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best way to get chocolate flavour into a product? cacao? masceration, soxhlet extraction, plain distillation?

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I have a bench still, I have a soxhlet extractor, I have cacao beans on their way to me.

I plan on using the soxhlet to extract the beans and evaluating what I have at that point. I will then decide if what I have is ok or if i should then distill the tincture to an extract. I imagine it will be a brownish coloured bitter chocolate flavour tincture with fats.

Anyone care to share their experiences or thoughts?

Would you roast the cacao first?

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Going to try 500gm cacao, 1l NGS @ 96% - then potstill the tincture to make the extract

then compare that with 500gm cacao with 1l ngs @ 96% straight potstill

then compare 500gm good quality coco powder with 1l NGS @ 96% potstill

as cacao is damn expensive.

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Start with good quality roast cocoa nibs.

Suspect you'll need to winterize to remove fats.

Soxhlet extraction is a good approach with hard cocoa.

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1st batch extracting as I type, I didn't roast them though. They are raw organic cacao nibs. Is roasting an essential step? I could try that next time.

I had planned on pot stilling after extraction to leave fats in the boiler.

I could however potstill half. The other half winterize to remove fats and do a comparison.

I think I will discard the cocoa powder experiment as cacao nibs can be had cheaper than good quality cocoa powder.

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What is winterizing?

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freeze, or chill until fats solidify and filter, or freeze thaw..

*update*  8 hours of extraction and I have a dark mahogany liquid that has a very pronounced chocolate odour, the taste is a very dark bitter chocolate flavour. Tomorrow I will pot still half and compare.

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the tincture has been pot stilled to create an extract, then proofed to 47.5% (same as the tincture)

The tincture has a smell of warm hot chocolate when opened up with warm water, the taste is intensely chocolate but very bitter

The extract doesn't to me have the same warm hot chocolate smell, to my nose it smells vaguely of chocolate and if smell could have colour, it would smell green. I realise that doesn't make any sense. The taste, less intense bitterness, less chocolate but much much sweeter.

My wife thinks the extract and tincture smell more of less the same! but maybe she isn't being critical enough. I will ask 2 more peoples opinion later.

I am currently mascerating more cacao in 70% neutral for 8 hours and will then pot still that to see the different between using the soxhlet to first capture the tincture and potstilling that to an extract and just the straight pot still. i.e.

soxhlet > tincture > pot still > extract

mascerate > potstill > extract

When I find my preferred protocol I will repeat that protocol but first roast the nibs for 15 mins.

 

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I think you'll get more overall intensity with the roast nibs.  I'm actually surprised you got such deep color with raw nibs.  It is possible you did have some Maillard reaction during the Soxhlet extraction.

Keep in mind, when you distill, you are separating the flavor compounds based on volatility.  High volatility flavors will come across in the distillate - low volatility (or non-volatile) flavor components will remain in the stillage.

If you still have the stillage, do yourself a favor and taste it compared to the distillate.  Mix the stillage and distillate and compare it back to your solvent extract.  This is a hugely valuable exercise to understand the impact of distillation on flavors.  What goes over, what stays.

Lots of botanicals distill across "green" and lose a little bit of their soul, especially fruit.  I always call out ripe blackberry as being the best example of this.  The distillate tastes nothing like blackberry, I mean barely recognizable.  Intensely green and chlorophyll - think fresh cut greens.  The flavors that we recognize as blackberry are not necessarily volatile.  The sugars, the acids, they don't distill over.  So, if you want blackberry flavor, masceration is the way to go.  Your soxhlet extracted product is not at all distilled, it's only hot-solvent extracted.  Remember, the soluble flavors aren't necessarily all volatile.

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Oh, I ditched the stillage, but I did taste it, it tasted empty and bitter. Not chocolaty at all.

I find it strange the distillate tasted sweet, maybe this is just the ethanol.

Very possible that I got Maillard reaction during extraction, both in the boiler and column. The extractor column was very hot. I should be more patient and reduce power maybe.. more hot extractions don't necessarily work better than less cooler ones. But then how much cooling takes place through the column walls is questionable.

As a rule I am finding citrus is very volatile and distills across great. Fruit such as berries I don't have much experience with but read that raspberries come across ok.

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I worked on chocolate liqueur for about three months. Discovered a few things and finally got a recipie that tastes like a lovely dark chocolate. Specifically our regional cacao bean flavors. 
 

in the end the recipie was neither simple nor cheap to produce but it was really yummy. 

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I would imagine the addition of sugar would cure a lot of problems.

I pay about £10 for 1kg of cacao for small quantities, maybe 30% cheaper for bigger - so yes, it aint cheap,

Feel free to message me with your recipe and protocol - save me some time 😉

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best result for me came from roasted cacao simply potstilled, nice taste, less nose than extracted but none of the bitterness.

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That's the way to do it, test and try.  Every botanical has a method that works best with it, there simply isn't one best method.

Vacuum distilling cucumber extract was one of my favorites.  If you distill the skin, the flesh, and the seeds separately, you'll find three very different extract flavors/aromas, one of which is just magical in capturing fresh cut cucumber, the two others, not so much.  The lower the pressure, and temperature you run, the better.

 

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Normally I simply do not have the time for experimentation. With a day job, a gin business and events most weekends, strange time we find ourselves in.

I pity the person who had the task of isolating cucumber seeds.

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The beauty of different regions is that we use our local ingredients and supply sources to build products that others would be hard pressed to reproduce. 
 

I just happen to have tropical resources like cacao around me so I took advantage. my suggestion is that folks look to their local resources and produce something unique to your area. That’s really what micro distilling is about. 
 

if you want commercial success look to what you have to work with in your local “box” and stop trying to think “outside the box”. The box can be a good place if you use to your advantage. 
 

if you do not have time for experimentation then you are missing the very best part of distilling. 

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