If much attention is given to green coffee beans prior to roasting then the same meticulous tinkering should be paid to cocoa beans. For coffee, a single defect might be enough to render a cup bad. The same goes true for cocoa beans. Roasted cocoa are cracked and winnowed to removed to skins, allowing the removal of some foreign materials. This is not an excuse to skip thorough sorting prior. Some unwanted materials such as plastic are burned under high heat imparting bad flavors and odors. Others are just not meant to be roasted.
I am choosing between “selected” and “good” cacao beans so I don’t have to worry much about the sorting process. However, it still need a quick sort. These are the items I normally discard.
Selected means sorted. Good are also sorted but with bigger beans.
Flat Beans. There is no point of including those. They are flat and literally have very thin to no cotyledon at all. Flats should not be included during fermentation to drying process. I guess farmers are still adding it to add weight.
Broken Beans. They should be broken after roasting, not before. Broken tend to roast faster and likely to burn towards the end.
Dried Fiber Chunks. Looks like beans from afar but actually not. Perhaps they are part of the center stalk that holds the beans together while inside the pod.
Holed beans. Beans with holes especially those that are very light. They are infested with weevils. Light holed beans are severely infested. Almost all of the cotyledon has been eaten. Nothing is left but weevil dung and some cobweb-like structure. If the whole bag is severely infested with weevil, then I have no choice but to reject them all.
Wet beans. A result of insufficient drying. Hmmm… How can I blame them. More weight means more money. I only accept it if it is fermented and has no mold growth, but for a lower price. I explain to farmers in our local that I still need to dry them prior to roasting.
Moldy beans. It is a consequence of insufficient drying and improper storage of adequately dried beans. Water is a requirement for mold to grow. Improperly dried beans might have more than enough water to serve as mold breeding ground. On the other hands, beans, stored in moist to wet areas will absorbed water. Molds impart bad flavor to beans.
Unfermented beans. This is not a big issue but I prefer fermented beana whenever possible. It is easy to tell fermented from not. The first smells sour. Unfermented beans are processed by mouth sucking after opening the pods then force removal of residual fibers, or directly forcing the removal all fibers by washing it with sand. I think more knowledge should be extended to local cacao farmers.
Foreign materials. Wood, papers, plastic tie, cigarette butts, stones, broken glass. Accidentally added during the course of drying process. The common and economical way to dry is using the sun’s heat. Beans are laid on drying patios or on street sides. Plastics greatly affect flavor, stones may cause damage to grinder teeth while broken glass is dangerous when ingested. All foreign materials should be removed regardless of its type.