The effects of aging dark chocolate is not a particularly well-researched subject, but its effects are dramatic enough that it is a regular practice of our chocolate production. Considering the way we roast, mill and conche our chocolate, it tends to have an unbalanced flavor when it is emptied from the conche. We have found that the first three weeks is the most essential period for flavor development during the aging process, but some chocolate may need more time.
Like the skin of a grape used to make wine, the cotyledon (nib) of a cacao bean is rich with polyphenols known as tannins. The tannin content of a dried cocoa bean can range from 6-9% of the total weight of the bean. A high concentration of tannins will have an astringent, drying effect in your mouth (think walnut and grape skin). As tannins age, their effect is reduced. However, tannins are not necessarily a bad thing for flavor; in fact they are a very good thing, they just need to be balanced. With just the right amount of tannin, the tasting experience can be greatly improved, as it encourages your taste buds to explore the layers of embedded flavor. And as a bonus, the high tannin concentration of chocolate is the source of all of the healthy polyphenols, epicatechins, catechins, anthocyanins and leucoanthocyanins.
When we empty a batch of liquid chocolate from the conche we pour it into several square containers where it will eventually solidify. The solid blocks of chocolate are then placed on a shelf, where they rest until we think they’re ready. There really isn’t much to it.
Additional notes on aging:
Not all chocolate ages alike as different cacao has varying tannin concentrations and processing requirements. Our Madagascar chocolate, for example, needs much less time than our Costa Rica chocolate.
Let us do the aging. The problem with aging one of our chocolate bars at home is that you risk losing the temper of the chocolate and/or absorbing odors from the environment in which it is stored (the kitchen, laundry room, or that tasty yet stinky cheese in your fridge). We age our chocolate in an out-of-temper state where it is also safe from odor contaminants. After aging is complete, we temper and mold the chocolate. At that point, the clock for the life of the tempered cocoa butter structure begins ticking. If stored in a cool, dry place, the chocolate should keep well for approximately 12-24 months.