Did you know that fermentation is key to great tasting chocolate? Every stage of fermentation – from anaerobic to aerobic – plays an important role in the final flavor of the chocolate. Let’s explore how fermentation affects the taste of chocolate, and why it’s such an important part of the chocolate-making process.
How Fermentation Affects the Taste of Chocolate
Chocolate is made from cacao beans, which are fermented before they are roasted and ground into a fine powder. Cacao beans are very bitter, so fermentation is necessary to develop the rich, sweet flavor that we all know and love. During fermentation, the beans are left to sit in piles or bins for several days, during which time they release their bitterness and develop a more complex flavor profile.
There are two types of fermentation: anaerobic and aerobic. Anaerobic fermentation (also known as “wild fermentation”) occurs in the absence of oxygen, while aerobic fermentation takes place in the presence of oxygen. Both types of fermentation are used in chocolate making, and each has a different effect on the final flavor of the chocolate.
- Anaerobic Stage
There are two types of bacteria that are responsible for the anaerobic stage of cacao fermentation: lactic acid bacteria and acetic acid bacteria. Lactic acid bacteria produce lactic acid, which gives yogurt its sour taste. Acetic acid bacteria produce acetic acid, which gives vinegar its sour taste.
The anaerobic stage of cacao fermentation usually lasts for about 5 days. First, we drain the excess juice from the beans that are covered with mucilage. This process takes four hours. After that, we place the beans in the first fermentation box. We covered the fermentation box with banana leaves and juice sack and let it stay in the tightly covered box for three days. During this time, we place a thermometer to monitor the heat. The temperature of the beans needs to be kept at about 46°F (8°C). If the temperature gets too high, the bacteria will die and the fermentation process will come to a halt.
Anaerobic fermentation takes place first, and it’s what gives chocolate its characteristic fruity flavors.
- Aerobic Stage
In aerobic fermentation, the beans are exposed to oxygen, while in anaerobic fermentation, they are not. The aerobic stage of cacao fermentation is extremely important, as it helps to control mold growth and prevents disease.
The aerobic stage of cacao fermentation typically lasts for two to three days. During this time, the beans are turned regularly to ensure that they are evenly fermented. The temperature during aerobic fermentation should be between 28 and 32 degrees Celsius (82 and 89 degrees Fahrenheit).
If the temperature is too high, the beans will over-ferment and develop off-flavors. If the temperature is too low, the fermentation process will be inhibited, leading to a decrease in flavor development. It is important to maintain a consistent temperature during aerobic fermentation to ensure that the beans ferment properly. The end of the aerobic stage of cacao fermentation is marked by the appearance of white mold on the surface of the beans. This white mold is Penicillium candidum, a type of fungi that helps to form cocoa butter.
Aerobic fermentation happens after the anaerobic fermentation period, and it contributes to the development of deeper flavors like coffee and spice.
Together, these two types of fermentation create a well-rounded, complex flavor that is simply delicious. That’s why fermentation is so important to great tasting chocolate!
The next time you enjoy a delicious piece of chocolate, remember that fermentation played a big role in making it taste so good. From its fruity flavors to its deep coffee and spice notes, fermentation is key to developing the rich flavor profile that makes chocolate so special. So next time you bite into a bar of your favorite dark chocolate, take a moment to appreciate all the work that went into making it taste so good – it’s all thanks to fermentation!