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Cured cocoa beans are obtained through a post-harvest, batchwise process of fermentation and drying carried out on farms in the equatorial zone. Fermentation of cocoa pulp-bean mass is performed mainly in heaps or boxes. It is made possible by a succession of yeast, lactic acid bacteria (LAB) and acetic acid bacteria (AAB) activities. Yeasts ferment the glucose of the cocoa pulp into ethanol, perform pectinolysis and produce flavour compounds, such as (higher) alcohols, aldehydes, organic acids and esters. LAB ferment the glucose, fructose and citric acid of the cocoa pulp into lactic acid, acetic acid, mannitol and pyruvate, generate a microbiologically stable fermentation environment, provide lactate as carbon source for the indispensable growth of AAB, and contribute to the cocoa and chocolate flavours by the production of sugar alcohols, organic acids, (higher) alcohols and aldehydes. AAB oxidize the ethanol into acetic acid, which penetrates into the bean cotyledons to prevent seed germination. Destruction of the subcellular seed structure in turn initiates enzymatic and
non-enzymatic conversions inside the cocoa beans, which provides the necessary colour and flavour precursor molecules (hydrophilic peptides, hydrophobic amino acids and reducing sugars) for later roasting of the cured cocoa beans, the first step of the chocolate-making.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)432-453
Number of pages22
JournalFEMS Microbiology Reviews
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2020


  • acetic acid bacteria
  • chocolate
  • cocoa fermentation
  • flavour
  • lactic acid bacteria
  • yeasts


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