Oaklore could (and did!) have an entire website dedicated to it, but this will contain the condensed history. What started as a manual labor of love became a way to combine my engineering and primitive skills interests into my first entrepreneurial venture.
While many people make acorn flour in small batches in their kitchen, producing quantities for small-scale commercial use required an enormous amount of experimentation, process development, and stamina.
Several of the many dozens of acorn bins processed during the 5 years that Oaklore was in business.
The piles grew...
Thank goodness for a garage and an agreeable landlord.
Support from my wife was certainly welcome as I spent my free time working late into the evenings.
After a full process evaluation, the product leaching (tannin removal) process was an area for significant process time improvement gains. This is the "brains" designed to make that happen.
Automation - an inside look
Automating the leaching process required that water flow be controlled, liquid levels be monitored, safety switches to operate, pumps and mixers to operate on command, and a programmable display to monitor the process. I purchased my first Arduino and dove in on code, drew up a wiring schematic, ordered electronic components/solenoid valves/sensors/switches, and went to town.
Several steps later and the flour is ready for leaching.
Automation initial test
Integrated into a large food-grade tank with mixer, the automated leacher could now run even when I was sleeping.
Borrowing from other industries
How to remove water from the flour to facilitate the dehydrating process? Centrifuge? Press? Thanks to memories of chemistry class, I found the largest buchner funnel I could find and, after significant experimentation, it worked very well in tandem with a maple syruping pump.
My first food demo led to some sales and the beginning of a wild journey of running a small food business.
Final flour is packaged and ready for customers. My packaging and product line evolved over time with support from some marketing folks and mentors from SCORE and SBDA.
Interestingly enough, my primary customer base became young, successful, edgy chefs looking to incorporate acorn flour into their creations. Not a bad outcome.
The product was even featured on Fox News in Sacramento by a well-known chef in the area.
I'd probably describe my pinnacle of success as having my largest customer be Michelin-starred chef Ollie Dabbous' restaurant HIDE in London. We visited the restaurant and saw customers savoring his signature dessert, acorn cake made with Oaklore flour. It was a lot of fun to speak with them and see the potential of this ingredient realized.