Cacao beans, or cocoa beans, are the base for chocolate and come from the cacao tree which is grown in tropical climates. According to Indiana Wesleyan University, Mayans and Aztecs used the cacao bean to create a drink called xocolatl, which later evolved to the word chocolate. Making chocolate at home can be a rewarding experience but before chocolate can be made, the cacao beans need to be roasted. Once the cacao beans are roasted, they can be ground up and added to milk, butter and sugar to create chocolate.
Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
Place the cacao beans in a strainer and rinse thoroughly to remove any dirt or stones.
Place the beans on a cookie sheet, making sure the beans are as spread out as possible and flat on the sheet.
Place the cookie sheet in the oven and set the oven timer for 20 minutes.
Watch the beans while they cook to make sure they don’t burn. The aromatic smell of chocolate is a good indication that the beans are done.
Remove the beans from the oven and let them cool until they can be easily handled.
Place the beans on a cutting board. Roll over the beans with a rolling pin to separate the nib (the inside of the bean) from the shell. You may need to roll a few times to ensure all the nibs are separated from their shells.
Brush the nibs from the cutting board into a bowl. It is OK if a few shells make it into the bowl as the next step will remove them.
Hold the bowl over a sink and lightly tap the sides of the bowl to shake the nibs. As the shells come to the surface, blow into the bowl to force the shells to fall into the sink. This process is called winnowing and only the nibs will be left in the bowl as they are heavier than the shells. Winnowing can also be done outside in a breeze.
The nibs are now ready to be ground up or liquefied.
Use a light colored cookie sheet rather than a dark colored cookie sheet. A dark colored cookie sheet will collect heat at a faster rate which might cause the beans to burn.
Ovens can vary in efficiency so it is important to watch the beans as they roast. The beans could fully roast in less than 20 minutes or they could take longer.
The shells are very flammable. Keep a fire extinguisher nearby while the beans are roasting.