Chocolate

The Cocoa Bean

Africoco formerly known as Magulu Agricultural farm was established in the early 70s and expanded in 1974 under the stewardship of the late Mr. Yafesi Magulu, Mr.  Christopher Sembuya and  Buwule Wilberforce(RIP). Today, nit is arguably the biggest single privately owned cocoa growing farm in Africa.

It covers more than one square mile (640 Acres) and is located in Nkokonjeru, Mukono and it is from here that our cocoa products come; cocoa powder, cocoa liquor, chocolate.

 

Origin

Chocolate making starts with the cocoa bean. Cocoa beans are seeds from the pods of cacao trees, a tropical plant that thrives only in hot, rainy climates. It is grown worldwide in tropical rainforests within 20° latitude of the equator in such places as Brazil, Venezuela, and Ecuador in South America; The Ivory Coast and Ghana in West Africa; and Indonesia in Southeast Asia, Uganda in East Africa. Where the beans grow determines the flavor characteristics of the cocoa–all beans are not the same.

Varieties

 

The varieties of cacao pods fall under three classifications.

  • Criollo has a light color with a unique, pleasant aroma and is used in the finest chocolate.
  • Forastero is more plentiful, easier to cultivate, and has a pungent aroma.
  • Trinitario is a cross of strains of the other two types and generally has a good, aromatic flavor. The majority of the world's chocolate is made from Forastero beans.

Planting

Seedlings are planted during the dry season (October and November) using the top forest (alluvial) soils. Seedlings take six months to grow before they are transplanted at the onset of the first rains in (march- April-May). The spacing should be 3M * 3M (10 ft * 10ft) and the planting hole 2ft * 2 Ft deep and wide, manure can be applied if it is available. After 435 seedlings are needed for an acre.

The key to making a great chocolate is to source the beans from different areas of the world, and blend them together to come up with a unique flavor profile. At PFI, we've perfected a proprietary blend based on experience manufacturing premium chocolate.

 

Harvesting

The cacao tree bears fruit (or pods) all year, but harvesting is generally seasonal. Harvesting requires a delicate touch, as cacao trees are very frail. Training and experience are necessary to know when the pods are ripe and ready to be cut. About 20 to 50 beans are scooped from a typical pod, and approximately 400 beans are required to make one pound of chocolate.

The beans are then fermented from three to nine days, which serves to develop the characteristics of the chocolate flavor. Without fermentation, chocolate does not taste like chocolate.

Drying

 

After fermentation, the beans are dried. In some countries, the beans are simply spread out on trays or mats and left to dry under the sun. During drying, the beans lose nearly all their moisture and more than half their weight. The drying process generally takes five to seven days, during which the beans are frequently turned.

Beans can also be artificially dried by blowing hot air over the beans from fires. This cuts the time in half but leaves a smoky character in the chocolate. Once the beans are dried, they are packed and shipped to chocolate manufacturers.

Our cocoa is well fermentated and dried with a moisture content of between 7% - 8 % ready for export.

The Manufacturing Process

There is a consistent pattern to chocolate making although manufacturers may incorporate their own nuances throughout the process to achieve their desired finished chocolate product. PFI is the only company in Uganda manufacturing chocolate and cocoa powder starting from the cocoa bean through to finished products.

Bean Selection and Cleaning

 

After the cocoa beans are carefully selected, they are cleaned when they pass through a bean cleaning machine that removes extraneous materials. Different bean varieties are then precisely blended to produce the desired flavor of chocolate.

Developing the right formula of beans is integral to the art and science of chocolate making. PFI selects only the finest cocoa beans, rejecting around 40% of the beans we sample because they do not meet our rigorous flavor standards. This relatively high rejection rate is how we ensure our signature intense chocolate taste. PFI uses a proprietary blend of bean varieties that has been refined over the company's experience to provide the company's distinct and intense chocolate taste.

 

Bean Roasting

The beans are roasted to develop the characteristic chocolate flavor. They are roasted in large rotary cylinders. Depending on the varieties of the beans and the desired end result, the roasting lasts from 30 minutes to two hours at very high temperatures.

