Wrapper, Foil Wrapper, and Fold Wrapper. Different ways a chocolate is wrapped are Banding, Fold Wrapping, Foil Wrapping, Pleat Wrapping, Sleeve Wrapping, Twist Wrapping, and Foil and Band Wrapping . Chocolates can be wrapped as much as five times viz. primary, double primary, secondary, tertiary, and final wrappings . Molding machine is an auxiliary to the wrapping machine . Equipment that serve as auxiliaries to both machines are :
Auto Chocolate Depositor
A process as long and complex as chocolate making demands diligent focus from the involved people and machines. Automation is a great way to make the process precise and fast.
Cybernetik Technologies has delivered customized automation and equipment solutions for the chocolate industry that enable close monitoring and control over each stage to make exceptional quality chocolate.