Roasting is one of the crucial steps in the bean-to-bar process to develop chocolate as we know it. Whether it’s in a coffee roaster, an adapted commercial oven or a dedicated cocoa roaster, chocolate makers play around with timings and temperatures to get the best flavors out of their cocoa beans.
For each origin they use, chocolate makers elaborate a so-called “roasting profile”, which is a protocol that they can follow to get the same result every time. Temperatures usually range from 120°C (225°F) to 150°C (302°F), while times go from a minimum of 15 minutes to a maximum of 40 minutes. Makers can opt for a light, medium or dark roast for a shorter or longer period of time. You will be surprised by how the same cocoa beans can develop extremely different flavors when temperatures and times are changed!
Roasting doesn’t only develop cocoa beans’ natural flavors, but also kills microorganisms such as bacteria on the outer shell, effectively sterilizing the beans. It also helps to separate the outer shell from the inner nibs: cocoa beans have a papery outer shell that must be removed before they can be made into chocolate, and roasting helps to dry and loosen this shell so that it is easier to remove, and only the “meat” of the beans will be left to make the chocolate.
Some chocolate makers decide to skip this process entirely to keep their final product as “raw” as possible. By not exposing the cocoa beans to high temperatures, their intention is to preserve all the nutrients and the health benefits of cacao as much as possible.
When the cocoa beans finish the roasting process, makers crush them and then separate the nibs from the shells during the breaking and winnowing steps, to then proceed into other machines.
The ending aromatic profile will be hugely impacted by the roasting profile chosen by the craft chocolate maker.