Why do you love local craft chocolate so much more than the big brands? Lots of reasons, most stemming from the fact that your craft chocolate maker cares enough about you and about her craft to do lots of little things that add up to a big difference. Reason #17 is about cleaning the beans.

Chocolate in the Raw
Why clean the beans? Cocoa beans beans are a raw agricultural product. Most beans are grown in developing countries, where they are harvested and handled in conditions that are often quite basic. During the fermenting and drying parts of the process, the beans can pick up lots of extra stuff that needs to be removed before the beans can be made into chocolate.

There's a legendary saying, sometimes attributed to Michelangelo, that a sculptor looks at a block of marble and simply chips away anything that does not look like the intended subject. In a sense, that saying describes what a craft chocolate maker does when cleaning beans. He looks at the beans and takes away everything that doesn't look it would make good chocolate.

Bean by bean by bean...

Cocoa beans usually arrive in our factory in 70 Kg bags. Each bean must pass inspection before it makes its way into your chocolate. Your craft chocolate maker makes a difference because a human being sees every bean. Unlike the big makers, no electric eye or robot or computer automates the cleaning process.

And it's a dusty process! When cleaning beans, the craft chocolate maker removes rocks, flat beans, doubles (beans that have stuck together during fermentation) and under-fermented beans. She picks out debris that might burn in the roaster. We've even found flower blossoms and bird feathers in the beans! In the words of that famous foodie, Alton Brown, this stuff is "not good eats."

After sorting, the beans are poured over powerful magnets that remove any metal that the human might have missed. We've never caught any metal this way, but better safe than sorry.

So the next time you are enjoying the fruits of your craft chocolate maker's efforts, you'll know that one of the reasons is because he took so much care to ensure that only great cocoa beans made it into the chocolate.

Got questions?

Comment and let us know if you have other questions about chocolate. Watch for future installments in our Crafting Chocolate series.



Please, never quit making the dark milk chocolate with goat’s milk. I am head over heels!

Feb 02, 2016


Great questions, Aine Dee! Cocoa beans are fermented for several reasons. The first is because its almost impossible not to ferment them! Beans are the seed of a tropical fruit. When they are removed from the pod, they are covered with sugary fruit goo. Sugar + tropical temperatures + wild yeasts in the air = fermentation. It’s a “nature” thing.

Fermentation serves two purposes. First, as the sugary fruit goo ferments, it liquifies, running off the beans and leaving them clean. Second, the heat of fermentation changes the flavor of the bean in a direction more toward what we think of as a chocolate flavor. There may also be chemical changes that occur in the bean, but scientists are only now beginning to understand them.

Because fermentation happens on the exterior of the bean, there are essentially no by-products of the fermentation process that find their way into the chocolate that we eat. So someone with a yeast allergy, for example, probably has no problem eating chocolate.

As to the organic question, we use only certified organic versions of the cocoa beans, cocoa butter and cane sugar in our bars. However, we do not pay for a certification so that we can use the word “organic” on our front label. Certification is expensive. Maybe someday! In the meantime, know that we take care to use only the best ingredients available.

Thanks for your kind comments!

Oct 25, 2013

Aine Dee:

Really enjoyed being educated about craft chocolatein these blog posts. Two questions came to mind:
1. why are the beans fermented? I read a review in amazon of organic powdered cacao where one customer was very happy it wasn’t made from fermented beans because she has problems in general with fermented products and one who was very unhappy with the flavor – said it was bitter and no amount of sweetener seemed to help. Why is fermenting standard?

2. are you considering an organic chocolate line and is there a big use of chemical fertilizers in non-organic cacao beans?

Thanks. Loving your bars! The world doesn’t need anymore candy but it sure needs more artisan chocolate. The healthiest dessert on the planet!

Oct 24, 2013


Black Mountain Chocolate is happy to be meticulous in this process because we want you, our chocolate lovers, to benefit from the fruits of our labors;)

Sep 27, 2013

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