Level: Novice

Reading Time: 4 minutes

When I winnow my roasted beans, I find I end up with broadly three groups of material. Obviously a) The nib and B) The husks. The third which I don’t read about much is a powder or dust that ends up predominantly in the husks after winnowing.   If I put my winnowed husks in a broad mesh household colander and sift the husks, I get a significant quantity, e.g. 3 to 5 % of the total batch weight, of this dust.  The dust smells pleasant enough. Do you find this dust is generally a dust from nibs being cracked, or the husks, dirt / contamination on the beans, or a reasonably even combination of all 3?  Do you or would you add this dust to the melanger with your nibs? Whilst there may not be a right or wrong here, on balance, do you think the dust is worth including and would be a waste to discard, or, contains more negative components that are best left to be discarded?   Ultimately I know it will be up to me based on taste, and that the cleanest, purest nibs will probably give the purest flavor, but I thought I’d ask your opinion to check that I’m not potentially discarding an element that might add some character or colour to the flavor.

Under the conditions you describe that dust is mostly just powdered husk.  Back in yesteryear there was the Crankandstein cocoa mill and it was the only option for cracking your beans.  Through a happy accident (I failed to put the screen on the Champion) I discovered that the Champion Juicer would also crack the beans in addition to turning the nibs into liquor.  I tested out both methods and concluded I was not that great a fan of cracking with the Champion for the exact reason you cite - too much dust.  A lot changes in 12 years.

I was wrong.

Down the road I ended up analyzing the dust to see how much oil was present and compared it to the results of husk and nib.  What I found was that the dust was >95% powdered husk.  There was ever so slightly more oil in the dust than the husk (about 3-4%) but that very easily could have been experimental error. 

If you taste the dust (roasted only please) you will find it is very neutral in flavor, like husk.  If it were powdered nib it would taste reminiscent of cocoa powder and feel oily.

As a side note it turns out the small and more even pieces that the Champion Juicer produces winnows much easier and with a better separation ratio than the coarser and more uneven results of the cocoa mill when using the Sylph winnower. I did the original test by hand winnowing with a blow drier.  Plus the Champion handles large and double beans. Those kind of beans (and rocks) just pile up on the cocoa mill rollers. 

My Aether winnower comes with a perforated screen that can be used on a second pass of the nibs, particularly useful if you are winnowing raw beans.  In this case there are two classes of dust you see.  The normal light grey dust which is husk and a darker dust that is indeed powdered nib.  Aside from the color, you can tell it is nib as it is slightly larger and a bit oily if you rub it between your fingers for a bit.  But it still isn't that much.  1-2 %.

In neither case would I suggest adding the dust to your chocolate.  In the first case you would just be adding husk and in the later it is a case of quality vs quantity.  You might gain a little more chocolate (5%???) but you would also be adding husk that isn’t going to add anything positive to your chocolate.

There, that is short and simple this week.

This is a reminder we (I say we in this case as it affects the staff who pack) are trying out a free "fill the box" USPS Flat rate box shipping offer.

I also want to thank everyone who has participated and supported the #yourenotchocolatealchemy campaign against the unethical naming of Cacao Atlanta’s new book.   To the many concerned people suggesting I trademark the name Chocolate Alchemy, please trust I looked into it and there are reasons that it can’t happen.  This from our IP lawyer.  At this moment they have taken down their Facebook and Twitter accounts and deleted their Instagram posts about the book.  We’ll give more updates when and if we know them.  I knew going in that the book was already printed and the title could not be changed for the release date.

Again, I am grateful and honored by the copious shows of support in this matter.  It means the world to me.