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Colombian Santander - Lot 3666 & 3668 - 2011

Sadly, the Venezuelan Porcelano is gone, and although not a replacement for it (hah, I make myself laugh there), two new lots of a brand new origin are in. Colombian Santander.  This is a perfect example why one should not judge a book (or bean) by it's cover (or appearance).  It's not pretty, but neither is Carenero Superior, but both have a complexity that are hard to beat. Have a look, try both lots and compare for yourself.

And speaking of Carenero Superior, it and Ocumare are due in from Venezuela (yeah, our first partial container) and should be available around the turn of the year.  There will be full bags of each available, so if you have an interest in quantity, contact me as I'm sure these are going to go fast.

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Making your own cocoa butter

It seems like I get asked this a lot. So far I've not found a practical way to do it. Or at least way that makes it a reasonable alternative to just buying some. One of the few times that DIY isn't superior, even with extra worth on your part. There is about 50% cocoa butter in a cocoa bean. Even the best presses, with literally tons of pressure and heat, they only get a recovery of about 80% (meaning they remaining cocoa mass has about 20% cocoa butter in it). Well, I had something happen the other day that although isn’t perfect, does give you a way to make a bit of your own cocoa butter.

Every year, has the holiday season comes around, I combine all the chocolate samples I have (usually 50-100 lbs) and make it into truffles. This year I had a minor mishap with a small test batch while dialing in some scotch flavored centers. As I was finishing up stirring in the cream to the chocolate (1:2) it started to separate. I since determined this has a higher chance of happening if you don’t have lecithin in your chocolate. In this case I had an ‘ah ha’ moment, as I realized that was cocoa butter on top and people keep asking me how to press their own cocoa butter.

Armed with this inspiration, I did a 500 gram test to see just how much cocoa butter I could get.

I mixed in 250 grams boiling water.

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Stirred well until it seized, then stirred some more.

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I put it into a colander to drip, pulling as much as I could to the sides so I had lots of surface area for the cocoa butter to flow from, noticing it liked to come to the surface. I put this into a warm oven to drip for a flew hours stirring once in a while.

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The result? Cocoa butter…..66 grams. Considering there was about 250 grams in there, I only got about 25% of what I could have. Poor showing into my mind.

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I went on to try putting the mass in a bag and pressing it…..and nothing happened. I even pulled out my sake press (it’s a screw press) and really applied the pressure…and ….pictures speak volumes.

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Blow out - the chocolate pressed right through the seams and fine screen of the bag. So, at the end of the day, can you make your own cocoa butter? Sure, but it is going to be a bit of work, and very expensive since you are only getting about 12% of your starting mass. So really just sort of novelty.

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Holiday Schedule

With the start of the holiday season orders have approximately doubled and shipping will most likely take an extra day or so from the time of your order.  Please account for this in ordering if you need something by a certain date.  For actual shipping times use this chart as an APPROXIMATE gauge. ups-shipping.JPG

This is valid for both UPS and USPS, but be aware that USPS does NOT guarantee these times and may take longer.

As a rough rule of thumb, this means if you need something shipped to Florida (as a near worst case example), and it needs to arrive by Christmas, you should order 7 working days (5 for transit, 2 to ship) before the 23 rd (the last delivery day) or December 14 th.  And really, December 12th would be better.  Anything past that and you will need to look at faster shipping by UPS (not USPS).

As always, I will do my best to accommodate rush orders, but I suspect to see a LOT of them, and I simply will not be able to fill them all - I am only one person doing all of this.  So, meant in the best possible way, with tongue placed slightly in cheek (but still true)

"Bad planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part"   - Please plan your orders and shipping accordingly.  Thanks.

In addition, I and my daughter will be taking a much needed break after the 25th and I will be scarce for the week between then and New Years, probably only shipping once or twice that week, most likely Wednesday and Friday (or maybe just Friday). And here is wishing you a lovely holiday season. Alchemist John

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Brewing Cocoa

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Brewing Cocoa

I have gone through and tasted all of the cocoa beans I have in stock and evaluated them as Brewing Cocoa.  Where as, in my opinion, all have the potential to make great chocolate, not all translate into brewed chocolate well....

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Brewing Cocoa

There has recently been a lot of buzz about various brewing chocolates.  Choffy and  Crio Bru are the two big ones that come to mind.  I've received more inquires than I can count about what makes them so special, if my roasted cocoa beans will work and how one can make their own hot chocolate drink with minimum fuss. Up until this point, I didn't have any really good answers.  Now I do.

