Muscovado, Lowering The Cost

Wow! Forty five pesos for 500 grams. Nicely packed and FDA approved. It was so affordable. From our current sources, the average price is 160 a kilo. If I get two of the previous, the price will only be 90 pesos. Cheaper by 70 pesos. Can be cheaper if they have a ready kilo packaging.

low cost muscovado

If they can get it down to this price point, then why others are selling it for very high cost? There are two reasons. First are the middlemen. Every person who handle the product has to add their own margin, enough for their pocket income plus extra to cover taxes (percentage and income taxes) and other mandatory fees. In case the product very source is not protecting its distributors and retailers, it is wise to by directly.

Second is the expected health value. You won’t get diabetic if you use this sugar instead! Imagine the cost of medications and the hardships of not able to do things you want for the sole reason you are sick. Better spend the hard earned money for not so delectable, expensive but healthy alternatives, than getting cheap and getting sick later. Sugar is sugar but muscovado health claims relies on its crude processing technology.

A friend once told me. Farming, the organic way should be less costly. There are no commercial farm inputs like fertilizers and pesticides. Their organic counterparts can be gathered from the farm itself. Maybe he is right or maybe not. There might be some crops that suits this routine. However, if maximized per area farm output is desired, commercial farming is the way to go.

If the seller at the same time is also the manufacturer and farmer. There is no middlemen to meddle with the price. He can go into price war without worrying of losing much income. Can go even lower if the by-product of cane juice extraction is used as fuel. Fuel to reduce the liquid to its crystal form. The traditional crystallization process involves long hours boiling. Its absence equates to lpg and electric cost.

Roasting Woes

Spent many years roasting cacao bean on pan. Years without success on uniformity. I can safely say every roast was unique without any chance of repeat. A pan over lpg flame and constantly stirred by manually with large spoon. At least I can make the flame strength constant. I also experience the woes of wood fire stove. The flame was simply too unpredictable. Constant stirring? No chance. I can make a rhythm for about a minute to five. That’s all. Uncomfortable heat, ringing phone, person questioning and boredom always get in the way. Mechanical stirring is being adapted by few but implementing it never once crossed my mind.

I mustered enough guts and shifted to oven roasting. Bought myself a low cost locally fabricated version. Switched to fermented beans. Then used about one full jute sack, 63 kg estimated, before getting the roast that suited my senses. That’s a lot, I guessed. But nothing compared to amount I used with pan roasting. Three years flew like a breeze and never had any failed roast. Now the question is. Am I an expert cocoa bean roaster?

The answer is yes and no. I am an expert when if comes to the very specific equipment at my possession. I need time and test batches to adjust for every equipment I handle. I did a demo in Marinduque once. The first result was a total failure because of a defective thermostat. It was burnt. Second and consecutive trials were okay.

I did a same demo in a different place. Again, using a different roasting equipment. First trial was success because I monitored it closely. Consecutive trials were successful with minimal supervision.

Then. We fabricated our very own drum roaster. It was a huge gamble because it was our first and I had no experience on drum roasting before. We built it based on theory and observations gathered from other working roasters. It is two-in-one. Adjusting my skill to use the machine and making modifications on roaster to make it more efficient. First run was successful. Second was a bit of failure. Third and consecutive were okay.

Maybe the next step should be modifications.

Coffee Stain

You are so focus on your coffee that you never pay attention to less important thing. The stain it creates. Ohh! There are few instances. The moments it accidentally spilled on your clothes. I bet it was so annoying. It happened to me several times so I know well how it feels. There is always an option to change clothe if where you live is comfortably near or you have an extra. A cowboy style, always ready! On the other hand, the only choice is dry it patiently in front of electric fan, or, better yet, a freezing cold air con. It is ugly while still wet and ugly still after drying. It leaves a shade with prominent border. Often looks like a roughly drawn map.

Those annoying memories came back when I noticed this stained coffee filter. There must be a way to treat this filter clean.

stained coffee filter

Okay! We will not talk about cleaning. We will talk about the less important thing. The stain pattern. Notice that it always create a ring on your shirt?

Let us go back to coffee filter for a bit. In a normal drip process. Coffee grounds is place on filter then water is pass though it to extract. The filter is conical and the direction of the liquid is toward gravity. More particles pass trough the lowest point (the tip) so more stains are trapped in the end.

In white and poorly coated mug. The stain tends to get darker toward the bottom. Coffee is often drink like wine, sip by sip. The upper part, near the brim is less exposed while lower is more. More often than not, there is a bit of liquid left to dry after. That where the darkest stain shade lies.

