Attended – Development of Standards for Coffee and Cacao Grinder

We left home early but the UV Express we rode in took an erratic path resulting to two times slower travel. The heavy traffic towards the end of CAVITEX entering Pasay make the thing worst. It was thanks to MRT and taxi that we were only half hour late to the appointed time. We attended to the “Development Philippine National Standard for Coffee and Cocoa Grinder”, held August 7, 2015 in BAFS office. My wife and I were included in TWG (technical working group) through the endorsement of CocoaPhil.

I had the feeling they were trying to came up with a single grinding standard for cacao and coffee. I was right but never participated in earlier argument because of our tardiness. It was a good thing some members disagreed, so the two became separate. Coffee and cacao are closely related and have similarities in regards to postharvest tech. However, examining the two carefully reveals their huge differences.

Not much had been discussed yet so I took the honor of briefing about cacao processing. From bean selection, to roasting, winnowing, grinding and molding.

Cocoa grinding in elaborate manner. Locals including me are usually using grinding equipment not meant for cocoa beans. Grinder for coffee, rice, peanut and soya. Why? The simple answer. There is no locally available grinding equipment for cacao beans. We never realized that what we do is only a pre-grinding process to speed up the next step, the refining. Method defined as particle size reduction small enough not to be perceived by human tongue, or particle size of 20 to 30 microns. We never want roughness or grit in our chocolate and it is what we are getting rid off in refining process.

Suggested two methods of measuring the particle size. The first one is thru micrometer caliper and the second is using grindometer. The first only measure the largest particle size the liquor might have while the second gives the particle size distribution. The grindometer as standard method of testing was accepted.

It is also suggested (by other participants) that equipment should be GMP compliant. Mostly made of T304 stainless steel or the parts in contact with food. Easy to disassemble, clean and reassemble.

We took our leave when they began discussing standards for coffee grinder. It was an interesting topic to hear but we had other appointment.

Our main product from cacao beans are tablea. In my observation, most marketed tablea are roughly ground. I hope this meeting lead to development of local equipment able to grind and refine cacao down to acceptable microns. Good tasting tabliya will taste better when processed to have a silky smooth texture.

Public consultation for Philiphine National Standard for Cacao Grinder was held.

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.

Chocolate Bars – DOST SETUP Assistance

Went to DOST IVA Regional office for SETUP defense.

I am bored with short stories lately so I making it longer this time.

After spending months of cacao research. Nope, it was not only months. The research took several years to produce great outcome and still ongoing.  The research and development continues for as long as anyone is producing the product. Else, it will become outdated and be beaten by harsh competition. I have been studying cacao and chocolate making since the day I joined with my officemate (and at the same time my boss) with his little tabliya making venture.

Back then we were producing tabliya of inconsistent quality. Well, we always tried our best to get great outcome possible and maintain it. Sadly, we were not very successful with our old equipment line and raw beans.

First. We were using unfermented cacao beans. They are calling it here as the wash-and-dry. The bad thing about it is – when cacao beans were not fermented – there is no proper formation of flavor precursors necessary for making of excellent quality chocolate. Meaning, good chocolate starts from good beans. There is no way a bad batch could be converted to fine one. Not unless we throw a lot of sugar and flavoring in it, which is we never wants. We want to enhance natural flavors, not to hide it.

We discovered later that our favorite supplier were giving us bad batches of beans. Mostly rejects and unfermented. We never knew about it until we met a kind hearted man. He provided us with batch of true good fermented cacao beans. Now I know there are greater beans out there and they will be within my reach sooner.

Second. We were using the tulyasi roasting method. We were placing beans in pan (the tulyasi). Firing up the lpg stove. Then manually stirring it in attempt to get a nice even roast. But, no matter how nice and careful, we were not getting the good even roast we always wanted. Inspecting the outcome carefully, some were burnt, some were raw and some were barely acceptable. To make the things worst, the difference were noticeable in between batches. Customers want good consistent product and obviously, ours never suited their taste buds.

Good news, were are able to standardized a roasting method using a bread oven. A small sturdy lpg fueled heating device for only 12,500 pesos. It is not faster and easier compared to our previous but the result is very nice and consistent.

Third. To put it simply, there was no grinder suitable for cacao in our local market. We have no budget to get a suitable grinder abroad (until now). We first used a motorized cornmill, then a stone mill when the first one broke. The two machines could grind cocoa nibs just fine with the naked eye. Looked very smooth but not. It contained numerous rough particles that were not pleasant when eaten as is or prepared into hot/cold chocolate drink. We know very well that chocolate has silky smooth texture when eaten.

We got lucky when we gambled with a pricey peanut butter grinder. With some tweaks and experimentation, we reduced down the particle size to acceptable value. We never know the numbers but it is on par with the commercially available brands.

Fourth. The molding method. We followed the traditional way of doing it. Forcing barely hardened cocoal liquor to polvoron molders. The result were irregular tablet  shapes and heights. We’re molding pure unadulterated cacao with this tradional way. However, others are still trapped to mixing sugar in order to make the process easier.

I forgot to mention that we were molding it in its untempered state. It blooms overtime and we are convincing ourself it is a natural phenomenon. It is ugly but it is okay. It is still good to eat even if it has blooms. However, artisan and commercial chocolate industry threat fat blooms as bad thing. Why? Appeance has a great impact on flavor impression. We assume it is good tasting if it looks good. Based on science, tempered chocolate indeed taste better than untempered.

We invested on few polycarbonate chocoalte molds. Avoided tempering machine cause it was just too much for our penny. We studied and practiced hand tempering. Got it almost perfect and learned how to do it with ease.

We reinvented our product into a ready to eat chocolate bar made of only cacao and little sugar. It is gaining consumer acceptance and the sales volume is growing. We are very happy with it but still seeing big room for improvement. We wanted to reduce the particle size further and do a conching process for more flavor development. We are requesting a grinding machine than could do the purpose simultaneously, the melanger.

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.