We always have cacoa beans in our home. I am making chocolate tabliya for home use and for sale. Beans suffer from defects during storage, moisture absorption, mold growth and insect infestation – the bukbok (bol weevil, wood borer, wood tick).
Here is my routine to prevent those unwanted defects:
1) Inspect the cacao beans. I lay it on wide table and examine the beans one by one. All seeds with holes, spider-like webs, beans with molds and moist seeds are separated. Moist seeds are dried further under the sun while other defective beans are discarded. Beans with holes and spider-like webs are infested by bukbok. This impart a soily taste to finished product. Seeds with molds taste awful.
Sorting is a labor extensive task. It takes two to three hours to finish a hundred kilo cacao. Quality control is an integral part of food processing so bear with it. One infested seed might render the whole sack unusable.
2) Moisture content of dried beans should be less than eight percent. Values more than this might encourage mold growth and bubok infestation.
Update as of May 2017: I heard someone saying it is now between 6.5 to 7.2 percent.
Digital seed moisture meter is a great tool for easy estimation. Alternatively, get a handful of beans and shake it. A properly dried beans sound like shaking a handful of marble. You will notice that drier beans produce louder sounds. A rather crude technique, but works well after getting some experience.
Another estimation technique: A pail of sufficiently dried beans should weigh ___ to ___ kilograms approximately. Beans which gets heavier weight should be dried further. You can get the approximate values through several measurement trials.
3) I store the beans in a dry and cool place and away from any water source. All equipment in the room should be dry. Cacao are hygroscopic. It will absorb moisture from its surroundings. Room’s relative humidity should be 70%. Use a hygrometer for measurement.
4) I eliminate all sources of strong odors and chemicals pesticides. Beans might absorb unwanted odors while pesticide contamination might cause food poisoning.
5) I place the beans in jute sack with two inner layers of polyethylene bags. This will prevent entrance of moisture, oxygen and pest.
Fumigation is a common practice to protect beans and grains. I never do it cause it causes health hazards.
As years passed, I learnt choosing suppliers. I only get from growers and merchants who take time and effort uplifting their bean quality. Crude beans are often priced lower but have a lot of rejects. In worse scenario, the whole sack became unusable after few weeks of storage.
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.