Things get different when it spilled accidentally on table. Whatever the shape of the stain is, it always has distinct, darker shade border. Assuming the suspended particles are equally distributed and the dome shape of spilled liquid. The dome center should have the most particles. The center must also be darker when it dries out.

coffee stain on table

Coffee stain formation has interesting law of physics. The thinner part of the dome dries first. However, as it dries, the suspended particles flow toward the edge, making it darker. Thanks to livescience.com for pointing out. This coffee behavior is attributed to its rounded molecules. On the other hand, oblong and other molecule shapes holds to each other more strongly leaving a more uniform color upon drying.

Is this important? Maybe or maybe not! In any case you want to print your edible wrapper with edible ink, coffee derived pigments may not be a wise choice.

Reworking Fruit Jam to Fruit Leather

Reducing juice volume without use of any sophisticated equipment is a daunting task. Boiling and stirring it for several hours. Ensuring the sides and bottom are regularly scraped to prevent burning. Stirring is getting harder on muscles as the pulp and sugar concentration rises. The heat against skin makes you wanna leave it and take a long rest. Even harder for heavy concentrates, jellies, jams and fruit leathers.

When someone asked me to specifically use her homemade fruit jam as inclusion for chocolate bars. I asked her to remove more moisture, cook it longer than usual and make the texture similar to fruit leather. Chocolate hating moisture is a known fact. It must not interfere with the process.

The product arrived in its usual texture. Spreadable jam. I was screwed. I could still use it though as bonbon fillings. Something that explodes after biting its crunchy shell. However, the request was not bonbon. It was chocolate bar with visible dried fruit specs on back. I cannot just place it on bar while molding. It will flow out surely once the bar is placed sideward or up-side-down. You know when it comes to chocolate bars, putting “this side up” sign is ridiculous. Who will follow the ridiculous sign by the way? It will simply not work.

fruit jam spread

It need rework. If cooking it from scratch in a pan is tedious. I bet it is even more for rework. Imagine the hard work of mixing and taking care not to get it burnt.

What I did? I spread it thinly in a pan and heated in oven for almost three hours. The purpose was to remove moisture but prevent it from getting burnt. Spreading it thinly exposed wide surface area which aided drying without stirring. It would have been faster if I have forced convection oven and able to spread it even thinner.

Last thing, I suggest putting it on baking paper for easy removal.

No Tear Here

In a world where almost everything is fast and convenient, seeing a hard to open convenience food is rare. One of the rare find. This pack has no part where it can be opened easily, like a small V-cut and short direction or an easy to pull seal. Okay, it was not hard. I can simply grab a knife, cutter or scissors and cut it open. Perhaps a ballpen or pencil. A simple strike and pull will do it. Grab one end in between teeth pull. A kid will probably do it but a grown-up won’t. Sharing snacks after incidentally dabbing it with saliva is fun for kids but unethical for adults. It has “ew” factor.

mini eggnogg

The manufacturer need to consider. The things I said above won’t be done by adults. Having to reach for a knife or scissors just to open a pack of snack is not convenient. He is likely to buy competitors brand next time. He might threw it away or make a return. It happened to us first hand. We accidentally sealed a pack of cocoa powder below the zip lock and v-cut. A customer returned it because he found it hard to open and re-seal afterwards. This matter should be taken seriously because only a small fraction of customers have the guts to complain and make a return. Most of them just don’t buy again.

Convenience plays an important role on how customers buy. Instead of buying mature coconut. She is getting the grated and pressed coco from the supermarket vendor. Even if she has her own coconut plantation, she will choose buying it from marketplace because of convenience. She don’t have to waste time, muscle effort and energy just to get the coconut milk for cooking ginatan. Few businessman go to extent of preserving them in cans. Though I still prefer the newly grated and pressed from my favorite vendor. It is not as clean but not loaded with hard to read additives.

Instant noodles are not healthy but have many patrons. Just boil for 3 minutes and it is ready. Ready carbohydrates before going to work, before sleep or warmer during cold ber months. It was even made popular by cup noodles. It is on the go, anytime, anywhere.

Potato chips in cardboard tube are expensive but still a popular buy. Its rigid packaging design and unique chip stacking fashion help protect it from damage due to external forces. It resist drop, rough handling and crude bag packing. Anyone wouldn’t want their crispy potato broken before it touches their tongue. If there is anything left, it can be recapped for later.

I prefer the more expensive canned tuna brands. Not because they are more delectable. I want them because of the easy open lid. Not sure how many times I got a wounded hands because of opened can sharp edges. Some can openers are able to do clean cut but they just don’t last long. With easy open lid, simple pull and it is ready to go. Even my kids can do it unsupervised.