The Thien Baffle for Cocoa Husk Collection, Part 2

I subjected the thien baffle to real winnowing job. Same roasted bean quantity as my previous batches. Same bean cracker also. This was so to avoid any bias.

Winnowing started as soon as the the two first tray came out of the oven. It was working nicely. Nibs coming down to receiving bin and husk collected and deposited to thien baffle assembly.

I had to back-lit the husk collector bin occasionally to see what was going on and check the fill volume. Husk were circling around the bin and dropping to bottom. It is sure a nice sight if the inside if permanently lit.

Sadly, I had to replace the collector bin in middle of the job. Even if it was only half filled. Due to husk swirling motion while dropping, it was forming a slanted landscape reaching the baffle too fast than expected. The next thing, husk getting in the screened exhaust, causing blockage and reduce winnowing efficiency.

There were lots of husks and dust on baffle after winnowing. Need to think ways to make it more efficient. I am going to let this project sleep for a while.

Cocoa Hulls/Shells for Making Tea

cocoa shell

This is interesting. The artisans of Undone Chocolate mentioned cocoa hulls make a delicious tea. I never know how, maybe just steeping or boiling a handful of hulls in water will do the trick.

Unfermented cocoa bean shells have kind of nasty taste, too bitter and astringent. Fermented shells are kind of woody and dusty flavored. Now I am wondering how it taste when prepared like a tea.

At this point, the best use of husk is for fertilizing cocoa tree. Mine fertilize different plants including weeds because I am dumping it near random flora. I thought of including it in hand-made paper but experts told me not to. It contain a lot of nutrients needed by plants and so better be besides their roots.

Going to save some husks for trial.

Lately, I discovered the heaps of cocoa shells is loved by native chickens. They play around it, searching for food and occasionally sleeping.

Base  from what I heard and read, the allowable shell percentage in winnowed cocoa nibs is  one percent. The less is better. I like my chocolate bars to have the best taste possible so I am patiently hand picking the remaining.

Fellow artisan did trial batches, intentionally adding shells. He concluded that a maximum of 5% is tolerable. He did it not to launch such. It was just for the sake of curiosity.

Adding shells to chocolate and related product is not adulteration. It is allowed. In fact a big chocolate company patented this technology. If you see a fiber-rich claim on the label. Then, don’t give it a second thought.

cocoa shell

update: September 20, 2015.

So, after I finished my last batch. I saved a glass half full of large hulls.  I tasted some to verify the flavor consistency. It is still what I said above, woody, dusty and kind of astringent.

I gathered my favorite contraption for tea preparation, the steep style tea pot. Placed the hulls in wire mesh and poured, a recently boiled water and swirl gently for few minutes.  I was considering this a preliminary trial so I never jotted down any measurement. If I ever liked the outcome, then I will do repeat trials to get the formulations to my liking.

Unfortunately, there was no appreciable change after tea preparation. The solution tasted woody, dusty and a bit astringent. I never liked it in short words.  A bit of sugar never made the thing better.

I ingested a few sips and threw off the rest on kitchen sink. I think it is not worth it or just lack a bit of research.

Update as of September 12, 2017

For the sake of education, I added the term “tea” as one of the uses of cocoa shells. I presented it and and one from the audience had a violent reaction.  Cocoa bean like coffee has potential to have Ochratoxin A.  A possible carcinogen.  It is concentrated mostly in shells, so its use for food consumption is highly discouraged.

Without further ado. I closed the curtain for cocoa shell tea experiment.

A lot of inquiries coming in and I see more and more manufacturer venturing into such. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe I need to reconsider.

According to FAO (CAC/RCP 72-2013). Ochratoxin A (OTA) is a toxic fungal metabolite classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as possible human carcinogen (group 2b).  JECFA established a PTWI (provisional tolerable weekly intake) of 100 ng/kg body weight. The main culprits are Aspergillus species.

So it is not a sudden death poison, contrary to what I was thinking. I was so afraid back then! It takes time before the symptoms manifest and cannot be pinpointed to cocoa shell tea in case.  I think the evil within me is getting stronger.

There is a way to control OTA. The fermentation should be carried out properly in such manner that fermentation organisms overpowered OTA producers. Then should be dried fast enough to prevent mold growth and without sacrificing bean quality.  Moisture content requirement is 8% or less. Moisture absorption and re-wetting should be prevented.

After, the only process that can significantly reduce OTA contamination is shell removal. About 95% reduction as proven by studies.

Cocoa Nibs Tea / Steeping Method

steeped cocoa nibs

Now that I am satisfied with my main raw materials (cocoa beans) and the roasting process, I can try what I want besides making chocolate and chocolate drink. A drink made by steeping, brewing or boiling the cocoa nibs. Extracting only the flavors without including the solid part. I know a certain company is marketing this kind in the name of choffy and a great offering in artisinal chocolate shops.

