Enjoying Fresh Roasted Cocoa

Roasting cocoa fills your home with an amazing aroma!

But what do you do with your fresh home-roasted cocoa?

While there are many similarities between home roasting coffee and home roasting cacao, most people are stumped about what to do with the cocoa they produce?

When you roast coffee, you know you will brew it. How do you enjoy fresh roasted cocoa, though? Cocoa, as it comes from your Behmor or home oven, is far from a finished product. Or is it?

Here’s our favorite things to do with fresh cocoa beans:

  1. Eat Cocoa Beans! Actually, I really enjoy peeling and eating just-roasted cocoa beans. They are bitter, yes, but delicious and be warned quite addictive.
  2. Crush the Cocoa Beans and Brew Them! While it may be a more basic beverage than hot chocolate, it is easy to make cocoa tea. In fact, with a small amount of sugar and cream or heavy milk, you will have a delicious hot cocoa experience and then some! (See our instructions below)
  3. Make a Mocha! You can add crushed cocoa beans, also known as nibs, to your coffee brewing process. While I think cocoa beans benefit from a hotter water temperature and full immersion technique (like French Press) you will definitely taste the coffee and chocolate in your brew!
  4. Use Fresh Ground Cocoa Powder in Desserts and Dishes! Using a food processor, blender or mortar and pestle, you can create an amazing ingredient for mole sauce, spice rubs, desserts and other side dishes!
  5. Chocolate Making: This involves quite a few steps and goes way beyond our experience. Personally I haven’t even attempted any form of chocolate confectionary, but there are great sites, resources, blogs and more blogs to guide you if you get into this.

Winnowing & Grinding

Winnowing is the process of removing the outer shell of the cocoa bean. I peel cocoa beans when I eat them, but actually leave the skin on for some other processes. It seems to improve the cup with brewed cocoa tea, for example. A course grind of the whole bean includes more extractable solids which will lead to a stronger brew in the cup.

Grinding Techniques

  • Mortar & Pestle – This is the tool to use if you have one kicking around your house. I didn’t kill myself trying to grind super fine. I simply used medium pressure for about 30 seconds, which yielded a rather course grind with large separation of particle size.
  • Food Processor/Chopper/Blender – I happen to have an old Ninja Chopper in a drawer and it works amazingly well for cocoa beans.
  • Blade grinder – I used the Bodum Bistro grinder which is much easier and more consistent than hand grinding in a mortar. But, as it can with coffee, it tends to cake under the blade. It works, but not as well as a chopper / blender. I pulse ground for about 10 seconds, looking for a course kosher salt texture. This resulted in less body and extraction when using a finer grind.
  • Burr grinder – We do not recommend using any burr grinder. Cacao beans contain a high fat content (50% versus around 14% in coffee), so the friction created by the burrs will result in binding and quickly create quite a mess.

Brewing

Brewing cocoa is made from whole ground roasted cocoa beans; A course grind as well as the inclusion of the husk will lead to a stronger brew in the cup. Note that it is more of a cocoa tea than a classic “hot chocolate.” There are much less extractable flavors in cocoa than coffee, but more is not particularly better. Brew times should be between 4 and 5 minutes since longer time results in more astringent flavors.

I attempted many different variations of this recipe. I tried multiple brewing methods, water temperatures, brew ratios and times, agitation styles…Given the amount of variables that each individual may face, I thought it best to give the findings from what method yielded the best results for us.

Tools:

  • Sauce pan
  • Your grinder of choice (don’t use a burr grinder!)
  • Spoon for stirring
  • A French Press or other sieve for filtration (Paper filters tend to clog)
  • Timer
  • Clean vessel to pour into

I used 17g of ground cocoa to 150mL water which can be translated to about 2 tablespoons per 8 ounces of water. For this recipe, I used 68g of ground cocoa to 600mL of water.

