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Entered By: Mark
Entry Date: 2014-07-15 08:13:44
Subject: More Chocolate Chronicles

Pastor Philip of the Mennonite Church, is the man with the only dedicated coffee roasting machine around. It is "forced air", meaning that hot air is forced into the roaster with what I could best describe as a turbo fan. The fan pulls in heat from a propane flame, into the chamber that roasts the coffee. The roaster was his own creation. I am sorry; I realize I need to show a photo of this machine as it truly is amazing to me. It is also where I roast a lot of cacao (cocoa) beans.

For a couple months I have been bringing cocoa beans purchased from the market to his roaster, usually in 25 pound batches, as 25 is the capacity of his roaster. Cocoa beans do not require as much roasting as coffee, or the limit would be 20 lbs. Right now Pastor Phillip is out in the mountains, caring for his son's farm. His son and wife are in Siguatepeque, waiting to have a baby. Yesterday I brought his son 100 lbs. of cocoa to roast. 

We broke the cocoa into four 25 lbs batches and roasted each to a different ending temperature so that we could try and determine what roast level would produce the best chocolate. Some of the beans are a little raw for my taste, one batch is overbaked and a little bitter. The ones in the middle taste about right. So now I have the task of breaking, winnowing, chopping, grinding, conching, tempering, storing, aging, re-tempering, moulding and aging about 35,000 cocoa beans.

Cocoa beans, like sugar cane, are innocent enough on their own. You could eat cocoa beans all day, or chew on sugar cane, and I dare say you would have a hard time not losing weight. Sugar cane becomes a health hazard only after you send the cane through machines to extract the juice, boil it down to a concentrate, and crystalize sugar solid. Cocoa beans are something you could not become addicted to, even roasted, as they are at best bitter. Yesterday there was a boy at Pastor Phillip's house who could not stop eating the beans. I gave him some to sample and he just kept on eating. 

At the moment I am looking for a winnowing machine because that part of the task is all at once messy, can be wasteful and tedious. I have tried to construct a mechanism that uses a lot of PVC fittings, tubes and a Shop Vac, but I don't like how much gets wasted. The trick is to blow away the shell, which is lighter, without blowing away the nibs, which are heavier. Too much wind and everything blows into the compost heap. Not enough wind and you have to re-winnow all the shell that falls into the nibs. I also use the local, native method of dropping the cocoa and letting the wind carry the chaff away, but that can take an hour to get enough clean nibs for a single eight pound batch, and only if we have wind. We do not often have wind.

I have seen designs that could be built here. The problem is finding a welder who will not re-interpret your design into something he thinks is superior. I have sent a lot of welder enhanced machines to the scrap metal guy, without ever using them. I am trying to acquire a machine with a  proven design for my own use, without breaking the bank. If it works out well, it could also be rented by local farmers to winnow their beans and corn.

Of all the children here, young men I should say, Eli is the one who has the most interest in the chocolate making process. For this I am thankful. Eli has some severe learning disabilities that would make finding legal wage job in Honduras pretty much impossible. We are hoping that this chocolate business will lead to full time opportunity for Eli and others who need work.

Replies to this message
re: More Chocolate Chronicles  by mike rockert on Wednesday July 16, 2014
     re: More Chocolate Chronicles  by Mark on Wednesday July 16, 2014

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