I ordered up both products (I could not get any courtesy professional samples).  What I got was this

Looks a whole lot like ground cocoa with the husk on to me.  Here's the two commercial ones and one I prepared. choffy1.JPG

I set up a flight of 3 tests.  Choffy, Crio Bru, and Roasted Peru.

Their two I dosed as roughly recommended (2 T/ 4.25 oz 'cup' for Crio Bru, 2-3T/6 oz 'cup' for Choffy - side note, WTF is it with coffee (and now cocoa) measuring 4, 5 and 6 oz 'cups' - a cup is 8 ozs, thank you, end of story) and for mine, 40 g/8 oz.  I ground mine coarsely in my hand burr grinder.  A whirley blade spice grinder will work.  High speed burr coffee grinders may or may not (I think not, but don't have one to try) work as the cocoa butter may melt and coat the burrs. Just so we stay consistent here, 1 T = ~10 g.   I brewed up 8 oz of each (in a french press - steeped for 5 minutes), and luckily, they all fall into a dosing of 4T or 40g per 8 oz CUP.

Here they are all brewed up.

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Can you tell the difference - neither can I.

Could I taste the difference - well, in a matter of speaking.  They are three different origins.  Dominican Republic for Crio Bru, Ivory Coast for Choffy, and Peru as I already mentioned for mine.  Here are my tasting notes, tasted 'blind' of course. Crio Bru was a little fruity and mildly chocolatey in the nose.  It had a nice mouth feel, an ok chocolate flavor and a bit as astringency.

Choffy had more chocolate in the nose but not much else.  It had a full mouth feel, a moderate chocolate flavor, but not much else going on except a little sharpness.  About what I would expect from Ivory Coast - it's Forastero, so has a good chocolate backbone, but not a huge amount of subtlety.

Chocolate Alchemy's Peru matched the Choffy in chocolate aroma, and some soft fruits.  The mouth feel was between the other two, but more approachable in my opinion.  Nice chocolate, some plum and banana flavors and a 'round' mouth feel.

I also tried these all with a little sugar and milk, just for the sake of completeness.  I can't say any were better or worse than any other.  The milk definitely rounded out the rough edges that I noted in the Choffy and Crio Bru.  And with sugar, they all start approaching what many people think of as a hot chocolate flavor.

On that last comment about hot chocolate flavor, I should mention brewed cocoa, regardless of source, is not an intense, thick mouth coating drink like many are accustomed to in hot chocolate or the other various processed chocolate drinks.  It's more subtle and sublime than that.  It is its own drink.  If you compare it to hot chocolate, you may come away disappointed.  If you evaluate it for it own flavor and merits, I think you will come away impressed.

So, in review,

  • They all looked about the same.
  • They all tasted very similar, with variation for origin
  • They are all roasted, ground cocoa beans.

Choffy claims some other proprietary processing method  (and they may have one) but if it looks like a duck, and it quacks like a duck and it tastes like a duck....you get the point.

The only other point I will make is this:

  • Crio Bru: $14.95/12 oz bag
  • Choffy: $15.00/12 oz bag
  • Chocolate Alchemy Roasted beans: $10-14.50/LB (update - you can now order Brewing Cocoa directly, and it will come all roasted and ground)

I'll let my very intelligent customers decide which way to go.

Finally, I will say, in I hope the next week or so (in between winnower building) I will be setting up a Brewing Chocolate category, with 8 oz bags of roasted and ground cocoa beans, with tasting notes.  In the mean time, if you would like your roasted beans ground, just leave me a note when checking out and I will be more than happy to prepare them for you.  Otherwise, you can grind them yourself in a spice grinder and you will be on your way to a new luscious taste experience. Just remember:

  • 4 T/8 oz boiling water
  • Steep 5 minutes
  • Press (assuming you are using a press pot - drip works ok too)
  • Enjoy straight, with milk (or cream) and/or sugar.

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The Aether "Sprite" Winnower

Sometimes I just can't help myself.  I don't have the full size Aether readily available (although, it's marching quickly closer), but I had to see if I could put together what I've wanted for years - a table top winnower. And I did.  May I present the Aether "Sprite"  -                                    aether-logo-sprite-small.JPG

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All the same basic features of the full size model, just smaller.  The only major difference is there is no cracker or feeder.  But this is intended to couple with the other table top equipment and it's no problem with you cracking in the Champion or Crankandstein and hand feeding.  5-10 lbs is a breeze.  And it works with virtually any size shop vac.  The one attached is a tiny 1 gallon one. More details later, both plans and pricing.

