Cocoa Processing

In August 2007 Josef Zotter launched his newly extended ChocolateFactory in Riegersburg, Austria. From the roasting of the cocoa beans via the roller mills up to the finishing touches in the conche all the processes for making fine chocolate are now located under one roof. A true artisan, he appears like David in comparison with the Goliaths of the chocolate producing world. Zotter is not only one of the few European companies which process their own cocoa, but also the only one who produces exclusively organic and fairtrade chocolate from bean to bar. In this way Zotter clearly positions himself against standardised mass production and the concentration of the chocolate market.

As a chocolate maker who processes directly from the cocoa bean, Josef Zotter allows himself the luxury of placing an emphasis on the subtleties and extravagances of the ingredients and to constantly explore the aromatic origins of chocolate.

Cleaning and Roasting

Hot start
Even though every bag of cocoa has already been subjected to several quality tests in its home country, it will be put to the test once again and cleaned thoroughly before processing at the ChocolateFactory. The cocoa beans will then be roasted for approximately 35 minutes at 130°C - 145°C. During the roasting the cocoa develops its typical aroma.

During this process even the heat is homemade. Cocoa shells and wood chips are burnt in a small steam plant, located behind the ChocolateFactory. In this way no waste arises from the production and the steam plant ensures an ecologically justifiable heat generation. The making of chocolate requires a lot of energy, so the additional power is obtained from green energy sources because renewable energy will keep the motor of creativity running for the future.

Crushing and grinding

Crunchy nibs

In the crushing plant the freshly roasted beans are removed from their shells and broken into small pieces - the cocoa nibs.

Massive mills

After crushing the nibs move on to the cocoa mill where they are broken down into their individual components. The cocoa butter is discharged and melts due to the friction heat. In this way a liquid mass, which looks like chocolate but is not yet chocolate, is created. This cocoa mass is further refined in the ball mill. If you tasted this raw product, it would leave a sandy feeling in your mouth because the cocoa bean particles can be detected even with a size of only 30/100 mm.

Rolling and Conching

Waltzing along the rollers
What follows next is the mixing and Zotter has a particular gift for that. Sugar, milk powder and natural vanilla are added to the cocoa mass, depending on the variety. In the rolling mill the rich cocoa mass is pressed onto the sugar by means of two rollers, then the cycle is concluded by five other mills, resulting in a fine chocolate powder. The delicate mellowness and the aromas are created under an enormous pressure. During this process the settings of the complex rollers can be manipulated, from the rotation to the thickness of the nip. The rolling mill is a playground for creative people and naturally also the favourite machine of Josef Zotter. In his view "The rolling mill is one of the most important machines involved in the art of chocolate-making." At this point no automation is at work - an artisan is needed to control the complex system in a creative way. The mellowness is created if the grain spectre is below 25/1000 mm, and this is the challenge for Josef Zotter. In his chocolate the particles have a size of 15 - 17/1000 mm - a fabulous mellowness!

Grand Finale
The cocoa powder is now refined in the conche. During the conching, which was invented by Roderich Lindt (from the company of the same name) the finishing touches are put to the chocolate. The unique and poetical name in the production cycle of the chocolate is derived from the original shape of the conche which resembled a shell (in Spanish "concha"). This was a last homage to the Spanish tradition of chocolate. In former times chocolate was conched in order to render it fine. Nowadays this is done in rolling mills. Nevertheless this time-consuming processing may not be renounced because it is of great importance for the unfolding of aromas. The fine and dry powder is stirred in the conches for about 20 hours. Due to the warmth the aromas blossom out, humidity and interfering aromas are removed and the cocoa butter is once again liquefied which enables a particularly smooth distribution of the sugar and fat particles. Now the chocolate is finished - or BASiC as Zotter would say.