The cocoa bean fermentation process: from ecosystem analysis to starter culture development

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Abstract

Summary

Cocoa bean fermentation is still a spontaneous curing process to facilitate drying of nongerminating cocoa beans by pulp removal as well as to stimulate colour and flavour development of fermented dry cocoa beans. As it is carried out on farm, cocoa bean fermentation is subjected to various agricultural and operational practices and hence fermented dry cocoa beans of variable quality are obtained. Spontaneous cocoa bean fermentations carried out with care for approximate four days are characterized by a succession of particular microbial activities of three groups of micro-organisms, namely yeasts, lactic acid bacteria (LAB) and acetic acid bacteria (AAB), which results in well-fermented fully brown cocoa beans. This has been shown through a plethora of studies, often using a multiphasic experimental approach. Selected strains of several of the prevailing microbial species have been tested in appropriate cocoa pulp simulation media to unravel their functional roles and interactions as well as in small plastic vessels containing fresh cocoa pulp-bean mass to evaluate their capacity to dominate the cocoa bean fermentation process. Various starter cultures have been proposed for successful fermentation, encompassing both cocoa-derived and cocoa nonspecific strains of (hybrid) yeasts, LAB and AAB, some of which have been implemented on farms successfully.

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