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Announcing the Aether Winnower

I would like to officially announce the Aether Winnower. aether-logo.JPG

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50 lb capacity cracker.  Dual air flow calibration.  Clear sided husk trap.  Stainless steel, aluminum, PVC construction. 1+lb/min winnowing rate.

And you can see the distribution of husk and nib.  I just can't ask for better than that.  80.7 % recovery.

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I will be contacting those interested in beta units for testing.  More later.  Inquiries welcome.

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Peru - FT/Org now in

A new beautifully prepared Criollo from Peru is in.  It's also available Wholesale, by the bag or even MT if that's your need. As far as the winnower is concerned, some beta units are being built.  Right now aluminum and PVC.  I have some pricing for Stainless steel and the first numbers coming in are looking like that material will easily add $1000-1500 to the price.  Ouch I know.  As for clear plastic, oddly, it may end up being cost prohibitive.  I'm having trouble finding anyone to make low volume prototypes and the tooling for injection molding is putting it above stainless so far.

On the other side, I have put together the parts for an even smaller system.  Basically a bare bones one that is easy to build and has no frills.  I'll keep you posted.

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Chocolate Alchemy's DIY Winnower part 3

A picture is worth a 1000 words...and I'm just not up to a thousand words right now. cropped-winnower-sm.JPG

That is the official working model.  40 lb hopper.  Husk bin to contain that and more.  All neat and slip fit with no guess work for assembly.  It breaks down easy for shipping.  It processed 40 lbs of roasted beans into 31 lbs 3 oz of nibs in 31 min 8 seconds. Technical note:  I have a slight riser in the husk waste stream (for overall design reasons, not performance reasons).  It's 18".  I found any more than that and the drag in the tube was too great and the specified vacuum had trouble providing enough suction.

Next it goes into metal, polycarbonate and pvc.  All stainless steel after that.

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Chocolate Alchemy's DIY Winnower part 2

It has come to light that a few clarifications are in order. Very first off.  The use of the Champion.  The Champion is being used as a cracker and feeder.  The screen holder needs a little minor modification.  It comes with a grid which needs to be clipped out, and it needs to be attached (left as an exercise to the student) to the rectangular PVC fitting.  You can see what I did - a light piece of sheet metal folded up and screwed on.  That's it.  Can you do it without the Champion?  Er, yes, I guess you can, but you have to crack the nibs still, and then feed them by hand, and your efficiency will drop - why not just use the Champion?  Money?  Fair enough.  Your call then. champion-detail.JPG

And yes, I will be offering that piece for sale once I can catch my breath.

The next clarification is: what in the world that 'disk' is for, is it REALLY needed  (oy, no comment), and exactly where does it go?

From this point on that disk is now a 'Deflector' - 'deflectors up captain' (sorry, couldn't resist, but I guess we ARE talking rocket science here).  Its job is to deflect the husk and nib that are barreling down the feed tube, at a fraction of the speed of light (OK, a VERY VERY small fraction), dissipating their momentum, and allowing them to enter the air streams ('whatever you do, don't cross the streams...' 'ok, we are going to cross the streams...') (let me know if you need the old pop culture reference)...where was I? - oh yeah.  When the nibs and husk enter the air stream at near zero velocity momentum, they enter in a controlled fashion, and can be acted on by the air stream with minimal fuse - the result, if you have not noticed, is no long drop tube.  It's not just short - it's GONE.  The nibs drop about 2", are out of the major flow because they are below that 2" hole, and the husk immediately turn upward and are carried away.  In nearly all the designs I experimented with, the drop tube's only function was to slow down the husk via an upward moving air stream so it could be turned around and carried away.  Here, the deflector does the job.

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And likewise, I will offer up this piece for sale once I catch my breath.

Next set of questions?

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Chocolate Alchemy's DIY Winnower

Okay, for those of you completely chomping at the bit, here is the first draft of an easy to build and operate Do It Yourself (DIY) winnower.  It's made from 2" and 3" PVC fittings and pipe, a Champion Juicer and a common Shop-Vac.  You will need to work out a support structure for it if you want to build one now, but that too will come along at some point in the next month or so.  It will handle both roasted and raw cocoa beans.  Roasted behave much better, but in either case, the better the bean preparation, the better the separation.  It will produce 1 lbs of nibs in just over a minute and will average 77-79% recovery when 'tuned' properly.
I have not yet detailed every last bit of information on how to assemble it, but  I wanted to get it out there.  I will be talking at length as to how and why it works, how the inspiration came (it's from 15 years as a chemist working with quadupole and ion trap mass spectrometers - how's that for a small tease?).There are virtually endless configurations that can work - and of course virtually endless variations that will not work.  If you can build it exactly as is, perfect.  If you feel you must modify something, PLEASE try not to change the pieces in yellow.  Their dimensions, sizes, lengths, configurations, etc WORK.  But as you will notice, there are LOTS of places you can customize for your needs.That's it for now - here it is:winnower-v1-no-notes.JPGAnd here are the more detailed plans.

