1. Roast the cocoa beans. The process is similar to roasting coffee beans, except with gentler requirements: 5-35 minutes at temperatures between 120-160 degrees C(250-325 degrees F). You must generally expose the beans to an initial high temperature, lower the temperature gradually, and stop roasting when the beans start to crack (but not burn). The first image shows the cocoa beans before roasting, and the second image shows the after-result. You can accomplish this in your oven or by using a store-bought roaster.
* If roasting in your oven, you will need to do a bit of experimenting because roasting times depend on the type of bean you're using. Lay the beans in a single layer across a cookie sheet. Start off with an 18 minute roast in a preheated oven at 120 degrees C (250 F). They'll be ready when they start to crack and when they actually taste like chocolate (let them cool before tasting!).
For roasting larger quantities of cocoa beans, you may want to invest in a drum, which is rotated over a gas grill.
* See the Tips and Warnings below about roasting.
Crack and winnow the beans. After roasting, the beans must be cracked into nibs and winnowed, whereby the husks (chaff) are removed.
* You can crack the beans with a hammer and remove the husks (which should be loose after proper roasting) by hand if you are working with a small batch.
For larger batches, you can use a very coarse, Corona type mill or purchase a specialized mill  (shown here, also see Citations below) to crack the beans into nibs. (In case you were wondering, a meat grinder doesn't work.)
To winnow the nibs, stir them gently with your hands or a spoon as you blow on them with a hair dryer or small shop vac until the husks are blown away.
Grind the nibs into a cocoa liqueur. You will need equipment strong enough to liquefy the nibs and separate the remaining husks. General food processors, Vita-Mix, coffee grinders (burr and blade), meat grinders (manual and electric) mortar and pestles, and most juicers will not work. You may need to experiment to find equipment that gets the job done. Many home chocolatiers find success with a "Champion Juicer" (see Citations below). Feed the nibs into the juicer one handful at a time, being sure to push them in gently (not forcefully) or else the motor may overheat. Cocoa liqueur will come through the screen and a mixture of husks and liqueur will find its way through the spout. Feed this mixture through the juicer again until only the husk comes through the spout.
Conch and refine the chocolate. By definition, conching affects the characteristic taste, smell and texture of the chocolate, while refining reduces the size of the cocoa solids and sugar crystals. Both processes can be applied at the same time with a powerful wet grinder (success has been reported with a Spectra 10 melanger, also called the "Stone Chocolate Melanger"; see Citations below). How you conch and refine the chocolate will depend on what equipment you use, but here are guidelines for the Spectra 10 melanger:
* Melt the chocolate and the cocoa butter in the oven to about 120 degrees F.
* Combine with non-fat dry milk powder, sugar, lecithin and a vanilla pod (split and soaked in the cocoa butter 1 hour; this is an optional flavoring).
* Pour the chocolate mixture in the grinder, periodically pointing a hair dryer at it for 2-3 minutes to keep the chocolate melted during the first hour (until the friction created by grinding keeps the chocolate liquid without additional heat being needed).
* Continue refining for at least 10 hours and no more than 36 hours, until the chocolate tastes smooth and balanced, but be sure not to over-refine (or it will get gummy).
* To take a break from refining (e.g. at night while you're sleeping, see Warnings), turn off the grinder, put the covered bowl into an oven that's preheated to 150 degrees F but turned off, and leave it there overnight. It shouldn't solidify but if it does, take the cover off and turn the oven on to about 150-175 degrees F until the chocolate melts (be careful not to let the bowl itself melt, though).
Temper the chocolate. This is likely the most difficult part of the process, but it ensures that the chocolate will be shiny and have a "snap" to it, rather than being matte and soft enough to melt in your hands. However, the great thing about tempering is you can do it as many times as you like and the chocolate won't be ruined. Alternatively, you can purchase a tempering machine on the Internet for $300-400 (US). The most important thing is that you do not let any moisture in the chocolate, or it will be ruined.
Answered By: !3OH3! - 12/10/2010