Five Cocoa Pods Fermentation Trial

Now I have five medium pods. Thanks to my sponsor.

I assumed the five are medium pods. I lack experience when it comes to cocoa farming. Pods color are three greens and two yellows. Three seem fine while the other two have some issues.

One of the yellow pod has a rotting end. I opened it carefully and separated the part affected by rot. Curious, I cut open one bean. It is color violet. Seems okay. The odor is okay too so I decided to include it in the experiment. It probably taste bad. I can never be sure unless I try.

suspected rotten beans

The second problem. One green pod is not fully ripe yet. The beans with mucilage intact is hard and full. Not separated yet from pod inner surface. I scraped them out forcefully with spoon. Then separated each bean with bare hand. It was hard and some of bean shells were damage by metal spoon. So getting raw fruit increases the chance of bean damage.

raw cocoa pod opened

Fully ripe beans are loose while raw are sticking to each other. I am guessing this is one of the causes of clumped beans. During large harvest. Mistake in harvesting is inevitable and workers are not keen enough to attend to every bean.

I visited the vessel after  two days. There are lots of molds growing on the surface. A contamination for sure.  No molds observed in my first trial.  I mixed it anyway.

I intentionally included a cut bean for the sake of observation. Too see whether the color is changing from violet to brown.  I am seeing it, cotyledon color getting brown.

The aroma is a mix of acid and wine.  This is better than before I think.

The mucilage is coming off nicely now. Mucilage of suspected raw beans are also degraded. Determining which is which is now impossible.

Some beans have visible sprouts. It has something to do with late harvest I think. If pods are harvested too late in their ripening stage, seeds will begin to germinate.

Timing is the key to prevent both raw and sprouted beans.

I set the beans for drying after the fifth day. Not sun drying. Just air dry outside.  Some mucilage are already dry, flat and darkened after eight hours.  Beans are beginning to clump together. I pulled them all apart. Clumped beans are reject. I don’t want those.

I got a bit busy and lost track of this. Sorry!

For the drying part. I never did sun drying. I simply put it in woven basket and placed in open air. It was noticeably dried after seven days.

So even without sun rays, it is possible to dry beans right after fermentation. As long as there is plenty of air circulation. That is for small batches at least. Hope this works out for larger volumes.

home fermented cacao beans

For more than two months I left the dried beans in open area. There is no noticeable moisture re-absorption. Few weevils were observed after the said time period. This proved the farmer’s testimony that fermented beans resist pest damage.

However, the bean flavor is no where near to my high quality bean stocks. I need more practice and more beans.

Finally, I convinced one of my farmer friend to go into fermentation. He setup his first trial. I think it was about 18 pods that yielded about three kilograms after fermentation and drying. He did get the first day sap drippings. Too small to use however, so it was gone to waste. He used plastic crates lined with banana leaves.

He gave me few bean samples. I found it still too astringent though the shell appearance was darkened due to longer fermentation period. The thing was fermented but was not enough. When I did my trials the readings barely rose above room temperature. His rose up to 38 C, during middle of the day.

I think that is the point to consider, the volume of beans required to reach the recommended, 50 degrees Centigrade. It is not only about microorganisms consuming sugar and degrading the mucilage. It is also about the temperature and its accompanying chemical reaction  to make the beans fit for chocolate making and repel weevils.

The fermented beans I bought  from our town farmers were all infested with weevils. The beans I fermented myself were infested too. The bulk beans from our trusted supplier has never suffered the same faith.

Marvin is the lead chocolate maker of Ben and Lyn Chocolate Inc. Has strong background in food research and development. Occasionally conducts training and lectures. Lecturer of Cocoa Foundation of the Philippines. Do coaching and consultancy services on his free time.

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