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Feel free of course to e-mail me if you have questions.  If you build it, you will have to 'tune it' by adjusting the two valves to regulate the air flows.  Off hand, as an estimate, the valve on the left can be all the way open for raw nibs, and about 1/3 close for roasted nibs.  The valve on the right is adjusted to regulate the total flow and is closed until husk stops falling out of the nib exit.  Again, I'll detail tuning in greater depth, and email if you want more information now. Finally, and please pardon my soapbox (stepping up as we speak), but PLEASE don't ask me why I didn't design it this way or that way.  I can't answer that negative question. The base answer is I've designed and built something that works with parts that are off the shelf, and/or very simple to make if you have a mind to.  And I don't fix what isn't broken.   Is it perfect?  No.  Is it $35,000? No.  Is it $5,000? No.  Am I a little defensive - yeah, maybe a little.  In almost every case the answer as to why this or that isn't in there is cost and ease of making it.  This is an elegant, simple design that works.  Are there places for improvement?  Yep, and they will most likely add cost because they will be more complex.   (stepping down).  But right now for about $50 in PVC, plus a Champion (which you may well have), and  a Shop-Vac (again that you may have), plus a couple hours time, you can have an automated working winnower. That all said, feel free to ask why I designed it a certain way (do you note that difference?).  I am more than happy to discuss why it is designed as it is and how it works.

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Chocolate Independence Day

Could the timing be any better?  For what you ask?  Let me ask you a couple questions. 1)  Where is the bottle neck in the chocolate making process currently?

2)  How much do you love winnowing by hand?

3)  How much do you want to spend $5000 on a winnower?

You have all heard how much and for how LONG I've been working on a winnower.  Delay here, delay there.  Costs rising. Issue here.  Issue there.  Well, all those delays, learning, time, effort and money have paid off. I had what can only be described as an epiphany a couple days ago based on everything I've learned over these years.  I literally ran out to the hardware store, picked up very specific pieces of PVC, and as of this morning I have a fully working, compact, inexpensive winnow with cracker.  It uses the champion juicer and a standard (albeit large) shop vac and does around 1 lb of nibs per minute.  It works hands free, adjustment free and assembles in an hour or so.

I'm a big fan of transparency, so here's my plan.    Once I fine tune the assembly I'll put the plans out.  Free.  There may end up being a couple 'fussy' connections, but I'm going to try to minimize them.  Where I can't part two of the plan comes together.  I'll find a way to have them made and offer them for sale.  And finally, for those that just don't want to put one together and just want to buy it turn key, I will offer that also, plus (I hope) a non-pvc model in metal and/or plexiglass.

That's it for now.

Happy (Chocolate) Independence day.

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Back in Stock

A few more bags of Venezuelan Chuao have made it in.  Right now I have a single 'spare' bag available for wholesale.  Multiple bags (50 kg) are available.  Please contact me directly if you would like pricing and more information. Also, Soy Milk Powder is back and makes a GREAT dairy free "milk" chocolate.  Combine it with the Chuao and you can have a killer dairy free milk chocolate.

I just took out the following batch of 53% (ok 52.9%) dairy free milk chocolate from the Melanger.  Due to the high solids content, refining time was about 48 hours.

22 oz Roasted La Red nibs (what you get from 2 lbs of whole beans)

32 oz Natural Cocoa butter

32 oz Sugar

16 oz Soy Milk Powder

Now that that is actually written up from my notes (I kept adding ingredients until I liked the consistency and flavor), I'm rather  please and surprised to see all the whole numbers (in pounds) fall into place.  That's looking very much like a new kit....  Fun.  So far I have not had a single person realize it's not 'regular' milk chocolate. Give it a try.

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Roasted beans and customer accounts

A little while ago I acquired an antique roaster.  It's in the process of being refinished, but in the meantime is completely functional.  As a result, all cocoa beans are now available as Roasted.  The odd 35 lb option is because that is the capacity of the roaster.  Right now I don't have an option for roasted nibs as it's just to cumbersome and creates too many loop holes in the store, but I will do roasted nibs if you take the initiative and ask.  Anything 10 lbs and under (total order) I'll do for free as a courtesy.  Over that and it's $1/lb and I'll contact you after the order is in to settle up. Also, I've very please to announce there are now Customer Accounts.  Chocolate Alchemy is coming into the 20th century.  You can look up old orders, the current status of orders, adjust your information, etc.  Please be aware though, and I know it can be confusing, there are TWO sets of customer accounts - one for Retail and one for Wholesale.  I recommend making your user name and password the same if you use both stores, but be aware, there are completely un-connected.

