We are making progress with our steep learning curve on making chocolate from cocoa beans (bean to bar), although we still have a long way to go! Limitations are both equipment and technique, but bit by bit we are understanding more about this incredible process.
We have been hand roasting small batches of about 2kg of beans at a time, still using a domestic oven and still playing around with temperatures and times. A recent trip to visit Duffy Sheardown taught me much and adopting his 'roasting test' I have been able to be much more consistent with roasting, and recently we were able to process over 10kg of beans in one batch.
We also made a major breakthrough in winnowing last month; I have been reading about and pricing small winnowers, and dreaming about a faster way of removing those pesky cocoa shells. Meanwhile every small batch we have done, I ended up peeling by hand. Faced with the 10kg of beans (an order for an event in March) we knew we had to do something and I had another go at the 'hairdryer and bowl' technique much talked about on DIY bean to bar chat forums (such fun!); I had found this uneffective and messy when I first tried it, but maybe desparation or guided by a cocoa angel - this time around I seemed to get the knack! Still messy (eye goggles and screening off half the workshop a necessity) but as the video below shows - it really does work and reduces a task to one day, that would have taken us 2 weeks by hand.
So, a production process developed: we cracked the beans with a rolling pin (no technology too complicated here!) and then into the 'winnowing corner' and we have beautiful clean cocoa nibs ready to go into the grinder!
And then into the grinder for 3 days, left to mature for 3 to 4 weeks and then tempered and moulded into bars, and ready to go! From bean to bar in 4 to 5 weeks.