Changes in some biochemical qualities during drying of pulp pre-conditioned and fermented cocoa (Theobroma cacao) beans
Fermentation and drying are critical to the development of flavour precursors that generate into distinctive chocolate flavour notes during industrial manufacture. These processes also lead to reduction in acidity and free fatty acids of nibs, which dictates the levels of bitterness and colour development in chocolates. This study investigated changes in nib acidity, flavour precursors (sugars concentration and proteins) and free fatty acids during drying of pulp pre-conditioned and fermented cocoa beans. Non-volatile (titratable) acidity, pH, sugars (reducing, non-reducing and total sugars), changes in protein content and free fatty acids of the beans were studied using standard analytical methods. Increasing pod storage consistently increased pH of the fermented nibs at the end of drying with consequential decrease in titratable acidity. The pH increased from 4.92 for the freshly harvested pods to 6.00 for pods stored for 10 days at the end of the drying process. Similarly, pH of the fermented beans increased with increasing drying time for all pod storage treatment except for pods stored for 10 days. The pH of fermented beans whose pods were stored for 3 and 7 days were 5.26 and 5.56 respectively after drying for 7 days. Protein, reducing sugars, non-reducing sugars and total sugars decreased significantly (p<0.05) with increasing duration of drying at all pod storage periods. Pod storage and drying significantly (p<0.05) increased the free fatty acids content of the fermented nibs. The FFAs of the dried beans increased from 0.47% for the unstored (freshly harvested) pods to 0.55% for pods stored for 3 and 7 days and 0.58% for pods stored for 10 days. However, FFAs content of all the dried fermented beans were below the acceptable limits of 1.75% oleic acid equivalent in cocoa butter at all pod storage periods. Storage of cocoa pod between 3–7 days with 7 days of drying (after 6 days fermentation) led to considerable reductions in nib acidity, reducing sugars, nonreducing, total sugars and proteins and acceptable FFA levels.