Right now the customer accounts are in beta mode, meaning there may be glitches here and there.  If you find one, please let me know about it.  Likewise, if you would like to see a particular feature, let me know and I will pass it along to the developer.

Finally, I've spent the last week testing out a new model of Melanger from Spectra (formally Santha, but the Melangers are officially being offered by Spectra) - the Spectra 11.  Photos and a review will follow, but briefly, I like it and give it two thumbs up.   It's basically a redesign of the bowl and how it attaches to the motor.  Over the last couple years there have been some shaft bearing issues - leaks basically.  This new design seems to over come this issue by removing the whole bearing.  A semi permanent (it unscrews) shaft now runs directly from the flywheel, through a delrin hub, and and then screws down, covering the shaft, effectively eliminating two weak spots and protects another.  And they have put the lid back to riding on top of the top tension nut (the way it was years ago), so you no longer have to worry about condensation.  It will be retailing for about $40 more and should be available in a couple weeks.

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Venezuelan Chuao

What you think when you hear the  word “Chuao” seems to be a good indicator of how much time you spend thinking about chocolate. 'HUH?' may mean this is the first time you have visited here.  A exclamation may mean you are well read about chocolate and have heard just how great it can be.  I would fall into the latter category.  And want you there too.Deep, heady, rich, alluring.  Do I have you yet?

I have a very small amount of Chuao available.  And currently none available wholesale.  If it goes well (and I rather hope it well, but you can never tell), I will try and get more.  For about a month, if you would like a full 50 kg bag (or more, and I may actually need to set the minimum to two bags due to warehouse rules), please contact me directly (e-mail address is in Contact ) and I will set you up.

That's all for now.  More later - if all goes right, all beans will be available custom roasted later this week.

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Raw chocolate, conching, roasted beans and experiments....

It seems to be generally known I don't promote raw chocolate.  It's not that I don't approve of it (although I have some issues about it), it more that I just don't really care for it and even more so, just don't 'get it'.  Although they are not my words, there is an article that I and many others contributed to that spells out quite accurately what I think about it. The 'Truth' about raw chocolate

Item 2.  Conching.  Or maybe  conching vs refining.  I don't actually have any definitive to report here, but circumstance has started me on an experiment.  I'm on day five of a test involving using the Melanger as a conch only - no refining.  The short story is that I removed the tension nut from the Melanger with the intention of pouring up my finished test chocolate...and promptly forgot it.  12 hours later I discovered it was still running, the temperature had dropped from about 118 (note to those experimenting with raw chocolate - the Santha Melanger can refine at or under 118 F if your recipe has a lower enough viscosity) to about 110 F and stabilized.  I pulled a small sample and noted it had not over refined, but had changed in flavor...hrm...sounds a lot like conching.  I've continued to pull a sample every 12 hours and will vertically taste them and report back.

Item 3 - roasted beans.  I now have an old Royal #5 roaster on site, and all beans will soon be available roasted in 15-25 lb batches.  If you have a need now, before I get them officially offered, just drop me a line and I will be happy to accommodate.

Items 4 - experiments.  Mostly thinking out load of things to come.

Long vs short roast times. Again, circumstance tossed me an interesting piece of data.  When I tested out the large roaster I purchased, I did it without any controls.  The result was 20 lbs of beans roasted in about 8 minutes.  Later I repeated the roast with control and doubled the roast time.  Hands down, in blind tastings of the resulting chocolate, the 8 minute roast was preferred.  More fruity, body and a better overall dynamic chocolate.  One time fluke?  more testing...

More conching after my vertical tasting. Broma cocoa butter production.  This is a heated, gravity 'pressing'.  People have asked, I don't know, so I'll experiment and report back.

Winnowing - AFTER I have the current design to the shop, I have two other designs I want to play with.

I'm sure there are more, but that's it for now.

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New Cocoa beans

The new crop of Papua New Guinea is in, and is a kinder, gentler crop this year.  If you have been put off in the past by the aggressive smoke this new crop is much slighter in smoke, and instead highlights more of the origin itself - piquant acidity, good chocolate and hints of leather.  And because I simply could not pass it up, here is a third cocoa bean from the Dominican Republic.  La Red.  It's organic, has a beautiful preparation and is very forgiving so is great for a starter bean.

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