The Cocoa Bean’s Background
Cocoa beans grow in ‘pods’ on tree trunks in a narrow band around the equator (about 15 – 20 degrees north and south). Main growing areas of West Africa are the Ivory Coast and Ghana. In South East Asia, cocoa beans are grown especially in Indonesia, particularly an area known as Sulawesi. Lastly in South America, the cocoa beans are typically known as ‘flavor beans’. West African make up the bulk of the annual crop and Sulawesi beans tend to be known as ‘filler beans’, and are generally less expensive and lower in fat. The vast majority of the cocoa bean farms are tiny, there are no (or very few) ‘cocoa plantations’.
After being harvested, cocoa beans are fermented and then dried. These two processing steps are taken care of at the farm itself or at a co-op. Then the cocoa is bagged in burlap bags, typically 50 kilo each, and distributed around the world by cocoa traders. Cocoa beans are sold as a commodity – main trading centers in the world are London and New York. Typical cost for cocoa beans is between $2,000 to $3,000 per ton, but it varies depending on harvest and demand. An important trend that started some 10+ years ago or so, is that more and more cocoa beans are processed in ‘origin’ (close to where the beans grow). Origin governments started to tax the export of raw cocoa beans and at the same time provide tax incentives associated with the production of the semi-finished ‘ingredients made from them (the cocoa liquor, butter and powder).
Primary Cocoa Processing
The industrial process that takes raw cocoa beans and transforms them into cocoa liquor (sometimes referred to as ‘cocoa mass’), cocoa powder, and cocoa butter. Primary cocoa processing is the multi-step process that takes raw cocoa beans and transforms it into cocoa liquor, cocoa butter and cocoa powder. The equipment for coca bean processing is made by the Dutch firm, Royal Duyvis Wiener B.V. (RDW). KOCOTEK has been the exclusive North American agency for the Royal Duyvis Wiener group since 1979. Several equipment brands are covered under the RDW umbrella: Duyvis, Wiener, Lehmann, Thouet, Log5 and JAF Inox.
The Coco Bean Industrial Process:
After the fermenting and drying steps there are a number of additional steps that need to be taken to turn a raw cocoa bean into an ingredient such as cocoa liquor, butter and powder. Keep in mind that there are different ‘routes’/methods to go from raw cocoa bean to these semi-finished ingredients – each path has its own advantages (and disadvantages) and the process selection depends mostly on the end products you wish to make. The typical process flow through a large modern plant is around 6 metric tons an hour (around 12,000 + pounds).
By using the ingredients manufactured in the ‘primary cocoa process’ (and by mixing them with others!) the chocolate making process can begin. Similar to the Primary Cocoa Processing, there are several methods to go from ingredients to ‘bulk’ liquid chocolate in large quantities in tanks. One of the most challenging things with chocolate production is that the fat (cocoa butter) will crystalize at room temperature, that is why it has to stay warm (but not too hot!) during the entire process. All Chocolate production methods include : ingredient mixing, refining and conching. What differs between the various methods is in what order these steps take place and what kind of technology is used to achieve the process objectives.
State of the Art Chocolate Manufacturing Systems
For chocolate and chocolate coating production Kocotek specializes in traditional five-roll refining combined with dry conching as well as the modern ball mill production technology combined with either a continuous ‘wet’ conche or a batch ‘dry’ conche.
Each system offers its own unique advantages and is available in capacities ranging from small scale artisan (or ‘pilot plant’) all the way to large industrial production systems.