Preparation for 2-3 cups:

  1. Weigh out 600ml (20 oz) of water and start to boil. Keep at a low simmer.
  2. Grind cacao. I did this in batches in the bodum to keep from caking under the blades
  3. Add 68 grams of ground cocoa to simmering water
  4. Stir vigorously, then start a timer. Keep at a low simmer for 5 minutes
  5. Pour off into a french press or filter method of your choosing. It is best to get the brewing cocoa off the grounds to avoid over extracting.
  6. Enjoy on its own, or add milk and sugar.

Other Ways to Enjoy

  • Chilled over ice!
  • Use it to make mole or in other cooking / baking

Crossover and Differences in Flavor: Chocolate and Coffee

Chocolate and Cocoa flavors figure heavily in coffee tasting. I can’t think of other beverages besides tea, where in bittering notes and sweetness figure so heavily. Generally, the global north doesn’t love bitter. Asian cuisine has a place for bitter complexity, but, in my opinion, coffee and chocolate are exceptions for palates more attuned to sweetness.

That may be where the similarities end since cocoa and coffee are quite different in many other ways. That’s good to remember when someone with coffee roasting experiences first attempts to approach cacao. You are going to use very different settings in a Behmor to roast cacao versus green coffee. With cacao, you will be “baking” it at lower temperatures, for longer times, compared to roasting coffee.

Roasting cacao at home in a convection toaster oven on a screen with high air flow fan setting
Roasting cacao at home in a convection toaster oven on a screen with high air flow fan setting

What’s Enjoyable About Home Cacao Roasting

Compared to coffee, roasting cacao is a bit more relaxed. The roast is not as “time critical” as coffee, where 30 seconds can decide the differences between light and dark-tasting roast levels. The percentage of cocoa solids is used to determine intensity more than roast level. In fact, you do not “dark roast” cacao to produce dark chocolate! Most chocolate makers are finding an ideal roast that works for a particular lot of cacao, and then rely on blending that with other origins and roasts to achieve the flavors they want.

Check out our Video Overview of Cacao Roasting and Livestream Replay on Cacao too…

Where to go if you want to learn more.

If you are having fun with home-roasting cacao, here are some recommended sites and blogs to continue your journey:

6 Responses

  1. What about espresso? I’ve heard of people sprinkling cinnamon on their prepared puck before locking on, but I’ve assumed that it’s for people who actually don’t really like coffee. I would enjoy cocoa more than cinnamon. Is there a way to use it when preparing an espresso shot?

    1. definitely have not tried that! I have used ground cocoa nibs in pour over brewing. I also tried a test where I stored fresh roasted cocoa and coffee together for a week to see if the coffee became infused with cocoa aroma and flavor. It did, but it was a bit subtle. I am sure there is a way to do it that intensifies the resulting coffee brew.

  2. I just roasted some of the Uganda cocoa beans so I pulled a shot with 20 grams of coffee and 2 grams of cocoa. I put the beans in a stone mortar and pestle and crushed it into powder. It was pretty much paste stuck to the sides, so I put my ground coffee in there and mixed it up, scraped the cocoa off the sides as best I could and got most of it.
    Coffee was through my single doser Super Jolly.
    Measured 22 grams and levelled and tamped as I would with 100% coffee.

    I have a rebuilt Livia 90 in which I added a dual guage, so I can see brew pressure, and this was a long pour, approx 50 seconds. I collected 3oz of coffee. The pressure started at 12 bar and at the end was about 10.5.

    The coffee was delightful. With some steamed milk, I think I have my new mocha recipe.

    1. Wow, that sounds amazing! Might have to try that myself. The cocoa has a lot of fat in it, and depending on how it was roasted and grind, I could see it turning to a paste. That’s exactly why you don’t want to put it through your grinder! The Uganda smells so wild, right? We’re having a lot of fun roasting cacao, and finding a lot of different uses for it. Thanks for sharing yet another one!

      Those Pasquini’s have such a classic look, btw.

      -Dan

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