I first try the steeping method using this tea contraption. Use a mug of recently boiled water and two tablespoons of cocoa nibs. I let the nibs as is, no particle size reduction committed. Steeping time is about five minutes, followed by about 15 minutes of enjoyment.

small tea pot

It is more like a tea than a chocolate drink. Taste very much like it with a faint wine and chocolate taste, but without the astringency. I find it very enjoyable. I feel wanna make it part of my morning routine. Hmmm… I could’ve been tastier if I reduced the nibs to smaller particles or perhaps boiled a little.

steeped cocoa nibs

On the contrary, I feel a bit guilty on the used nibs. There is nowhere for it to go but back to where it came from, to land as fertilizer. Water and chocolate are natural enemies so it cannot be used to make one.

Peanut Jar is Imparting Plastic Flavor

cocoa nibs in peanut jar

I did a few tests of this packaging material before, the peanut jar. Leak test, failed. Half-filled the jar with water and shook it. Water droplets were spilling out. It was not conclusive, however, I never used appropriate bottle seal.

Lukewarm water test. The bottle can hold itself well. Fair enough, barely hot water can never harm human skin, what less to a PET type plastic.

Hot water from a thermos. There was a slight deformation after few minutes. And that modest is unforgivable. It might affect the lid resulting to faulty seal. Disruption to structure might have also caused migration of plastic molecules to contents.

The last was hot water steam test. Held the bottle with the lid facing down the rushing steam. It shrunk so suddenly to unusable state, just like a flattened canned softdrink. It won’t budge if it was a heat set PET.

So I concluded. It cannot be used for hot-packing products, but very much suited if allowed to cool to acceptable level. However, I found something interesting recently. The cocoa nibs that I packed in tasted and smelled like plastic. It was faint, but may not in senses of sensitive buds. For me, it was awful, masking the original delicate flavors.

cocoa nibs in peanut jar

Natural and Instant Cocoa Powder ?


For whatever reasons I cannot pinpoint, the cacao tablets I have been making is now easily soluble in hot water. When I say hot I mean recently boiled. Take a piece or two and stir in hot water for about 15 to 30 seconds and it is ready to drink. Almost as good as instant coffee. It is more convenient compared to how we suggest preparation before. Boiling for not less 30 minutes or it will just sit in bottom for eternity. If we think about it, only people with time to spare can enjoy the delicious taste of self made hot chocolate.

I loose track. I started by switching to good fermented beans. Experimented with oven roasting in lieu of unpredictable tulyasi method. Made the particle size as fine as I could. Lastly, hand tempered before pouring into molds. Water solubility must be caused by one of the criteria or two that I’ve mentioned. Whatever, I have no time right now to figure that out. I should recover first the beans I wasted during the long research and development.

Some folks are asking me if I could produce an instant cocoa powder. I always say no for reasons. First, I don’t have the means to produce it. The equipment required is beyond my reach. The bars I was producing were not readily water soluble. I have means of turning them to powder but still, it need boiling to dissolve completely. Last, I never want a powder that has been ripped of butter.

Now, cocoa bars are readily soluble in hot water. I can make powder without extracting off the butter. There still one thing that I can never solve. I did a packaging test. The powder melts easily when held with hands. And if subjected to harsher temperature, it will melt completely and turn to ugly looking mass when hardened.


Maybe the best way is stop experimenting with the powder thing. The better solution, maybe, is revise the suggested serving instruction.

Salvaging Some of The Moldy Cocoa Beans

some moldy improperly dried cocoa beans

I strongly suggest to throw all moldy beans right away. Not for health reasons but for consistent and hight quality flavor. When mold attacked a nicely fermented beans, the nice acidic aroma (nice for me) is being replaced by an awful moldy smell. Sometimes it is only superficial, affecting only the shell and the cotyledon.

Aflatoxins? All beans has it basically. The most loved coffee has its won version called the ochratoxin. There is still a risk of aflatoxin formation on badly stored cacao. However, according to various studies, the amount is too small to cause human danger. Sorry my dear! For now, I am too lazy finding those scientific articles and post it here for your lovely eyes and hungry brain. Some other time maybe.

There are three things to consider. Just in case you are on a tight budget. Cacao beans are in shortage nowadays (in my hometown, Philippines). Salvaging some may work for you. Please keep in mind that there is a high risk of losing valuable customers with this method. Do it at your own risk!

some moldy improperly dried cocoa beans

1) Slight mold on surface are still fine. Put them in separate container. Dry under the sun or other convenient drying method.

2) Half covered with mold? This is a fifty/fifty scenario. Put them in separate container. Dry. Then sniff it one by one. Acidic smelling beans are still okay, throw it otherwise.

3) Fully covered with mold? This is a no no. Moldy nibs, no matter how expertly you roast it will still be moldy, moldy taste and moldy flavor. Take it from me, I tried experimenting with it several times.

If you are a chocolate connoisseur and you feel your customer’s taste buds are on the same level as yours. Then, discard this risky method and stick to high quality beans input. Buy only good fermented beans with no molds, and handle and store them properly to prevent occurrences.