Hot Cacao: Roasting, Grinding, and Drinking

I’ll start by saying that I recently read it’s only in English that we feel the need to differentiate the words cocoa (the stuff we put in everything, the luxurious ingredient that I’ve used for comfort and congratulations throughout my life), and cacao which is the bean where it comes from. Cocoa is the English adaptation of cacao. The main difference in the meaning though is that cacao means the raw beans, unroasted, and cocoa is after roasting.

A couple of months ago I saw an ad on Instagram for Crio Bru. The ad, and then the website, explained that it is not coffee, but roasted cacao beans. I drink a lot of coffee, and if I wasn’t trying to lose weight (perpetually) I would drink hot chocolate all the time. I’ve tried sugar free packets of cocoa and don’t like it. I’ve tried, more times than I can count, heating almond, cashew, you-name-it dairy and non-dairy milk, and adding unsweetened cocoa and Splenda or other sweeteners. It’s never very good. This concept was something different though, something I hadn’t thought of. They roast the cacao beans, grind them, and boom, something like coffee but actually chocolate. I’m a sucker for online ads, and for TV ads back when I had cable and commercials. I bought a 10oz bag for $14.99, though I bought it from Amazon. It still came from the same company it’s just easier that way, no shipping, and I’d get it more quickly.

I received it a few days later. The site says to use a French Press for optimal results but I didn’t have one so I used it in my percolator. Wow, it was really, really good. But I felt like it would be better with a more intense brewing process.

This led me to buy a Turkish coffee pot. When I lived in Massachusetts and was tutoring a priest from Jordan to help with his English, he would make me Turkish coffee each week. It was thick and rich and wonderful. So I ground the grounds more finely and made Turkish cocoa. It was wonderful except I’d end up drinking sediment. It was chocolate sediment but still not ideal. So I bought a tiny strainer. Better but still a hassle. The other problem was that it made tiny cups.

One day, while shopping in Grocery Outlet, I saw a French Press for $9.99. And that was when the fun began. I went through the first bag so quickly, and knew this was going to be my new favorite drink so I had to find a cheaper way to get the product. A year or so before I’d bought raw cacao nibs from Amazon to add to smoothies. I found this 2 lb bag for $14.99. Since then I’ve bought a second bag. Anthony’s makes a great product.

After some experimenting, here’s how to make this at home, inexpensively and deliciously.

Spread a thin layer on a cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes at 375 degrees or until it looks like picture 2, dark and roasted. The house will smell so good. Note the color of the nibs in my hand. They will be nutty and crunchy. The raw ones have a vinegar under-taste.

From there I put them in a spice grinder. If you have a coffee grinder, even better, but I just have a spice grinder and it works fine. Just a few quick pulses. If you grind too finely it won’t work well.

For each 8 oz of water I use two tablespoons grounds. Add ground nibs to the bottom of the French Press, add almost boiling water, insert the plunger part way down, not all the way, just enough until it’s a little submerged in water. Make sure the grate part of the plunger is turned so there’s a tight seal. Wait 5 minutes (longer if you want it richer) then push the plunger down all the way. Turn the top to expose the grate, and pour it out. You’ll lose some water in the grounds. I generally use 2 cups of water and 4 tbl of ground nib and it fills the mug below about 3/4 of the way. If you’re making smoothies, you can use the grounds for that later. They taste good as is and I hate throwing away perfectly good chocolate. They have calories though so use them sparingly. I can’t say for sure how many calories or carbs my creation has but Crio Bru (per myfitnesspal) says it’s 10 calories per 8 oz and 1 carb and I can’t see how it would be much different since I’m just using raw nibs, roasting, grinding, and drinking.

Despite being a sugar fiend, I mostly drink this with nothing in it at all. It’s really dark and rich as is. But I’ve experimented a little and found that pouring a little Torani Salted Caramel sugar free syrup onto the beans before adding water, adds even more flavor. I’ve also tried a Truvia or Spelnda packet. It’s all good, it’s just dependent on what you like.

I hope you enjoy the drink as much as I do!