While I am struggling to speed up most of the bean to bar chocolate process, this very first step is a long shot. The bean selection.
I thought a bean quick scan was enough. I was gravely mistaken. A noticeable effect was on grinding equipment. It was creating a noisy irritating sound every time a stone passed in. Causing misalignment and damage to burrs. If the noise ceased after few seconds. Then the trapped stone was soft enough to crushed by… If not, I have to disassemble the machine to find the culprit. A waste of time. Still a good thing if there was no damage.
Started looking into the beans deeper. Tossing them one by one. A rather slow process just to get rid of stones, soft or hard. With the process I was also removing other foreign objects. Pieces of plastics, woods, coffee and others.
To speed things up a bit. I set up a sorting screen. Shaking a bunch of beans on top was quickly removing dust particles, tiny stones and some broken beans.
It became faster and slow again afterwards.
Cocoa beans comes in assorted sizes. Not unless I ordered it presorted, which I guess no cocoa farmer are willing to do that for me. Different bean sizes roast differently, so sorting according to size is needed. I always taste what I roast so my senses know it.
I made three sorting screens. Not standard screens. Just what I found on hardware store and tested for myself.
The current sorting process is done in three stages. First, using the biggest screen. Placing a bunch of beans on screen top and looking to it one by one. Tumbling them over several times for better result. Beans smaller than screen holes automatically falls and destined for stage two. Those that stays are called big (by me) and ready for roasting after getting rid of all defects.
The process is the same as stage one except for the bean sample and screen. The beans have already passed the first stage and the sorting screen has smaller holes. Those that stays are medium and the rest are for third and last stage.
The third stage. Percentage passing through the second screen is low but is always taking most of the time. It has too many defects to remove. These are small beans.
I am still thinking how can I speed this without spending a fortune. However, for now, hiring labor as part-time sorters is the best I can do.
Marvin is the lead chocolate maker of Ben and Lyn Chocolate Inc. Has strong background in food research and development. Occasionally conducts training and lectures. Lecturer of Cocoa Foundation of the Philippines. Do coaching and consultancy services on his free time.