Ask the Alchemist #47

You say the efficiency on your winnowers re 75-82%. As others say 99-100%, I’m sure I am not understanding something because can’t believe you would sell something that doesn’t work that well. Can you explain what is going on.

Lovely question. The crux of the issue is that one number does not do justice to the answer of efficiency of winnowing. When you winnow cocoa there are actually a few factors that come into play that make one number impossible. It’s because three things can happen when you winnow.

1 – You can have husk in your nibs

2 – You can have nib in your husk

3 – You can have both.

So, in the ONE CASE where there is no nib in your husk, and no husk in your nib, you can claim 100% efficiency. But there is no winnower out there to my knowledge that can do that. So anything that bases off that system is inherently not telling the whole story, and should be suspect. Let me lay out a couple cases.

You winnow and have 1 % of your starting weight of nibs in your husk.

Is this 99% recovery because you lost 1%? Not really.

You winnow and have 1% husk in you nibs.

Is this 99% recovery because it could not remove 1% husk?

You winnow and have 1% husk in your nib AND 1% nib in your husk?

Is this 98% recovery? Certainly not as that is absurd.

The first two MIGHT be 99% but are totally misleading because they are describing two different outcomes but are using the same number and language.

Really, you need multiple numbers. Any my preference is to note that depending on the bean, the weight of the husk is anywhere from 18-25% of the weight of the bean. And why I usually say that the recovery is 75-82 % (100 – 18 = 82 got it? Good) AND there is usually less than 0.5% husk in the nib and vise versa. Three pieces of data because there are three things going on.

Furthermore, you will notice I say usually. Any winnower can only work as well as what is fed into it. Irregular, raw, or cocoa beans with a lot of flats simply will not winnow as well as clean, even, roasted cocoa beans.

So there you go. I hope that clears up why I can’t give an exact number and why if you see one, you might want to be suspicious.

And I’ll leave you with a quote I found today that sums this up nicely.

Everything is vague to a degree you do not realize till you have tried to make it precise. — Bertrand Russell

Finally, after 4 years, Fair Trade from Koapa Kokoo is back.  It’s on the way.  Look for it, and a bunch of new crop Venezuela in the next week or two.

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