Ask the Alchemist #160

Level: Apprentice

Read time: 4 minutes

After winnowing I was told to remove all excess of twigs from the nibs (which is the root of each bean- see picture attached) otherwise my chocolate would be bitter! The task is huge!!! We can only remove 2 pounds per hour per person so for me it is rather an additional stress.

I have been grinding 3 different batches. The first 25lbs batch I left it for 24hrs. It was good but a bit over roasted, the second was much better and I left it for 36 yours. I tried a batch with the “twigs” to taste the difference and this batch grinded for 36 hrs too. I agree that it tasted bitter in the grinder but not so bad once tempered….Please give me your thoughts on these twigs.



My opinion is that it is utter nonsense.  And I’ll say it again, it is my opinion.

Now let’s talk about it.

Those twigs are called the germ of the cocoa bean.  The theory goes, as you described, is that they are horridly bitter and must be removed to make quality chocolate.  I’ve heard this over and over, and have yet to see any solid proof of it.  Just opinion.  Which is all I am giving you.

But try this.  Get a roasted cocoa bean.  Look to the large end.  You will see a small circle like indentation.  With your fingers or tweezers pull out the germ.  Or just crack the bean and pull it out.  Taste it.   Chew it up really well.

Is it bitter?  To my tastes it is not.  It’s a bit harder than a nib (but it will still refine down), but mostly I find it woody and neutral tasting.  And even if it were, how could something that amounts to less than 1% of the weight of the chocolate ruin it?  I have real trouble believing that.

So maybe it reacts with something in the chocolate and makes it bitter?  Great theory, but having done tasting after tasting, I have yet to find that substantiated.   I cannot taste any difference and I’ve never met a person that can tell me from a blind tasting whether a chocolate has had the germ removed.  I’ve only seen the reviews where a bar is raved over and it is disclosed that the maker has gone to the extra trouble to remove the germ.

Correlation is not causation for one.  And two, that sound suspiciously like cherry picking data or knowledge based bias.  You know it does or does not contain germ and skew your expectations and what you think you taste accordingly.

And also the assertion does not take into account the huge number of award winning chocolates out there that have germ.  It seems conveniently ignore that.

My suggestion is to do the test again.  Make sure you use the exact same roast batch and that you blind taste the results.  And in a perfect test, have more than just two samples.  Make up 4 of each and taste them all.  Blind.

I’d put money on you not being able to tell them apart reliably.

If it turns out you can, then ok.  I’m a supporter of data and YOUR tastes.  If you like it better without germ, then by all means remove it.  But do it because it REALLY makes a difference AND you like the difference more.

My suggestion as always is to make the chocolate you like.  And not do extra work that is not needed.

In my case that means I ignore the germ.  And think you should too.

Those are my thoughts.