Make Your Own Cocoa Nibs At Home

Prototype CrankandStein Cocoa Mill
Mill Cracked Ocumare

Ok, not quite, but very very soon and hopefully I got your attention. A number of you have asked why I don’t sell cocoa nibs. Well, frankly, they are a lot of work, and I don’t see the point in that they are only an intermediate step in chocolate alchemy. And I want you to be able to make your own from any cocoa bean you find. So instead of roasting and peeling pound after pound of nibs for sale, I have been pursuing a cocoa mill that will crack the beans efficiently and then let you blow the husk away effortlessly. To that end, I roasted up a few pound of beans and sent them off to a couple of mill designers and builders. So far the best results have come back from CrankandStein (I really love that name!). They have modified their standard grain mill. The gap is now larger to accommodate cocoa beans instead of grain and is a dual drive, three roller design that cracks the husk very nicely I am told. They said it best:

“I got the mill to feed like mad by gearing the rollers together. There will be some differential in the roller speeds due to some design requirements on the gaps between rollers and clearances for the gears, but the fines are being kept to a minimum using a light knurl on the surface. The best setup produced almost no nib flour and husk removal was nearly complete, which I assume is the goal. The chunks of nib haven’t been too large, but the winnowing doesn’t require screening since almost all of what you would get coming through the screen is husk flour and that blows off easily. The overall crush is showing big improvements with each design change. ”

Once again, stay tuned. You will be able to make your own nibs in the near future. The estimated price of the mills will be around $130.00.

9 Responses to “Make Your Own Cocoa Nibs At Home”

  1. Great news, but I take it we’ll still need to pick out the other material by hand (the twigs and what not)? I’ve been shelling them by hand, I time it at one DVD equals twelve ounces of roasted beans. Which is the quantity I use as it makes a nice amount for my 3oz-24oz tempering machine which I also use as a Conch (it mellows the flavor though maybe not as good as a real one would?) $130 will be well worth the time it saves. Now all we need is a refiner. I powder the sugar in a mini-prep, but while it reduces the particle size, when mixed with the chocolate liquor and cocoa butter it is still a little grainy. Passing it through the Champion doesn’t do much, it just comes out of the mesh as grainy as it went in.

  2. You really don’t need to pick it out by hand. We designed in a differential to the rollers so there is a shearing action that mimics the hand motion you go through when you hand peel. What you end up with is a much smaller piece of husk that blows alway quite nicely with a fan.

    The refiner/conch is next on the list to make. Design is done. Just have to get it implimented. I want to combine it to save on equipement and make the whole process more efficient.

    Have you tried using a brewing sugar or a malt sugar? It is next on my list to try. (Hopefully this weekend. Chocolate and truffles.) The brewing sugars are known for caking and clumping which is a sign of a fine powder. Better than powdered sugar with cornstarch added.

  3. By picking out by hand, I was referring to the non-cocoa bean matter that is mixed in with the beans. It is a very small amount by volume, and denser then the nib – the nib would blow away first. They look like petrified twigs, but they are not bean.

    I haven’t tried anything but superfine sugar processed in my Cuisinart mini-prep. It’s been a long time since I brewed at home, but I don’t remember the priming sugar to be anything but superfine in size. I don’t want the cornstarch either but I was going to try powdered sugar to see if the graininess is reduced or not. The results of that experiment will tell me if I need to concentrate more on reducing the particle size of the sugar or if the ground chocolate liquer still has a particle size issue that only shows in the finished product. The straight chocolate liquer doesn’t taste grainy on the tongue, but once it is mixed with the sugar it is grainy. As I temper my chocolate, when I break it I can see some very fine particles that could be sugar enrobed in cocoa butter, but could also be cocoa solids. It is possible the cocoa solids are small enough liquid to not feel grainy, but do feel grainy in the tempered solid stage. At any rate, the powdered sugar experiment will hopefully tell me more.

  4. Oh, those. Yes, either you would have to pick them out by hand or see how the Champion separates them out. I have to say I have yet to remove any non-cocoa material (not that I have really seen any or been looking) but have not noticed any particular negative flavor impact. What beans are you using?

