This project started with finding reclaimed solid clay brick from a Houston warehouse.
Now we are getting pretty close to completing the construction of our brick oven so we can brick oven and hot rock roast cocoa beans. You didn’t see “hot rock” coming did you. Well, the interior grid is lined with river rock from the Frio River where my family has owned a camp since 1917.
What you need to know more than anything is that I am a chocolate maker, not a Mason. Snickering about my masonry skills is welcomed. Just know that hecklers get last crack at limited edition chocolates. There was a time during the brick laying process that I was pretty sure there was more mortar on the shop floor than in between bricks. That’s just a guess anyways.
I was giving “Houston Red” a test run this morning. There are just a few minor tweaks here and there left to do, but I believe we will be roasting our first batch of cacao in the new brick oven by the end of the week.
Houston Red is a hybrid of sorts. It’s not a BBQ grill or smoker. It is sort of a gas oven with convection qualities, and has the ability to introduce smoke should we meander down that path one day. With roasting cocoa beans being the most important thing we can do to develop chocolate flavor, the primary goals from day one of this vision were:
- Improve roasting profiles with better temperature control while holding thermal mass for an extended time period
- Create a unique way to roast cocoa beans – conventional methods and I don’t always get along so good
- Be able to roast at the shop instead of carting cocoa beans from the back yard grill to the shop and so forth
- Have a portable roaster on wheels just in case we wanted to wheel it somewhere
- Have the ability to increase the batch size when the need arises
- Sooner or later we just have to pecan smoke some cocoa and find out where that takes us – Think bean to jar instead of bar.
In the first test, we were able to get to our desired temperature range fairly quickly. What really is exciting is how long Houston Red maintains the roasting temperature with the heat source solely being bricks and river rock. Then when its time to cool, we have two doors on the bottom to draw in cooler air that exits the chimney or the open lid. Even after two hours passed the rocks are still warm.
Michelle asked me to lay them on her back.
The rotisserie motor rotates the roasting drum at about 5 – 6 RPM’s which creates a wonderful gentle tumble and thorough roast.
We shall keep you posted as Houston Red starts to settle into our chocolate making process. We expect our revamped roasting method will enhance the over all quality of our chocolate which is what we strive to do with every new batch of cacao.