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As far as I know, post-harvesting, chocolates are then fermented,dried, sorted, and then bagged. The cacaos are then shipped to factories to be roasted, crushed, conched, tempered, then made to bars.(Correct me if I'm wrong)

What I'm about to ask is the post-harves methods(not the factory processing).


I live in Indonesia, where these things are often neglected or done incorrectly so that the crops are usually bad(not that they're all bad, but most of the bulks are far lower qualities than West African's).


What I am wondering is what are the methods of each those steps?

Like in fermenting, I know that some plantations cover them with plantains, some others uses a cabinet-like thing. Is there other ways/methods of this step?

And in drying, I know that some are sun-dried, and some others are smoked.

Is there other ways/methods?


And what are usually the guidelines of those methods?

Is there a particular signs(cotyledons, degree of dryness,etc) that should be noted during this process?

Tags: Bean, Cacao, Drying, Fermenting, Methods, Post-Harvest

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So, as you're aware in Indonesia - there's not a huge ingrained culture of heavily fermenting beans - in fact, most of Indonesians don't ferment their beans at all (at least not intentional fermentation, there may be some incidental fermentation occuring during transit).


Different parts of the world have taken on different post-harvest practices.  In Africa, 100-300 kg heaps on the ground are common - there's really no 'standard' fermentation time or practice any longer in W. African, i'm sad to say - however historically a 5 day fermentation with routine turning had been the norm.  Today, it's all over the map, and is part of what's contributing to the many quality issues arising out of W. Africa.


Many other parts of the world have taken to using boxes - some box fermentation can be found in your neck of the woods actually, although it's rare.  C. and S. Americans often use boxes, usually of wood.  Plastic boxes have been known to be used in the Carribean routinely.  There are a number of techniques that can be applied to the fermentation itself to direct flavor development - for how you choose to ferment your beans has a significant impact on the type of flavor that they produce.


The best way to dry is solar drying, indirect heat.  The rate of drying is terribly important to the flavor of the bean as well.  Some geographies - such as Malaysia - have taken to burning things as the heat source to dry the beans.  This results in what is typically regarded as defect beans, as the beans absorb the resultant odors of whatever's burned.  Forced air gas and infrared heaters have also been known to be used.  I prefer raised beds with a specific design, covered by opaque fiberglass/plexiglass with open ends to keep the rain out and keep air flow moving myself.  The Ivory Coast has, in recent years, installed huge drum dryers at the ports - this has been a terrible thing in my opinion, as it's sent the message to tretants that quality procedures - such as drying at the farm - aren't important.  What then happens is that wet beans are moved about the country, resulting in high molds, and then speed dried in a drum (essentially low roasted).  If CdI doesn't resolve this - i predict a huge decline in their exports in years to come.

Thank you for the reply.

You mentioned " here are a number of techniques that can be applied to the fermentation itself to direct flavor development"

Can you tell me some of these techniques or any references(books or websites)?

What are the guidelines for the procedures?(e.g appearance of half-cut of beans, level of water, smell,etc)

Do you have any example pictures on how a fermentation or drying is correcly(or wrongly) executed?

Jeff - as someone noted, it's a pretty large topic to cover in a 5 minute web post on Christmas eve 8-)  Mass of fermentation, length of ferment, is it co-fermented with something, the type of container used (is a container used?), the degree of aeration, the degree of 'weep' removal, temperature control, type of microorganisms used and when introduced, etc all factor into it.  Of course, don't forget that the most important factor is, of course, the bean itself and it's genetic heritage.  One of the issues you're dealing with in Indo (and they're legion i'm afraid), is that the majority of the genetic material that has been planted is simply not that good for flavor or fat levels, but it can be a high yielding variant.  Of course you've got pod transportation issues, CPB pests, emerging phytophthera issues, and not many people ferment.  The majority of indonesian stock can, however, be fermented in such as way as to produce a flavor profile that emulates many other origins - but even so, the fat levels will be depressed.


What's right or wrong?  It depends on what you want to get - the question in and of itself is sort of like asking if a red car or a blue car is better 8-) 

Do your best to find Arthur Knapp's Cacao Fermentation. I know I've mentioned it elsewhere, but although it's out of print and old, it remains one of the very best resources on the subject.


Be prepared...fermentation and drying together are a truly massive subject, and anybody serious about post harvest processing of cacao is likely to spend an inordinate amount of their time (and probably their entire career) thinking about and refining fermentation and drying processes.

I googled the book and nothing about book came out.

Looks like it's gonna be very hard to find, but well, finger crossed. :)


Thank you for the warning.

I am currently learning about chocolate and cocoa.

One thing I've learned is that the quality of beans in Indonesia is below standard(mostly) due to the post-harvest care.

I have a dream to have my very own bean-to-bar chocolate factory in Indonesia.

I realize that it's gonna be time-consuming, that's why I might as well start now.

Same author, and also worth a read, but not the book. Try looking it up on Alibris or abe's books online. Copies do show up from time to time.


I would also recommend checking out more general texts on cacao like Wood & Lass' Cocoa:


There are some very good reading lists in other threads around the site, so spend some time poking around older discussions as well...


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