New cocoa processing technology results in darker, fruitier and more “flowery” chocolate

Chocolate, one of the world’s most popular delicacies, is made through a multi-step process that begins with freshly picked cocoa beans.

People have been experimenting with chocolate for millennia and new approaches are continually being offered today.

Researchers have found that a different processing phase called “wet incubation” produces a fruitier, more flowery dark chocolate than the traditional fermentation method.

How to make cocoa more fruity and flowery

(Photo: PETER PARKS/AFP via Getty Images)


After harvest, cocoa beans are usually wrapped in banana leaves and left to ferment for a few days.

Microbes in the environment damage the pulp around the beans during this time, heating and acidifying them.

This triggers biochemical changes in the beans that minimize bitterness and astringency while the product has chocolate smells and flavors.

Scientists have discovered a non-microbial method known as wet incubation, in which dried, unfermented cocoa nibs are rehydrated in an acid catalyst, heated for 72 hours, then dried again, in accordance with ScienceDaily.

The approach, which is faster and more manageable than fermentation, created odors in the beans comparable to fermentation, with minor deviations.

Irene Chetschik, Ansgar Schlüter and their colleagues investigated how the flavor and smell of chocolates in the final product differed when wet incubation was used instead of typical fermentation.

The chocolate bars were created with incubated or wet-fermented dry cocoa beans, along with unfermented beans as a control.

Sensory panelists reported that the moist incubated sample had stronger fruity, floral, malty and caramel flavors, while the cultured sample had stronger toasted flavor components and the bar prepared from unfermented grains had a predominantly green aroma.

The wet incubated sample was rated the sweetest by the judges, while the unfermented chocolate was rated the most bitter and astringent.

Identification of flavor compounds by gas chromatography (GC)-olfactometry and subsequent quantification by GC mass spectrometry revealed higher levels of malty compounds called Strecker aldehydes and lower levels of roasted compounds called pyrazines in chocolate. incubated moist compared to fermented chocolate.

The researchers came to the conclusion that wet incubation creates chocolate with a pleasant scent and flavor and could therefore be used as an alternative post-harvest treatment.

Read more: Dark chocolate improves brain function

How is chocolate processed?

The cocoa harvest, like many other tropical crops, is spread over several months, with a high peak and a lower peak of pod maturity/harvest.

To avoid damaging the flower cushions, carefully remove the pods from the trees with a knife.

Cocoa beans are cleaned after being inspected and tested to ensure compliance with international standards and regulatory requirements.

The flavor of chocolate is created in two stages: the first on the farm by the perfect fermentation of the moist beans by the producer, and the second in the factory by the processor during the roasting stage.

Good chocolate flavor cannot be achieved by just following one of these processes.

Much of the pulp drains during the early stages of fermentation and the beans ferment between 36 and 72 hours.

The mechanisms of aroma formation are complicated and remain poorly understood, despite recent advances made through the application of professional approaches to sensory analysis and evaluation (flavor profiling).

After fermentation, the moisture level of the beans should be lowered from 55% to 7.5% – an acceptable moisture content for safe storage of cocoa in the tropics for a few months.

Smallholders in communities arrange wet beans on raised bamboo mats or, less adequately (for sanitary reasons), on concrete platforms on the ground.

Cocoa bean processing can be considered a one-of-a-kind technique.

While all producers have the same goal of producing products efficiently, flavor goals for cocoa liquors often vary from company to company and country to country.

Feather grinding made significant breakthroughs in the later part of the 20th century.

Before the invention of liquor mills, one technique for grinding nibs was to combine them with granulated sugar and place the mixture in an air freshener.

This method produced a substance with a viscosity ranging from paste to fluid.

Related article: Wine and coffee lovers, unite! Study shows red wine and dark chocolate are good for your gut

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