All the Chocolate News That’s Fit to Print: A New Winnower!

Ruth here, fresh from the Fine Chocolate Industry Association meeting and teeming with all fresh batch of chocolate news!

First, I’m excited to announce a new addition to the Gourmandise family; we have obtained a cocoa winnower from Cocoatown for use in our chocolate courses. This piece of equipment is a game changer for our Bean to Bar chocolate classes and will allow you to winnow cocoa beans, or remove the husks from roasted beans. Come by the school to check it out (you may be intoxicated by the smells of cacao we have been cooking up in our new roaster on your way in).

In other equally delicious news, I just spent the weekend in San Francisco at the Fine Chocolate Industry Association Meeting (FCIA).  Yes, that’s right, chocolate has an industry association.  Several hundred members strong, the association includes chocolate makers, educators, cacao growers, pastry chefs, specialty retailers, and suppliers.  FCIA likes to describe their members as “professionals involved in fine chocolate from blossom to bonbon and bar”.

The association meets twice a year (in SF and NYC) and at the meetings members spend the day going to panel discussions, hearing key note speakers, going to break out sessions and getting caught up with new and old friends in the chocolate world.  This year’s meeting included formal conversations on subjects that ranged from health benefits of chocolate to creating sensory standards for finished chocolate, sustainability, the use and care of machines and learning how pastry chefs use chocolate! Plus much much more.

What I love most about the FCIA meetings (besides hitting up Dandelion and Tartine in San Francisco) is the schmoozing and sharing of hopes and dreams in the chocolate community, which leads to how we got to host Winnie the Winnower at the school. Years ago I met Andal and Balu, the amazing couple who founded Cocoatown. They have been making machines in Atlanta for small and large chocolate makers for years and recently created a machine that us small-batch chocolate makers have all been waiting for – a tabletop cocoa winnower!

For those of you who are new to the bean to bar chocolate world, a winnower is an essential machine in the chocolate making process.  The chocolate maker receives the beans from the source country, roasts them, cracks them and then must remove the fibrous husk from the nib. The nib is then ground down in a melanger, sugar is added and voila, chocolate! Until recently, an at-home chocolate maker would have to either shell each bean by hand or do some kind of Macgyvering maneuver using a hairdryer and mask to remove that difficult shell. Masking tape and paper clips no more- Cocoatown has finally made our dreams come true! They have created a small, affordable winnower that the small batch chocolate maker can use in a small space. It’s a really cool looking piece of equipment with a plexiglass column that lets you see the husks separating from the nibs as they spin into a vortex and separate off into their respective chambers.

Cocoatown has been kind enough to lend us Winnie for several months so all our students can see it’s wonders. I am going to use the winnower as much as possible in the next few months and hope you can come and meet her (did we mention you can follow the aroma of roasting beans)?

Wishing you sweet chocolate dreams,

Ruth