Boasting About Roasting
Now you're all set to make your chocolate. But if you thought that you could just spend a few hours after work whipping up a batch, you'd be wrong. It's at least a weekend project -- the grinding and conching process alone takes at least 12 hours. And for your first try, you may have a few missteps along the way and need to start over. So give yourself plenty of time and enjoy the process; that's part of the fun.
If you really want to skip the whole roasting rigmarole, you can buy pre-roasted cocoa beans from many suppliers. Roasting is one of the easiest parts of the process, though. Notice I said easiest, not easy. There's no one temperature or length of time to use when roasting those beans. Some beans benefit from a longer roast. Criollo beans, however, might lose their delicate flavor if you toast them too long. Generally, you'll want to roast your beans until your kitchen has a nice chocolaty aroma but without that burned smell. You'll hear hissing and popping as moisture escapes and the hulls crack. You should be able to remove the hull easily from properly roasted cocoa beans.
With oven roasting, most people start at a high temperature, slowly lower it over time and then hold the beans at that lower temperature for awhile. For example, you might start one pound of beans out at 300 degrees Fahrenheit and slowly lower it down to 300 degrees over a period of 15 minutes, then keep it at 300 for another 10 minutes. If you decide to use a drum roaster, you'll want to pre-heat your gas grill to about 500 degrees, put the filled drum on the rotisserie and let it roast for 15 minutes.
Coffee roasters vary, so it's hard to give an example -- you'll have to judge by smell and check carefully. But that's the case with any roasting method; it's a trial-and-error process. Unless you outright burn the beans, though, they'll probably still make tasty chocolate. You may want to start with a very small sampling of beans and see where it takes you. Take notes and find out which temperatures and times work best for each batch.