Simple is good! And the information in the article is straightforward and simple to follow.
After reading the article, I could hardly contain myself and I had to find some wet beans. A trip down to the local farmer's market yielded a half dozen Forastero pods and 21oz. of gooey wet beans that I could play with.
Now that I had some wet beans, what was I going to do with them? I needed a fermentation vessel...ummm...a quick search thru my plastic containers and I was carving up the lid of a recycled 3lb sour cream container. I put several slits in the lid and when completed, it looked like a sectioned grapefruit with the slits radiating out from the center. I made them thin enough so the liquid would drain, but beans would not fall through.
I dumped the beans and some instant yeast dissolved in some warm water into the container and after a quick mix, the lid went on. I turned the container upside down and placed it in a bowl, so the liquid would drain out into the bowl.
Placing the bowl into an oven with the light on the started the waiting period. An oven with the light left on will stay about 90-95 degrees. If you need it warmer, a heating pad works great. The only reason for the additional heat source is the lack of mass with my small amount of beans. I don't think the small mass would be able to build up the heat required for a good fermentation.
The hardest part of this process is patience. You have to let the yeast and bacteria do their job and that takes time. Pretty soon you will start to smell what you think is alcohol. At that point you know that the little yeasties are doing what they do best. When you mix the beans on the third day, they will have a distinct smell of wine and you will ask yourself “How is this going to make chocolate?”
Continue on until the 6th day and you will be rewarded with a very nice batch of fermented beans. If you cut one in half, on the flat side, they will have a nice tan color to them. I have been told that if they are purple, the beans are under fermented. Can you over ferment them? I think you might be able to, but I don’t know what the results would be.
I washed my first batch of beans after the fermentation process. I don’t know why I did, but they looked a lot cleaner after rinsing them off. You don’t have to wash them. It does not matter!
My clean, washed beans were then placed on a perforated baking sheet and placed back into the oven and left for 3 days. The beans were stirred around everyday to expose all parts of the bean to the dry warm air. It was raining here, so I didn’t have the option to dry them in the sun.
The roasting was an experience. If you are not prepared for it, when the beans begin to pop you will be a bit surprised. A small toaster oven was used to do the small amount of beans. I attempted to do a profiled roast, starting with a higher temperature to get the beans up to temp and then lower the temperature to slow roast. Since the beans were a bit over dry, they started to pop in the toaster oven almost immediately. This prompted a quick change in the process with the roasting being completed at a lower temperature for a longer period of time. The smell of brownies filled the kitchen and it was impossible to keep from popping a couple of roasted beans into my mouth for a taste. Whoa, were they hot! I'm a guy, so I do dumb stuff from time to time.
As soon as the beans came out of the toaster oven, a waiting fan was used to quickly bring the temperature down on the beans to prevent over cooking. Not much is mentioned about this step, but I think it is an important one to consider if you are doing your own roasting. I have not done any experiments to see what the differences would be, but I am sure there would be some.
When the beans cooled, they were winnowed by hand in a very short time. Since I don’t have a way to process the nibs yet, I put them into vacuum bags and sealed them up for future use. I did use some to sprinkle on top of a panache-topped cheesecake to give a unique texture to the topping. Oh, that was good!
How would I rate my nibs? They smelled good, tasted good, were not bitter or astringent, and had a nice smooth flavor. There wasn’t anything that stood out and smacked you, but they were not terrible. A local chocolate maker gave them thumbs up, so I was pleased with that.
I feel my journey to the dark side of chocolate has just begun and the results of the first batch have taught me that I have a lot to learn. Despite my limited success, I am a long way from where I want to be.
There is a rumor of a farmer north of here that has some pods available. Ahhh...my journey continues…
Nice little article -of particulaer interest to me as I have just returned from Bali with some pods and beans and just bought a Santa 10.
However I would disagree with the roasting temp. I think 300 F is too high. Most sources I have read suggest 230F to 280F from 20 min to 1 hr.
I am noting my results but I can say that one batch at 300F yeilded a burnt crisp bean ( which I havent put to the grinder yet.)