The Chocolate Life

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Hawaii's chocolate industry is in its infancy. There are many folks with just a few trees who'd like to make chocolate rather than just suck mucilage or eat raw seeds. Here's how you can do it.

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Great article! Thanks for a great article capturing the steps of pod to bar. :)

What type of yeast are you using? Also, do you innoculate with any acetobacter?
I agree great article, it is good to see how you do the fermenting stages on such a small scale - very neat. Following James' question do you innoculate with lactic acid bacteria also? From what I have heard though the fermentation process is very facile and should take off from the native bacteria and yeast on your hands transfered when you remove the seeds from the pod. Though it is probably preferable to innoculate with yeast to get is started asap with a good popualtion for repeatable results.
Aloha Tom and James,
We use bakers yeast- Red Star Active Dry Yeast- 0.5 g in a little warm water to 1 kg of fresh seed. We started doing this about 18 months ago after encountering mold problems, when a new student started handling the fermentation. We open the pods in an air conditioned lab I thought perhaps the student was being too clean. So we experimented with different amounts of yeast to get the process started and to shift the competition with mold spores in favor of yeast. This sets the stage for succession by lactic and acetic acid forming bacteria.
If you let the mold start then the growth of bacteria if not favored.

No I'm not applying bacteria cultures but relying on what is naturally present. That said my colleague is working with different species of the three main organisms. We are investigating if the location effect on chocolate quality might perhaps be the microbial flora in an area rather than the orchard environment per se.
The complexity of wine is dramatically dependant on the microorganisms used in fermentation it stands to reason it would make a difference for cocoa as well. Are you planning on publising your findings? I have not seen any papers on controlled fermentation and its relationship with chocolate quality. Most papers that deal with this only broadly comment on this, nothing specific has been done. As a wine chemist in the past I am quite curious as to the result - infact I attempted to get a similar project up and running about a year ago but circumstances etc prevented it from going ahead. Now I am working in drug developement.

Actually, there has been quite a bit of research on this topic - some of it directed at figuring out how to turn the liquid that drains off the beans during fermentation (called sweatings) into alcoholic beverages and still provide acceptable bean quality for making chocolate.

Here's a link to the abstract of an article that talks about yeast inoculation to improve the quality of fermented beans for making chocolate.

Unfortunately, researchers at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel in Brussels and Barry Callebaut have applied for US and international patents on the idea.
"Unfortunately, researchers at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel in Brussels and Barry Callebaut have applied for US and international patents on the idea."

Wow! This would be a huge step backwards if the patents are granted. This aspect of chocolate making seems like one of the fastest growing.

Hopefully, it won't pass as it seems to be obvious and my guess is that there should have been some prior art.

Skip, very interesting that the baker's yeast works. I wouldn't have expected it, but that's cool since it's pretty inexpensive.
I haven't seen any articles that take the research to the level of wine research as yet as you say most articles concern themselves with improving fermentation but not really with a view to chemically profiling the intimate differences and impact different microorganisms have - with a view to fine chocolate. There are vastly more flavour and aroma compounds in wine that arrise from the yeast than are naturally present in the grape juice. I would conclude that this would be the same for cacao fermentation especially since the fermentation is much more complex. Mind you I haven't scoured the literature for a year or so.

As for the patent, I don't know whether that is going to hold water, this idea has been around for at least 100 years I am pretty sure Arthur Knapp touches on it in his book 'Cocoa and Chocolate - Their History from Plantation to Consumer'. If anyone wants to read this book just google it and you will find a download page.

Schwan et al in their 2004 publication 'The Microbiology of Cocoa Fermentation and its Role in Chocolate Quality' certainly mention it. Actually I would recommend this article to anyone interested in this topic it is a very good starting point.

I would consider the technology already in the public domain and certainly a logical extension wine technology - novelty 0 for that patent.
Hey All.

I'm A PhD researcher from Australia and have been looking at starters for cocoa.
We will be publishing papers on the effects of controlled fermentation on flavour and quality.
Some of our findings are similar to those in the article mentioned already.
Interestingly the microbiology of Australian cocoa fermentation is mostly the same as several other countries, but still subtly different.
For my 2 cents, the Belgians won't, or shouldn't, get their patent: there is too much stuff already published.

Also, don't forget that you can control the microbiology by controlling other parameters such as how often you mix, how big a batch you ferment, the pH of the beans etc.

Finally, if anyone knows of any jobs, let me know.... *smile*

Ciao, Hugh
Hi Hugh,

Was the project you were working on funded by Cadbury and did Barry Kitchen have a hand in it at the start of the project before he went on to Cocoa Australai or are you working for Cocoa Australia or the project under Paul Grieve for PNG? I'd be interested to read more if you could point me in the right direction.

If you aren't working for Cocoa Australia, they (as of a year ago) were interested in collaborations in the area of fermentation. They were particularly interested in funding PhD or Honours students in an academic institute. I was looking at options but it all fell through because I was not an academic and they weren't interested in post docs, also independant funding was really difficult to get if you weren't an academic so that was not an option (since I was not an early career researcher). However if you are just finishing your PhD you would be eligable for early career fellowships through the ARC, this is about the only way you are going to be able to get funding for a colaborative project as you will bring all the money to the project. It is a step towards academia but if you are so inclined it is an avenue worth looking at - quite a good success rate too I hear.
I would love to do some research in this area, too, but am also not an academic. Is it possible to rent a lab? Or anyone know of a way for non-academics to get access to lab equipment without purchasing it?
Beg, borrow and steal. Keep an eye on auctions is my real advice, lab equip comes up a lot. This is how a lot of elicit drug labs get started.
I wonder if this is the best place to post a question I have on molding dark chocolate.

I still notice blooming on the underside of the mold (the chocolate that touches the plastic mold). There is no blooming on the side exposed to the air. I tried molding it at different temperatures (86 F to 90 F) after tempering.

The weird thing is that I don't get bloom on the underside (but rather a glossy shine) when I pour in untempered chocolate, about 100 deg F. The part exposed to the air has some blooming.

I know the tempering works, because the melting times all increased when I did blind tests on my family.

I've thought about it long, but I just cannot figure out why? Has anyone experienced this and tell me why? Is there a solution?


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