Controlling Chocolate Making Chemistry Could Speed ​​Up the Process Without Compromising Taste | To research


Another way to make dark chocolate has been created that is faster and more controllable than the conventional fermentation method. Chocolate made this way smells and tastes similar and could therefore replace the usual process.

In the traditional chocolate-making process, cocoa beans are harvested, covered with banana leaves, and left to ferment for a few days so that microorganisms in the environment break down the pulp surrounding the beans, heating and acidifying them. . This microbial degradation triggers biochemical changes in the beans that reduce bitterness and astringency, and create the pleasant flavors and odors commonly associated with chocolate.

But now, a team led by Zurich University of Applied Sciences in Switzerland has developed a non-microbial approach to making chocolate called “wet incubation”. This process rehydrates the dried, unfermented cocoa nibs in an acid solution containing lactic acid and ethanol to adjust the pH value, heats them at 45°C for 72 hours, and then dries them again.

The researchers made chocolate bars using incubated or wet-fermented dried cocoa beans. Sensory analysis by a panel indicated that wet incubated chocolate had more intense fruity, flowery, malty, and caramelized aromas, while fermented chocolate had more potent roasted aromatic notes.

To take a closer look at the sensory analysis, the researchers used gas chromatography-olfactometry (GC-O) to identify the aromatic compounds and then quantified them by GC-MS. They found higher levels of malted compounds called Strecker’s aldehydes, compared to the fermented sample, but lower amounts of roasted compounds called pyrazines.

The fact that both incubated chocolate and fermented chocolate showed typical dark chocolate flavor properties despite the low amounts of pyrazines in the incubated sample confirms previous findings that pyrazines are relatively unimportant for flavor. of cocoa. The researchers concluded that wet incubation could be an alternative post-harvest treatment.

One of the study authors Irene Chetchik, a flavor chemist at Zurich University of Applied Sciences, notes that fermentation is a spontaneous natural process that involves microorganisms and is dependent on many factors. “There are often fluctuations in the quality of cocoa beans obtained by fermentation,” says Chetschik. “Based on our results, it can be assumed that the enzymatic reactions within the cocoa bean are strongly involved in the formation of cocoa aroma.”

The team’s findings also indicate that fermentation may be unnecessary. “Our study has shown that there are other ways to do post-harvest processing of cocoa beans that results in very pleasing sensory properties,” says Chetschik.

Matt Hartings, a materials chemist and food scientist at the American University in Washington DC, says the new study “details well” the different flavor profiles of the new process. “It gives us another tool to broaden the nuance of flavor in the chocolate we eat,” he says.

Hartings further points out that climate change will affect global chocolate supply and production, so the development of new cocoa processing methods will likely be required in the future.

But Richard Tango-Lowy, a physics graduate who is owner and master chocolatier of the Dancing Lion Chocolate shop in New Hampshire, USA, is somewhat skeptical about whether it will work in the real world. “We do a fair amount of work with cocoa farmers on fermentation, and we have several questions about the practicality of doing it on a farm, where most fermentation takes place,” he says.

If the results are proven, he suggests wet incubation could be a game-changer for large commercial cocoa farms in places like Brazil, the Dominican Republic and the Ivory Coast, as it would dramatically simplify the process of making cocoa. chocolate there and would make it more predictable and predictable. cheaper.

“These findings could potentially be useful at the conglomerate scale, and they could also have some use in the fine chocolate industry, where we are looking for certain specific notes and flavors,” says Tango-Lowy. “But at the scale of most fine chocolates, even if the process is good, there are still a lot of barriers to any kind of adoption.” These include many historical, cultural and religious traditions involved in the harvesting and fermentation of cocoa in Central and South America.


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