What is ferment?

What is ferment?
April 1, 2019 coconama
In cacao

Hello my fellow chocolate lovers,

 

I am Takanori Chiwata, the chocolate engineer of COCONAMA CHOCOLATE.

Last time, I had the chance to share about how important fermentation is when making chocolate.

 

Today, I would like to talk about “what is fermentation?” in more detail.

 

You hear the word fermentation a lot, but do you know what exactly is going on?

 

Something about yeast…sourness…the alcohol…. and so on.

 

It is hard to explain when you are asked to do so.

 

Simply put, fermentation is a process that use yeast and microbes to create a tangy flavor and umami (deep flavour).

To be precise,

  1. The sugar undergoes a chemical change through yeast and turns into alcohol (to be exact, ethanol).
  2. Then the microbe changes this alcohol into organic acids such as acetic acid and lactic acid.
  3. These acetic acid and lactic acid enters the tissue of cacao bean, and
  4. The enzymes from the yeasts and microbes affects the sugar and protein to create umami (amino acids) and the chocolate-like after tastes.

 

This is the rough outline of the process.

Super scientific! Yes,fermentation is indeed science.

Depending on the type of yeast and microbes used the product will differ. Yes, the taste differs depending on the type of yeast and microbe you use as well.

 

The important thing here is to let the microbes breathe as they are living organisms.

This is how the fermentation process is done.

The beans are fermented in a wooden box and is covered with banana leaves during the process.

Why banana leaves?

It is because natural yeasts are found on banana leaves. Also because bananas and cacao are often grown together.

 

Now, in these wooden boxes are about 500 kg of cacao.

The air does not reach the centre of these boxes and many microbes require oxygen to survive.

 

In order for these microbes to function, it is necessary to mix air in.

Well, how do we mix air into it?

Using an air pump?

 

Nope, it’s done by hand. The air is mixed in by stirring the bean using a stirring rod.

To ferment cacao beans, yeast is activated by limiting access to oxygen for the first two days. Then the beans are stirred every two days to get the microbes working!

This is tremendous work, yet the fermentation process of cacao beans around the world are still largely done by hand.

 

All thanks to the efforts of  Cacao farmers around the world, we are able to enjoy the delicious chocolates we eat. I love you farmers!!

 

Let’s call it a day now that I’ve shared my passion for fermentation.

 

Next time, I would like to post something along the lines of “what do we do with these fermented beans?” Don’t miss it!

 

With hopes that you will be able to encounter the perfect chocolate just for you,

 

Takanori Chiwata

 

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