Wednesday May 19, 2004

If you are looking for fully raw cocoa beans for their health benefits, I have what you want.

I am very excited about this. First of, let me says, these cocoa beans are actually "transitionally organic". What that means is the farms do not yet have their certification, but are in year 3 of the 4 year program and are expecting certification this time next year. On that note, they are also working at having these certified Fair Trade. These particular cocoa beans are from four smaller farms in the Barinas region of Venezuela who are paid a fair trade price.

Over the past few months I have received a huge number of requests for cocoa beans that people can consume raw for their health benefits. In general, I have answered that any of my beans should work for that purpose BUT I highly recommended peeling them as the fermentation process leads to "a quantifiable risk of contamination". No, I have never heard of anyone becoming sick, but I also like to pass on the information I have. On a similar note, I had many people not want the fermented cocoa beans as they were not "truly raw" as the fermentation process does heat them up and it is in theory possible that some of the nutients (flavonal) is lost.

Well, I finally was able to procure some fully unfermented raw cocoa beans that I would recommend for straight, unpeeled consumption. They have a nutty, rather almond like appearance and texture, and are quite different from their fermented counterpart. As they are not fermented, the cocoa flavor is less pronounced, but it is there. What is not there is any hint of bitterness sometimes associated with raw fermented cocoa beans. I personally don't taste any unpleasant bitterness in Criollo, but some people do. This has none of that.

In addition, I also have it's fermented counterpart for sale. I will do a more complete evaluation later (on the order page) but initially, this is a very well balanced, very smooth tasting cocoa bean. It is solidly in the middle road between the Ocumare's fruitiness and and Carenero's heartiness. These are the same bean, but you can see the effect of the fermentation.
Unfermented Barinas Criollo
Fermented Barinas Criollo

Some of the specifics now. I am taking orders for both of these but they are not due for arrival for about another 7-10 days. Orders will ship out first come first serve. The prices are not yet on my order page but are:

OriginType1 lb2 lb5 lb10 lbmore than 10 lb
Venezuelan Barinas - "transitional organic"Unfermented Criollo$16.00$30.72$73.60$140.80E-mail for a quote
Venezuelan Barinas - "transitional organic"Fermented Criollo$17.00$32.64$78.20$149.60E-mail for a quote
If you have any questions, want an quote or want to place an order, just e-mail me at alchemist at pcinw dot com.

If you are looking for a quote or order, tell me which
and please include your mailing address and I will get the information back to you including S/H.

Finally, just because I don't have photos of all of my stocks of beans, here are the rest of them for comparison sake.

Ocumare Criollo
Carenero Superior Criollo/Trinatario
Ghanan Forestero

11:28 am : Posted to: General : Please leave a comment (0)

Wednesday May 12, 2004

This is what my non-too-glamorous setup looks like. The drum very comfortably roasts 3 lbs and could probably do as much as 4 lb or as little as one. Basically, you just get your grill to a different starting temperature (note the dial thermometer inserted in).

Drum roaster on the grill all loaded with 3 lb of Ocumare
Dumping the beans after a 13 minutes roast
All cool and waiting for the next batch
These are a little dark on the outside, but really fine inside

This was my third batch and actually, this roast got a little out of control. The collar holding the drum closed slipped (now it has a new collar) and some beans dropped in a caused a very smoky fire, hence the sooty appearance on the beans. Since I consider this just about the worst I could do, I figure I will go ahead and process these into chocolate and see just how it comes out. It is often said that cocoa beans have a narrow window of good roasting, but these tasted pretty good. Mostly, they are not pleasing to the eye.

I will let you know how it comes out.

BTW, keep an eye here if you have an interest in obtaining some free samples of the varieties I have in stock. I am setting up to do a "Free Sample Friday", but still have to work out the logistics. More details in a few days...

07:17 am : Posted to: General : Please leave a comment (3)

Posted Comments for this update:

[Wed 22:00] Uniknitter email ~ site
What about a photo of the unroasted beans you started with. It's hard to tell how they've changed with no "before" picture.
[Tue 18:40] kris email ~
how do you make it into chocolate.
[Fri 07:51] Alchemist John email ~ site
Well, that is "the" question isn't it. In general, you need to roast the beans, grind them into liquer, add sugar (and anything else you decide on) and refine and conch it. Sound simple? Not to bad really. Just go through each of the links to the right and there is step by step information. If something is not clear, just ask here or email me directly.

Oh, uniknitter, check out the photos on the next entry. Photos of all the beans. Just could not find a good "before" shot for this set.

Monday May 3, 2004

A relatively dedicated group of home coffee roasters use drum roasters fitted onto a gas or wood fired grill to roast anywhere from one to five pounds of coffee at a time. Being one of the air roasting variety of coffee roaster, I decided I needed to come up with a drum roaster for cocoa beans and give it a try. Well I did just that. I took a perforated piece of light lead free sheet metal, rolled and riveted it into a cylinder and added a couple of endcaps of stove pipe to make a nice little 6" diameter, 12" drum. I mounted a rotisserie motor onto my grill (most have these mounts), drilled a square "hole" in each endcap to insert the rotisserie rod and placed a couple of locking collars on each side of the drum end to keep the whole thing in place and together.

For my test run, I loaded the drum with two pounds of Carenero Superior, preheated the grill to about 550 F and started the whole thing rotating with the mounted motor. After about 5 minutes, it smell like brownies baking. Another few minutes and the cocoa beans started popping in what most coffee homeroasters would recognize as first crack. The cracks lasted a few minutes. I opened the grill, withdrew the drum on its rod, loosened one collar with a pair of pliers, and dumped the beans into a waiting bowl.

The previously slightly flat, dusty looking beans (remember, this is a luscious ugly duckling) were now plump, slightly shiny and a nice rich brown. After stirring and cooling a few minutes (while loading the next batch of beans in the drum), I cracked a few beans. They shelled effortlessly and tasted rich and sublime, with no hint of smokiness from the grill.

All told, I roasted up about 12 lb in an hour, about 15 minutes per batch, with three pound batches working very nicely. This is definitely the way to go for cocoa bean roasting in any quantity. Once I get a few more roasts under my belt, I will update the roasting section, along with some links where you can obtain drums and drum roasting information if you don't want to build your own.

03:32 pm : Posted to: General : Please leave a comment (0)

Cocoa Beans
Cracking & Winnowing
Conching & Refining
Tempering & Molding

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