Blowin' in the Hair Dryer Wind

When last we left our intrepid chocolate makers (us), we had just finished cracking the beans and were left with a bowl full of nibs and shells.

If you recall, it looked something like this:

Now, shell is not something that you want to eat.  It is not very clean and doesn’t taste very good.  So the obvious next step in the chocolate making process is to separate the nibs and the shell. 

In even the smallest chocolate making facilities this step, called “winnowing,” is normally achieved using some form of machinery to help accomplish the task.  Often winnowing “machines” are pieced together from vacuum cleaners and PVC piping but obviously the machines at larger facilities can be quite complex. 

The basic idea behind most of them, however, is the same.  Cacao nibs weigh far far more than cacao shells and can generally be separated by using that weight disparity.

Of course, the MUCHOMAS Chocolate Test Facility is not even quite as sophisticated as PVC piping and vacuums.  Instead, we used a hair dryer. It works remarkably well.  The only problem is that, being located in downtown Philadelphia; the Test Facility did not have any convenient outdoor area in which to conduct the winnowing.  Remember those old game shows where the contestant would try to grab as many dollar bills as possible while inside a wind tornado?  Imagine that but with no walls and tiny flakes of cacao shell instead of money.

Obviously just letting the cacao shell tornado ravage the Test Facility would be problematic.  And with no outdoor space readily available, Team MUCHOMAS had to get creative with the use of trash-bag tenting.

It took a while, and we probably inhaled more cacao shell than we should have, but it worked pretty well and we were left with a nice heaping bowl of mostly nibs!

Stay tuned next week as we spend an entire afternoon cleaning cacao mass out of a juicer!