Does anyone have information about how washing pre-fermented cocoa beans before drying affects bean flavor?
The only information I have, from a document written by Smilja Lambert of Mars, Inc. about Vietnam cocoa, states that soaking is supposed to reduce acidity, increase brown beans and improve chocolate flavor.
I’m working with a farmer who is trying to improve the flavor of his beans. He currently soaks the pre-fermented beans (approx. 10kg at a time) in water for 15 minutes before gently washing the pulp off with his hands and spreading out to dry. The document recommends 2 hours soaking time (volume not specified), but he’s concerned the long soak time will add too much moisture back into his beans. He’d like to know how soaking/washing improves flavor, so he can quality control his beans more efficiently.
Any information will be helpful.
Hi Teresa, I don't know the answer to your question but would like to refer you to Alexis or Emily at Maya Mountain Cacao in Belize, they are on the ground level and may be able to answer or point you in the right direction.
Excellent, thanks Arcelia, I hear great things about Maya Mountain Cacao.
I found out if beans are too acidic that washing them would help reduce acidity, but to be careful of contaminating them with dirty water.
In our experience, it doesn't make much sense to wash the beans, although it may have worked in Vietnam. Actually, washing the beans pre-fermentation may mess with the pulp that is essential for the fermentation (it is actually the pulp that ferments, not the beans).
Slow drying is a better way of reducing acidity or to reach the level of acidity that may be desirable. Half a day or one full day more of drying will reduce the acidity.
Thanks Frank! I'll forward this info to the farmer I'm working with in Fiji.
For best flavour development, take the beans out of the pod, ferment them 5-7 days and then dry them.
Never wash them at any stage. If you wash them before fermentation you wash away the pulp essential for fermentation, fermentation is the only way to develop the precursor compounds in the bean so that when roasted they make a chocolate flavour. If you wash them after fermentation you will remove a protective layer of material that holds in the flavour and aroma compounds in the beans as they sun dry, you wash this off and the beans will be very bland. I have worked on this post washing process a lot and it is a bad bad idea for good flavour cacao.
I have worked a lot with beans from Samoa and Fiji where this practice is sometimes done where the beans are just de-podded, washed and then dried, skipping the fermentation step. This has arrisen beacasue of the local use and treatment of the beans. The local drinking chocolate is made by basically cremating the beans so there is no point in fermenting to get good flavour because there is no difference between 'burnt fermented beans' and 'burnt unfermented beans'. Infact I am told that the burnt unfermented beans taste better and attract a higher price and there is less work and infrastructure required because you skip the 5-7 day fermentation period. The post washing arose, I am told, in response to selling beans into countries like Australia where there are strict quarantine laws. Basically washed beans look prettier and are more likely to clear customs without issue, but the bean is of poorer quality for chocolate making.
If the farmer is wanting to sell beans for chocolate making you need to follow the instructions in my first sentence.....de-pod, ferment, dry......no washing at any stage! If the farmer is selling to local market where the practice is to burn the beans, let him do whatever he likes, it will all taste like burnt in the end.
Since you are in Fiji, have you tried contacting Tomo at Adi Chocolate and asking for advice. They are based in Fiji.