Chocolatiering DIY Chocolate Making

How is Chocolate Made? The Factory Process Explained & Illustrated

how is chocolate made factory

In this article, Ayla Marika explains how chocolate is made and processed on an industrial scale. Using drawings, she shows the steps that cocoa travels to become chocolate, and an overview of factory-produced chocolate as a whole.

As a bean-to-bar chocolate maker, the process I am about to outline is of little practical use since it covers industrially-produced chocolate. None the less, it is a good introduction to chocolate as a whole including what chocolate is made from, where it comes from, and the theory of how cocoa travels from bean to bar.

This article is an excerpt from my critically-acclaimed Amazon-bestseller book How Food is Made: An illustrated guide to how food is produced. If you’re interested in learning more about the book and finding out how other factory foods are made, head over to the How Food is Made website. But for now, let’s dive into chocolate and in particular, how is chocolate made.

What is Chocolate Made From? Overview

Chocolate is a versatile treat made from the bean (technically, seed) of the cacao tree, Theobroma cacao. Cacao bean as is, is very bitter and must be fermented to bring out the chocolate flavour we recognise. It is then roasted, sugar and flavors are added, and the mixture is refined (conched) for several days until it resembles chocolate, after which it is tempered and molded. More on this further down.

The three main types of chocolate are white, milk and dark, each denoted by the percentage of cocoa that they contain. Dark chocolate contains more of the bitter cocoa mass, the percentage of which is marked on the label (i.e. 70%). Milk chocolate contains milk powder or condensed milk and has less cocoa mass than dark chocolate. White chocolate contains no cocoa mass at all, but contains cocoa butter.

The main ingredients found in factory-produced chocolate are:
  • Cacao Bean (theobroma cacao) – more in this article
  • Sugar
  • Milk (liquid, powder)
  • Lecithin (eg soy lecithin)
  • Flavours (eg vanilla)

How is Chocolate Made? The Factory Process

Industrial Chocolate Making Process – Steps:

Below is an outline of the steps used to manufacture chocolate commercially. Be aware that different manufacturers may use slightly different processes and equipment. These steps are also highly simplified, to give an overview of the process for people with little knowledge of professional food production. These steps are covered in greater detail throughout the articles and chocolate-making tutorials on this website.

  1. Cacao been pod (theobroma cacao)
  2. Cacao beans and pulp removed from pod
  3. Cacao beans and pulp fermented (2-10 days)
  4. Cacao beans dried then roasted
  5. Beans cracked and winnowed
    • Hulls discarded
  6. Cacao nibs kept for chocolate
  7. Nibs ground forming cocoa mass
  8. Cocoa mass heated forming chocolate liquor
  9. Milk, sugar, lecithin and flavors added
  10. Chocolate passed through rollers to smoothen it (grinding)
  11. Chocolate mixed in a conche (<6 days)
  12. Chocolate tempered by repeated heating and cooling
  13. Chocolate poured into molds and allowed to set
  14. Chocolate is done!

How is Chocolate Made Industrially – Infographic:

how chocolate is made infographic ayla marika
Click here to view full size infographic

Chocolate History and Culture

The earliest evidence of cacao consumption is dated to 1,900 BCE and comes from the Olmec people from the Mexico region. Cacao was considered a valuable gift from the gods in Mesoamerica and cacao beans were used as form of currency by the Aztecs. Cacao was consumed by the Olmecs, Aztecs and Mayans as an unsweetened, bitter beverage. This beverage could be non-alcoholic or alcoholic (made from fermented cacao). The word chocolate is thought to originate from the Aztec word ‘chocolātl’.

Christopher Columbus became aware of the cacao bean on a trip to the Americas, which he then introduced to Europe. It is believed that the Spanish also came across cacao during their conquests. Spain was the first country to consume cacao in a sweetened form, adding sugar or honey to taste. As chocolate grew in popularity, demand increased. In South America, natural forests were cleared to make way for cocoa estates from the late 1500s. The first cocoa plantations were established in West Africa in the 1800s.

During the industrial revolution, chocolate became more refined due to the invention of new machinery that could be used for chocolate production. One of these machines was the chocolate conche, invented in Switzerland in 1879 by chocolatier Rudolpf Lindt. To this day, Switzerland is considered by many to be the home of some of the world’s finest chocolates.

Unfortunately, the ‘big chocolate’ industry is rife with child labour and child slavery—even today—particularly in West Africa where 60% of the world’s cacao bean is grown. A study in 2016 showed that over 2 million children are involved in child labour and slavery as a direct result of chocolate production.

Final Thoughts on How is Chocolate Made

I hope you’ve enjoyed this article on how chocolate is made industrially, and that you now have a good overview of commercial chocolate production.

This is a bird’s eye view not intended as steps for you to start a commercial chocolate business, but rather just for education. While these are not techniques we would use as small-scale bean-to-bear chocolate makers, it is good to understand the commercial process to give context to what we do and see how grassroots bean-to-bar chocolate-making differs from large-scale factory methods.

I also hope that this article has inspired you to try making chocolate at home for yourself. Afterall, part of my reason for creating this website is to help educate people about how they can grow and create their own chocolate, and appreciate high quality bean-to-bar chocolate that is made sustainably and responsibly.

If you are feeling inspired to start making your own chocolate, you can read the full step-by-step process for making bean-to-bar chocolate at home in this instructional article by Chef Prish and more chocolate-making tutorials here.

This article is an excerpt from my book How Food is Made: An illustrated guide to how everyday food is produced. If you’re curious to learn more about how other foods are made such as liquorice, sugar, nougat and even chewing gum, please head over to my website where you can read more articles like this and view samples from the book. There are also links to purchase a copy of the book from Amazon, Apple and other retailers, if you feel so inclined.

Happy Chocolatiering!

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How Food is Made: An illustrated guide to how everyday food is produced by Ayla Marika.

Article Author

  • Ayla Marika

    Ayla Marika is the founder and manager of the Chocolatiering website. She is a website producer, visual artist and graphic designer based in Australia. She holds a Bachelor of Arts (Fine Art) from Curtin University of Technology and an Advanced Diploma of Public Relations from Canberra Institute of Technology. Her interests include permaculture, implementing self-sufficiency strategies on her small hobby farm, music, cooking, brewing, plant medicine and food activism. She is the author and illustrator of the critically acclaimed Amazon bestseller book How Food is Made: An illustrated guide to how everyday food is produced, and manager of Forssa Light Publishing.

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