    I just picked up a number of brewing sugars. All the cane and corn sugars are superfine and don’t clump with humidity. The malt sugar does seem finer. I will see how that goes this week and report back.

    I think what you are feeling post temper is the sugar. Those crystals are much harder than cocoa. I definately have to get work started on the conche/refiner.

  5. I’m using the carenero superior. In my twelve ounce batches I only find a couple pieces of flotsam (so to speak) and some strands of what look like coconut husk (obviously not that, but it’s what they look like). I also pick out an ounce or so of anorexic beans because I know I can’t get much nib from them after roasting. With a CrankandStein I would leave the skinny beans in.

    I used the powdered sugar this weekend and it is in the tempering machine spinning around on the melt cycle. As I said before I use this as a conch, letting the wave action of it mix and work off some of the stronger flavors. In this melted stage, it is smoother then my last batch where I tried to powder the superfine sugar in a mini-prep but it wasn’t perfectly smooth.

    I’ll know more Tuesday after I temper it. I taste it then, but I also let it cure until Friday because I read on Chocophile that new chocolate should age 72 hours. I haven’t noticed any difference between just tempered and 72 hours of aging, but I am also not a super taster.

    I have yet to use lecithin. I know it is an ’emulsifier’ and you reported a better tongue feel with it, but I’m still a bit unclear on the whole emulsifier bit. An emulsion keeps water and oil in one piece (can you say mayo), but I don’t see any danger of my chocolate separating. I do notice a lower melt point in what I’m making. Your fingers come away with a chocolate stain by the shortest touch. Would lecithin slow this down?

    By the way, my last batch had the flavor of a fine chocolate – now for the texture.

  6. I finished up a two pound batch yesterday, experimenting with the malt powder. All I can say it DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME. It was smoother BUT the maltose apparently is way to hydroscopic. The additional water combined with the high action of the Champion started crystalizing, carmelizing and burns the chocolate to such an extent the Champion’s thermal switch cut in and the whole thing locked up. No damage but it took an hour to get it all clean as I had to chip off chocolate brittle 🙁 That said, I did not lose the batch. It tastes great, but agian is not as fine as I want it as it only passed through one time. I really did not expect anything different, but it looks like there will be no real shortcuts to smooth chocolate. I will have to develop that home conche/refiner. A real post and pictures (both the carmel and finished dipped truffles and molded chocolates) later.

  7. The batch made with purchased powdered sugar is pretty smooth. I’d say 99.5% smooth. So the grittiness was definitely from the sugar. I’m not sure where the remaining grains are from. It has to be one of the following: Cocoa solids, vanilla solids (I scrape the inside of a vanilla bean – add to sugar and process in mini-prep) or large grains in the powdered sugar. The cornstarch from the powdered sugar didn’t seem to have an effect positive or negative. This is the way to go until a home refiner is developed.

  8. I did not notice really any effect from the cornstarch either, it was more of a principle item. As for the remaining grittiness, I believe that is just “statistics” of what makes it through. Powdering in a blender also gets you into the very smooth category. Enough for the refiner in any case.

    And we are finally in the real planning stage of the refiner. I hope for a prototype in a couple of months. In the mean time, a number of people have thought about using a Cuisinart mixer. What I have told everyone is that I thought of this also (great minds think alike 🙂 and checked with Cuisinart. They say the mixer would not hold up to this kind of continuous use. It is meant for “intermitant duty” only. My thought is that if someone does want to try it, get a timer ($10 or so) that can turn it on and off every 15 minutes. May take a bit longer, but it should not burn out the motor that way.

  9. I am harvesting,fermenting, sundrying right now. Who wants samples of our reg. organic criollo.? I would like some advice on my alchemistic attempts to be tempering choc. by using organic choc. powder, raw cane sugar, cacao butter, lecithin, vanilla. I am reducing the sugar in my organic carob honey to add to the mass . have played with the amounts of each and am close to a smooth, rich what I think a fine chocolate should taste like . Anyways I am double enrobing my fine roasted beans with this idea. Why ?you may ask, well because you cannot get dark choc. in Costa Rica. I don’t have a conching machine. I have neighbours who need work and so all my beans are hand peeled. I want to create a co-op and start this new venture. Looking for ideas, offers, visitors to help us. cheers K

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