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Entered By: Mark
Entry Date: 2014-07-21 11:14:06
Subject: Winnowing

"He is ready to separate the chaff from the wheat with his winnowing fork. Then he will clean up the threshing area, gathering the wheat into his barn but burning the chaff with never-ending fire."

-Matthew 3:12

Well, this is not that serious. We're only talking about chocolate, but perhaps you'd like to see what winnowing is about, or at least a modern take on it? Below is a system we made, loosely based on a design I found on the Internet...

First we give you "Exhibit A". The photo below shows a mass of cocoa nibs (the good stuff) and the husk/shell all mixed together. This is what you get after you crack the beans, which is necessary to loosen the shell from the bean.

Nibs and shell together, unseparated.

Nibs and husk together

Below is a photo of cocoa beans before they are cracked and made the mess you see above.Cocoa Beans

Cocoa Beans

Below is our jerryrigged system that winnows cocoa. On top is a funnel to pour unseparated cocoa nibs and shell into. The Shop-Vac provides enough suction to pull the lighter shell into the bucket on the left, while the denser nibs fall into the bucket on the right. It does not give 100% separation, but after the first pass, I'd say about 98% of the shell is gone. I run the clean stuff through the winnower one more time and we're over 99.5% clean, by mass. The red valve on the right can be adjusted to send more of the mass into the bucket, left. If it is closed off completely, more of the clean nibs end up in the shell bucket. I usually remove the clean nibs, then run the contents of the shell bucket a couple more times to recover more of the nibs.

Cocoa winnowing system

In contrast to using traditional wind separation, the above process takes about 1/10th of the time to clean beans.

Below is a photo pouring the unseparated mass into the winnower.

pouring cocoa mass into winnower

Eli repeatedly assists, voluntarily. He has learned to use several of the machines required to make chocolate, on the small scale that we manufacture.

Eli assisting in cocoa winnowing

Below is the cleaned bucket of cocoa nibs. Sorry, I don't normally stick my hands in it, but wanted you to see the scale/size of the nibs. As you can see, after one pass, there is still some shell, but not a lot by mass. Still, we ran it through a second time to achieve a much cleaner product. If you were to pick up some of the nibs and pop them in your mouth at this point, it would have the taste of unsweetened chocolate, with the texture of a roasted nut. It's not bad, but definitely not addictive. Once ground, sweetened, and tempered, the crunchy nut below becomes the smooth, silky chocolate you're used to. Yes, after grinding it melts like chocolate. No, you don't add anything to make these "nuts" into a liquid. You just grind and the cocoa butter within them becomes liquid at a temperature of over 95F.

This is the "clean" bucket of cocoa nibs.

Below is a photo of cocoa shell, on the left, and cocoa nibs, on the right, after separation.

Nibs and shells, contrasted


As stated previously, the "dirty" bucket contains mostly shell, but also nib. After taking a first pass and removing the clean nibs, we run the shell bin a couple more times to recover a bit more. Below are the nibs recovered after the third pass of the dirty bucket.  Not much recovered on third time, so we stopped.  Second pass had probably three times as much nib as the third pass. In the next round of winnowing I will probably try to adjust the valve to remove more of the pure shell before trying to get clean nibs. 

3rd run of the shell, through the winnower.

Aside from chocolate for clients, we have some lovely smelling, cocoa shell compost for our flower beds, below.

Cocoa shell, for compost

Replies to this message
re: Winnowing  by mike rockert on Tuesday July 22, 2014

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