Machines and Methods: Driving Chocolate’s Evolution



Layout for a turn-of-the-century chocolate factory, from The Manufacture of Chocolate, by Paul Zipperer (Second Edition, 1902).


The importance of the Industrial Revolution on the evolution of chocolate cannot be overstated – the highly refined flavors and textures we enjoy in fine chocolate today are a direct result of advancements in the technology we apply to the process. From hand-grinding on a heavy metate to multi-purposed water-powered stone mills, from the Watts steam engine to Rudolf Lint’s early conche, machinery not only increased the output of production, but placed a greater degree of control over the process, and ultimately broadened the forms in which the noble bean appears.

…That leads to the chocolate and the machinery. The chocolate in its primitive condition most people know little about. It is in the form of a bean when it reaches the confectioner, not as large as a paper-shelled almond, and with a crisp papery shell. These beans go into a roaster, and are roasted very much as the coffee bean is roasted. From there they go into another machine, and are crushed and again into a hopper, and the outside, or cocoa shell, is separated from the chocolate after the manner in which wheat is separated from the chaff. There is  another machine revolving in opposite ways, with a great granite block, in which the chocolate and sugar are combined, and still another into which the mass of sweetened chocolate is placed to be refined, and through which it passes again and again until it is of the most delicately smooth consistency. Then we go back to the butter machine.

In all chocolate there is to be found this cocoa butter. In some confection, there is a greater, and in some a less, proportion of it. In some of the finest clear chocolate bonbons there is not only the proportion of cocoa butter which belongs to that proportion of chocolate, but more. In some forms of chocolates there far less. In this cocoa butter machine the product is removed and used for the different varieties of chocolate as desired.

One of the requirements in preparing chocolates is the management of the heat. There must not be too high or too low a degree of heat. If not properly treated, the chocolate will become gray instead of showing the rich chocolate color which is natural to it….

‘Bonbons and Confections – How They are Made…’, The New York Times, Feb 21, 1897 (though the factory is not named, presumably a visit to Maillard’s 5th Avenue operation)

It is doubtful that many of New York’s earliest cocoa bean processors dedicated themselves full-time to the task. Local supplies of chocolate were ground on mills that also turned out flour, mustard, oils, and paints. Chocolate-making, as it was for the time, was often carried out by grocers, pharmacists, and by the merchants who also imported and exported beans in and out of the city. As the craft became more specialized, so too did the equipment. What must have been largely a product of hard manual labor in the early 1800s, would quickly incorporate dedicated roasters, winnowers, and refiners. Hydraulic presses not only lightened the beverage as it was known, but also paved the way for smooth solid bars for eating. Throughout the 19th century, New York’s growing number of chocolate-makers continued to expanded their factories, equipped with a battery of machines also manufactured in the city.

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