Winnowing is all about removing the thin cacao shells - which surround the cacao beans - before the grinding process. Because the cocoa beans can only be finely ground and finally processed into chocolate without the shell. In this text we explain how this works and how you can do it at home.
Separating the wheat from the chaff: what happens when you win?
In fact, 'winnowing' is an ancient agricultural practice that separates the wheat from the chaff. The situation is very similar with cocoa nibs and cocoa shells. Because after winnowing, all cocoa shells should be removed and only the inside of the cocoa beans - the nibs - should be included.
Winnowing at chocolate manufacturers
Similar to the process of separating the chaff from the wheat, gravity and air speed are also essential when it comes to winnowing the cocoa beans. The cocoa beans themselves are naturally heavier than their light shells. Winnowing takes advantage of this fact and uses the airflow to carry away the light shells while the heavier cocoa beans fall into the container below. Up to 20% of the original weight of the cocoa beans is lost due to the loss of shells and individual cocoa nibs. Finally, the cocoa beans or cocoa nibs obtained can either be offered as such for consumption or processed further. You can find out here whether cacao nibs are healthy and what else you should know about nibs .
Dry this at home: the hair dryer bowl technique for the garden or patio
As with “real” winnowing, the aim of DIY winnowing is to separate the light cocoa shells from the cocoa beans. This method isn't particularly clean, but it's fun once you develop your own technique. We also recommend wearing a mask against the cocoa shell dust, an FFP2 mask is of course a good choice here.
Remove the cocoa shells from the cocoa beans with your hands and leave everything in the bowl. Take a hair dryer or (light) table vacuum cleaner. Start with a light intensity and get closer to the bowl. Stir through the bowl and see for yourself ;-) : while the cocoa shells fly away or are sucked into the vacuum cleaner, the nibs remain in the bowl. Depending on the hair dryer or vacuum cleaner, you will quickly find out at which level it has to be set. After a few minutes, you'll have a bowl full of delicious nibs. Don't worry if you didn't get rid of all the shells. The small pieces in particular can be ground or roasted with confidence. As a rule of thumb, about 1.5% shells are fine.
Try this at home: Recipes with cacao nibs
Of course you can now also make chocolate from the cocoa nibs. However, it would be a little easier to use the nibs for other recipes. We at Theyo love cacao nibs and regularly publish the best nibs recipes for you. How about banana-cocoa-nibs-granola or an ice-chocolate with cocoa-nibs-cream topping ?