Fermented Beans and Few Weevils

I am crushing weevils one by one as I sort out cacao beans. It has been ages since last I saw this grain pest. They were gone away almost immediately after switching to properly fermented cacao.

Going back to Mang Flaviano story. He is maintaining various crops in his farms, including cacao. Sometimes he is making good money out of it. Most of the time not. Why? He harvests whole year round so it is safe to assume that it generates decent income. Sad to say that weevils eat it first before buyers arrived.

His dilemma put to halt when he learn how to ferment beans. Base on his experience, wash-and-dry barely last for two weeks. He has been storing fermented for about three months and it barely has sign of infestation.

So his conclusion. Fermenting the beans make it easier to prepare. No need to take effort in removing those hard to remove mucilage. Very minimal to no weevil infestation. Those insect seems to hate the winey and vinegary flavor. Third and the sweetest, he earns more money by simply employing the right method.

His beans still has weevils but very few has hole. His method is not yet refined so few improperly fermented beans is not surprising. His previous stocks used to be heavily infested. Theses insects came from those. They are trying to continue their life cycle.

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.

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.

One Pod Fermentation Trial…

Big things come from small beginnings. I gonna start my fermentation skill with this single cacao pod. With this quantity, is there enough flora to kick start and complete fermentation? Is there enough juice? Will it generate enough heat? I’m not sure. I need to find it out.

I was hearing a knocking sound when shaking the pod. A sign of ripeness. There are other ways to know when it is ripe. Not sure about it so it is not worth mentioning right now.

Cut and partially cut beans are rejects. I better be careful opening and avoid it. With this single pod, damaging beans seems unforgivable.

It turned out a beautiful cut and all beans were safe. It was fragrant, teasing me to do what I used to. Suck all the sweet delicious pulp clean and dry under the sun. However, for the sake of better flavor, I did the right thing. I placed it in container where I think can support fermentation to its fullest.

green cocoa pod


update:

During the trial, I turned the beans every two days and set for drying on fifth day.  Almost no increased temperature observed. Average of 28 C during the period. On the 3rd day the mucilage degradation was imminent. Made a cut test of two beans on the fifth day. The first bean was partially violet and partially brown. The second was brown. It exhibited a winey aroma. The bitterness and astringency subsided. The result was not close to my desired quality but acceptable. I bet the quality expectation will increase as the volume increases. I will update this as necessary.

freshly fermented beans

Few days after the concluded trial, a local farmer met me and showed me sample of her fermented beans. She said she is harvesting few pods a week and fermenting it in a small plastic container covered with banana leaves. The period is seven days but she never knew it needs several turning. The bean quality was acceptable so I bought it and the rest for a fair price. It was around 10 kilograms.

Word travel fasts. Another few days and another farmer. His was 52 kilograms. He is fermenting about 10 kg wet beans per batch. His beans also has acceptable quality so I bought all.

He shared some of his valuable experiences. Washing and drying beans after removal from pods are hard tasks. The sticky mucilage needs some time and effort to force removed. Fermenting the beans is longer but the mucilage degrades on its own. It is easier in the end. Fermenting the beans also deter pest infestation. Usually, in his previous wash and dry method, the beans were usually infested two weeks after storage. The scenario has never happened for fermented beans.

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.

Cocoa Bean Darkening

During the bean cut test I made the previous time, I noticed darkening on parts of majority of the beans. Beans in questions have 30 percent dark region. I thought it was natural so I just let it go.

Then while sorting beans for the next roasting batch, I spotted one bean with a severely darkened side. If I never know better, I will immediately think that it was already roasted and accidentally included here. The darkened side was partly shelled.

darkened cacao beans

So the darkening that I noticed before was not natural. It is a sort of process abnormality that may or may not affect product end quality.

Thanks to amanochocolate.com which has a nice detailed explanation on fermentation. During the process, if the beans are turned too frequently, the beans get more oxygen exposure. Then, resulting to too hot temperature and darkening. On the contrary, too infrequent rotation will result in uneven fermentation.

They never mentioned how much rotation is enough though, nor discussed the effect of bean darkening.

As far as roasted bean flavor is concerned, every bean from the same batch has slightly different taste. Some are neutral and some are good, others are bad. There are few that exhibits exquisite flavor. If I only have the way to sort beans according to flavor, I surely do it.

One acquaintance who happened to be in cacao farming told me that different nibs color pertains to specific varieties. Cocoa farmers tend to raise mixed species for number of reasons. Darker nib color may also native to specific variety and not just a result of improper fermentation.

 

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.

A Batch of Beans In Question…

I have been tinkering with this batch of beans for quite a while now. It is by no doubt fermented but has no acidic smell. I hate to describe it but it is slightly similar to dried cow dung.

I never like its unroasted flavor either. It taste like chocolate but the fruitiness is missing. The acidity, nuttiness, almond, cashew nut and barbecue that I’ve tasted from the previous deliveries. I love discovering new flavors. This one disappointed me. It is simply flat with disagreeable odor.

FYI, good beans, like I described, taste good already in its unroasted state. I assumed that was true to all until I got a not so good batch. The taste improved after roasting and even got better after refining. Chocolates made out of it got sold rapidly to the point of me wanting more of the specific beans.

First test processing.

Roasting. The typical brownie smell during roast is not evident. I could hardly smell it. If my only roasting indicator is odor, then I am sure to fail. No significant improvement in bean taste either. My last option is the previous time and temperature records. I applied what is common to all and just accepted the result.

Winnowing. I noticed, more shells were sticking to nibs. More hand picking is needed. Longer time turning the nibs again and again and more eye pain. Pan roasted beans usually has this characteristics due to uneven heat distribution.

Finished product. My partner liked it, but I don’t. The decision is continue with the rest of the batch but never buy similar beans again. Some of our patrons might have taste buds similar to me. That sure is loose on our side. This is such a risky decision.

I never do bean cut test, the appropriate bean sampling method. All I do is get some beans, peel and chew it. Then visually inspect the rest. If the noticeable defects are negligible then I go for it.

Maybe now is the time to implement proper sampling.

There are still few sacks left. I am trying to figure out what happened to this beans so I did a cut test and compare it to good batches. To my surprise, the appearance is far superior than good batches.

bean cut test bad good

Now we suspect the bean is washed. I mean washed after fermentation in attempt to remove to much acidity. We heard some buyers don’t want acidic beans. It is done by shortening fermentation period or washing after. Maybe what we got is not a bad batch. It could be our standard is set to specific.

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.