Cocoa Bean Storage

Shana Wilkie
09/30/11 03:18:51
4 posts

Hi all,

Could anyone advise me how to store my cocoa beans before I roast them? They arrived in jute bags. I am only starting out and still experimenting with roast times, winnowing, grinding, refining. I have read that beans can go moldy. At the moment I am re-bagging into smaller jute bags and storing in a cupboard. The average daily temperature in there varies about 15-18degrees. Is this cool enough to store the cocoa bean?

Any help or advise is greatly appreciated.

On separate note, I am finding the winnowing very slow, (crankandstein and hairdryer method) however I am confident that with the growing interest in making chocolate that soon someone out there will develop an affordable small scale winnower. Thanks to everyone for all the posts they are extremely helpful and informative.



updated by @shana-wilkie: 04/09/15 17:12:03
brian horsley
09/30/11 09:42:17
48 posts

Hi shana, i know about warehousing large amounts of cacao beans, the basic principles should apply for small scale too.

humidity will cause mold if you don't keep the air moving, you need a well ventilated place. if the air is dry then ventilation is less important. so for instance if they're in a closed cupboard in a humid place, and particularly if they're very dry, like below 7%, they will uptake water and can get moldy. you could leave the cupboard door a little open and put a small 15cm fan in there and it should help the problem.

temp is not as important, generally speaking the cooler the better so 15-18 is no problem at all. when you get up into tropical temps you have to think more about it.

you want to keep the beans away from potential contaminants and odors as they can uptake those too. so if there's dust, if you're cooking strong odors nearby like garlic, if the cabinets themselves have any kind of food or chemical odor, or if they're exposed to smoke of any kind, you can have off flavors in the beans and hence the chocolate. also this is more for when you have a concrete floor/walls, but they should be off the floor on wood pallets and never touching the walls. I cover the floor and walls in heavy gauge plastic to avoid contact and/or contamination.

finally there are some bugs that will attack cacao beans in tropical climates. i can't imagine its a problem in ireland but if you have ventilation holes or leave the cupboard door open, you may want to screen the beans off with a simple flexible mosquito mesh to stop small moths or flying baddies from getting in there and laying eggs in your beans.

hope this helps,


Brad Churchill
09/30/11 12:09:57
527 posts


Brian has provided some good advice below.

With regard to winnowing, John Nanci over at has designed a small scale winnower from plywood and PVC, and has put the plans (more or less) up for people to use.

I have also posted a description of my solution on that site, and someone has taken the time to draw a rough schematic of my description. My winnower does about 120lbs per hour and is very simply constructed from one sheet of plywood a stand, and some blower motors. I've been using mine now for 2 1/2 years without issue.



Check out that site for a possible solution for you.

10/03/11 09:58:02
30 posts

Brad is pointing you to the right place. John Nanci is now making winnowers. I have seen an earlier prototype and it did a very good job of winnowing with a lot less work than your current method. Best of luck to you.


Clay Gordon
10/03/11 17:29:19
1,680 posts


Brian has given a very good description. Temperature is less of an issue than humidity. Although you don't need the remote Internet monitoring part of this, the following article describes plugging in a humidity sensor to a dehumidifier to keep the humidity within a good range:

Keeping the air circulating is also important; a dehumidifier can help with this.

The plans John Nanci is circulating are pretty good and you should be able to produce something for not too much work and not too much money that will be a huge improvement over the Crankandstein/hair dryer combination you're currently using.

I am working on a combination sheller/winnower that is very inexpensive (looking to bring it in for under $100 in parts) and that has a lot of advantages over the two step approach that is based on the Crankandstein. I intend to publish complete plans and BOM (bill of materials) before the end of the year.

:: Clay

clay -
Shana Wilkie
10/04/11 12:23:49
4 posts

Hi Brian, thanks so much for the advice. I currently leave the cupboard doors open and the window in the room too just to keep the air moving. I do use my grinder in the same room at the moment put the odors are not strong. I have noticed a few more fruit flies trying to enter the house but nothing else. I will screen the beans with a mosquito net anyway, that might keep any intruders out!

Thanks again for the information.


Shana Wilkie
10/04/11 12:29:40
4 posts

Brad, I have read through the chocolate alchemy winnowing information. There is a lot of info there and it's very informative. Do you have a link to your solution? 120lbs an hour is fantastic!

Shana Wilkie
10/04/11 12:50:59
4 posts

Clay, This is something I didn't think of before now. Humidity is something I don't know much about or how to measure. What does it mean to 'keep humidity within a good range'? That link looks very interesting and I'll have to read it a few more times before I get my head around it!!!

Your combination sheller/winnower sounds great. Do you have an idea of the winnow capacity per hour? I just spent about 2 hours hairdrying 2kgs of beans and I have to say, while I am quiet proud of the amount of husk I managed to remove, there has to be an more efficient way to do this!




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Two changes we made with the chocolate is that this time we winnowed the chocolate. This time we didn't use a blow dryer to melt the chocolate. Two improvements with the chocolate is that the melanger didn't get clogged this time and everyone put in work.