During roasting, the bean color changes to a rich brown, and the aroma of chocolate comes through. After roasting, the bean shells are cracked and removed, leaving the essence of pure chocolate called the "nib". For Dutch roasts, an alkaline solution is added to produce nibs that are darker and less acidic in flavor.

Nib Roasting at PFI Chocolate

Different from many chocolate manufacturers, PFI Chocolate utilizes a nib roasting process that allows for deeper roasts in order to produce a more robust chocolate flavor.

During the bean cleaning process, the shells of the beans are removed, leaving the nib (or the meat) of the bean. The unshelled nibs then undergo the roasting process. This gives us more control over the temperature and time, so we can get a more specific flavor. The result is a deeper roast that produces the legendary intense flavor of PFI chocolate.

The roasted nibs are milled through a process that liquefies the cocoa butter in the nibs and forms "chocolate liquor." Chocolate liquor is non-alcoholic and simply refers to the chocolate liquid. The chocolate liquor can either be pressed for cocoa butter and cocoa powders, or molded and solidified to make unsweetened chocolate.

 

Cocoa Pressing

The cocoa press hydraulically squeezes a portion of the cocoa butter from the chocolate liquor, leaving "cocoa cakes." The cocoa butter is used in the manufacture of chocolates; the remaining cakes of cocoa solids are pulverized into cocoa powders.

Ingredients such as chocolate liquor, sugar, cocoa butter, and milk powder, in quantities that make up the different types of chocolate, are blended in mixers to a paste with the consistency of dough. Chocolate refiners, a set of rollers, crush the paste into flakes that are significantly reduced in size. This step is critical in determining how smooth chocolate is when eaten.

At PFI, we refine many of our chocolates to 19 microns, giving them an extremely smooth texture with no "graininess," unlike other mass market chocolates that are only refined to 40 microns.

Conching

Conching is a flavor development process during which the chocolate is put under constant agitation. The conching machines, called "conches," have large paddles that sweep back and forth through the refined chocolate mass anywhere from a few hours to several days.

Conching reduces moisture, drives off any lingering acidic flavors, and coats each particle of chocolate with a layer of cocoa butter. The resulting chocolate has a smoother, mellower flavor.

Tempering and Molding

The chocolate then undergoes a tempering heating and cooling process that creates small, stable cocoa butter crystals in the fluid chocolate mass. It is deposited into molds of different forms: chips, chunks, wafers, SQUARES, and bars. Proper tempering creates a finished product that has a glossy, smooth appearance.

Cooling and Packaging

The molded chocolate enters controlled cooling tunnels to solidify the pieces. Depending on the size of the chocolate pieces, the cooling cycle takes between 20 minutes to two hours. From the cooling tunnels, the chocolate is packaged for delivery to retailers and ultimately into the hands of consumers.

Chocolate Care

 

Storage And Care of Chocolate

Chocolate should be wrapped tightly and kept in a cool, dry place with a temperature ranging from 60–75°F.

If the storage temperature exceeds 75°F, some of the cocoa butter may appear on the surface, causing the chocolate to develop a whitish cast, known as "bloom." The chocolate will still be fine to eat.

In hot climates or during the summer, chocolate can be stored in the refrigerator, although this isn't ideal as the chocolate may absorb odors from other foods. Dark chocolate actually improves with age, like a fine wine, if stored in an airtight container at 60–65°F.

Bloom

Blooming of chocolate products is the most common problem you will encounter in the world of chocolate. There are two forms of "bloom": fat bloom and sugar bloom.

  • Fat bloom is the visible accumulation of large cocoa butter crystals on the chocolate surface. It is often accompanied by numerous minute cracks that dull the appearance of the chocolate.
  • Sugar bloom is a crystallization of sugar that is often caused by high humidity and the formation of condensate ("sweating") when cold product is brought into a warm area.

To differentiate between fat and sugar blooms, fat bloom will feel oily and melt when touched, while sugar bloom will feel grainy to the touch.

Poor storage conditions cause fat bloom. To prevent bloom, it is important not to expose chocolate to wide fluctuations in temperature; instead, make all temperature changes gradually. Although it may look unpleasant, bloomed chocolate is fine to eat.