farmers showing cocoa being fermented in a small fermentation basket

Mr Abraham Nchenge next to a big fermentation box

A push-push used for transporting the cocoa


The fermentation process takes about 6 days. Some MACEFCOOP farmers use baskets made of local materials for fermentation; others heap the beans and cover them with banana leaves and sacking to provide insulation. The cocoa is turned after 24 - 48 hours and then each 24 - 48 hours until fermentation is complete.

The smaller "heaps method" is the traditional West African practice and it is claimed that it produces the best flavour. Farmer experience can be important in achieving successful fermentation. All methods can provide a high quality product if care is taken in the process and sufficient time is given for fermentation. The fermentation process determines the quality of the dried beans.

Prior to fermentation the cocoa beans are bitter and astringent, with no hint of chocolate flavour; the biochemical processes that occur during fermentation develop the precursors of the chocolate flavour. Fermentation also kills the seeds (ie the cocoa beans) preventing them from germinating.

Proper fermentation and drying removes all unpleasant flavours and starts the chemical changes necessary to produce the true cocoa and chocolate flavours that emerge after roasting. The initial stage of the fermentation process is anaerobic; yeast and bacteria utilise the sugars of the mucilage, producing acetic acid and generating heat, which kills the seed.

The second, aerobic, stage, which begins after the beans are turned, oxidises the acetic acid.

Through training we know how to ferment our cocoa properly, that is why our quality has improved; we are 79 members and there was only one case of rejected cocoa
a member of MACEFCOOP society

Mr Abraham Nchenge next to a big fermentation basket