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I've noticed how, after I make a batch of chocolate, usually very plain-- cacao paste, sugar, added fat-- it gets much better tasting in a week or two. Even when it is well enclosed.
I also think it improves with age over a longer time, the course of a year or so. Am I fooling myself?
Is there any aging point at which good chocolate might go downhill in quality?

I wonder about the relationship between Aging and Concheing, are they related?
I believe the purpose of Concheing is to get rid of any strong, tart, sour, or allegedly obnoxious tastes in the chocolate, most of which represent very healthful polyphenol compounds. [It is possible that not all of these are good for you; or perhaps too much of a good thing may not be good.] Commercial concheing tends to homogenize everything, mellow-in-a-bad way. And less healthful.

I never conche my chocolate, thinking that 18-24 hours in my melangeur is quite enough conche. I like the way it tastes and I like the idea that it retains more of the good stuff. I like tasting it a bit rude, then over time, it improves, greatly.

Is concheing simply losing volatiles by evaporation, into the air? In ageing, since there is far less surface area exposed, or under wraps, or sealed some way-- there must be internal chemical changes. I don't think many volatiles escape, especially if it is solid form.  Nor can there be much free oxygen swimming around in chocolate, so it isnt oxidation.
But maybe the volatiles are transformed, stabilized in some way, and in turn stabilize and preserve the chocolate.

    J Sandy Hepler

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Replies to This Discussion

Talk about aged dark chocolate sometimes starts debates, but personally I think it does. Over time you can develope new brown or caramelized notes due to reactions of sugars and proteins in the chocolate. The sucrose you add is not a reducing sugar, but there are enough reducing sugars in the chocolate liquor for the reactions to take place. The answers I usually see are between 1 and 2 years. Probably due to the bean source and processing parameters used. But most feel after 2 years it begins to degrade, depending on storage conditions.

Conching chocolate accomplishes several things.
- A stone longitudinal conche or your melangeur will smooth off the rough edges of the sugar crystals and separate the cocoa agglomerates, giving you a smoother chocolate.
- Conching drives out remaining moisture, ideally to below 1%, and as it does, it drives of several volitile acids to soften the flavor, reduce sour and to some extent astringency.
- Flavor development. You create several new brown flavors to add to the profile. These are similar to the ones formed as described above, but because they're formed heated there is a difference. I have taken a dark chocolate after refining, and conched it over 5 days. (traditionally it was 72 hours). Pulling a sample at the end of each day, then setting the samples out for tasting side by side when done. Most who tasted could not believe the differences, especially by day 3.

Give it a try for your own experience. The main reason they stopped conching for 72 hours was energy cost. Significant enough that no one wants to do it anymore.
Good, but after roasting and melanging, I dont think the chocolate has any water in it. Chocolate does not like water, even when it has 20-30% very fine sugar ground into it.

What do you use for a conche machine?
Hi John,

What a good question you state there. What does conching do to the healthy compounds, apart from the taste ?
Allright, that is also the question we have. We make raw chocolate here in Holland, using cold-grinded paste from the Arriba Nacionale of Ecuador. We used to put coconut oil in our chocolate , but we had to take it out for several reasons. Now we work with a high amount of cacaobutter and coconut blossom sugar as a sweetener.
As our bar is quite fatty , tempered well, it is not so smooth yet. So we think about doing a test with conching, also to see how the sugar gets mixed as it is a bit sandy at the moment.
Do you have a grinder yourself ?
We want to see what it does to the taste, but after we will test the ORAC value, the amount of anti-oxidants, because the bar must not go down in anti-oxidants, as it is one of our main unique selling points.
Let me know if you have found out anything about this matter........

greetings Laura
Hello ms Laura Lovechock
First if your chocolate is grainy, we must guess that you do not have a melangeur. It is very difficult to make commercially acceptable chocolate without a melangeur.
For me conching is about losing acidity and disagreeable tastes which pertain much more to raw unroasted chocolate than the roasted variety i make. Also as you know, we lose valuable compounds ("phenolics") to the air the longer we melange and conche.
My typically 18 hours of melanging (to make particles small) makes me feel no need to conche. My market is not really commercial, just a network of friends who are crazy about the stuff.

My experience with raw/unroasted chocolate was that it did not taste good like my roasted chocolate. But after a year or so of aging, the raw became very good.

If you are testing for ORAC, I would ask you this: please make some chocolate out of ROATED cacao for comparison, to see how much you are really using. PS dont overroast it.

best wishes, j sandy hepler in midst of the harvest in Nicaragua


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