I have been wrestling with whether Chocolate Alchemy should start offering Cocoa nibs for sale. I am of two minds about it. I really want to convince you that it is not difficult to make your own chocolate, and that roasting is not that bad and come one, just jump in and do it. But on the other hand, I don’t want to roast up pound after pound of beans just so you don’t have to. It isn’t that it is difficult and I really want you to have the control of your chocolate. But it is time consuming to set up the grill, in the pacific NW (north wet :-), and supply in a timely fashion, roasted nibs. It is just a different order of magnitude to roast enough for a batch of chocolate and roast enough to supply a business.
So, I have come to a compromise. We are now going to offer unroasted cocoa nibs at no additional charge. This really goes to the heart of making chocolate at home approachable, without sacrificing service (I just could not keep up with demand), quality (fresh roasted is just so much better), and price (the cost of roasting is just not profitable, in the time sense). In addition, I think unroasted nibs may end up being a lot more easy to roast than the whole beans. I am going to start testing on this, but you should be able to roast them very effectively on top of the stove in a wok or large skillet, or with a heat gun in a bowl. Either way you should be able to see so much better how the roast is progressing and have immediate visual and aroma feedback about your roast.
So, if you want fresh unroasted cocoa nibs instead of whole beans, just say so in your order. There should be almost no extra delay as cracking and winnowing with the Cocoa Mill is very easy, and that I can keep up on. What you will get approximately 20-25% less in nibs than in whole beans. You wouldn’t be losing any nibs, just husk. But you wouldn’t be getting an extra “nibbing” fee. So for 2 lbs of cocoa beans, you will get about 1.5 lbs of cocoa nibs, more or less. There is going to be a little husk here a there. I am not perfect and they don’t have to be either. Once you have roasted, the remaining husk will be much lighter and if you just use a blow drier like I outline the in Cracking and winnowing section, that bit of husk will blow right away. The worst case scenario is that the Champion Juicer’s screen will catch it just fine.
Like I said, these will still need to be roasted, but I know it can be done on the stove top. I have roasted coffee that way, and this should be even easier . Sweet Maria’s has a great mailing list for coffee roasting. Wok roasting and heat gun roasting are discussed there quite a bit (I am a member there) and any technique you use for roasting coffee can be applied to cocoa roasting. The temperatures are a bit lower for cocoa, but the techniques are the same. If you want to give one of these methods a try I would recommend practicing with something else first. From my own roasting experience, I would use sunflower seeds. They are about the same size as cocoa nibs and you can see very well if you are burning or scorching them. Once you can roast/toast them gently and evenly you are ready for cocoa nibs. In general, get a good heavy wok or skillet and put it on medium heat. Add your sunflower seeds (or nibs) and gently stir them. Don’t rush them and get the heat too high, or you will just burn them. Adjust your heat a little up or down depending on how they are behaving. I would expect a pound to take 10-15 minutes. The seeds should end up a nice even burnished color. Cocoa nibs should be done when they have darkened a little (but not too much) and smell of baking brownies. If you ruin them, try again. Seeds are a lot cheaper than cocoa nibs. Finally, this is a lot more difficult to explain than to do. Practice with the seeds, ask me questions and finally, just give it a try.