Processing Cocoa

BREAKING/OPENING THE PODS

  • Do not wait more than four (4) days to open the pods.
  • Open the pods by hitting them with a thick piece of wood or blunt metal or mallet.
  • Avoid the use of slasher/machete to remove beans.
  • Take beans out of the pods and put them in a container (preferably baskets).
  • Carry them to the place where they are to be fermented.
  • Remove broken husks from the field.

STORAGE OF PODS

After harvesting, pods should be subjected to storage in:

  1. A bamboo cage with wooden floor
  2. Pod storage on raised platform

It is best to store pods in a cool and dry position, under cover from rain, as this will tend to reduce the possibility of fungal contamination.

  • Pods which become infected with fungi, should be diseased.

Pods are generally stored for 4 – 7 days.

When pods are ready to ferment, you should be able to hear and feel the beans moving inside when the pods are shaken.  Meaning, enough moisture has been lost from pod to allow a good fermentation.

REASON(S) FOR COCOA BEANS FERMENTATION:

  1. To destroy the seed coat
  2. To kill the germ
  • Give the cocoa a good taste/flavor

FERMENTATION OF THE BEANS

Fermentation of cocoa can be conducted in a number of manners.

The methods include:

  1. Baskets Fermentation

The sides, bottom and top surface of the basket are lined with banana leaves.  The banana leaves prevents the cocoa from drying out and also acts as insulation to hold in heat.

However, banana leaves on the bottom should not be too thick and should also be perforated by a knife to make sure that the liquid from the cocoa pulp will be drained.  Insufficient drainage of pulp will result in a bad fermentation.

The top layer of fermenting cocoa should also be covered with banana leaves, jute bags.

This inhibits too much air penetration into the fermenting cocoa and stop too much moisture from beings lost.

The loss of too much moisture, may cause cocoa not to properly fermented. Jute bags conserve heat better than banana leaves, so jute bags or a combination of banana leaves and jute bags are recommended.

The beans should be turned from time to time.  When turning, the beans should be mixed with hands to get uniform air unto the fermenting cocoa and fermentation even throughout the cocoa processing.

HEAP FERMENTATION:

  1. Choose a flat and dry spot
  2. Cover it with banana leaves
  • Make a heap of cocoa beans
  1. Stir the heap from time to time.

FERMENTING THE BEANS IN BOXES

  1. Use boxes with holes in the bottom
  2. Place boxes on support (raised platform/stores).
  • The justice runs off at the bottom of the boxes through the hole
  1. After two (2) days, take the beans out of the box. Stir them around well and put them into another box.
  2. Stack the boxes one on top of the other
  3. NEVER leave the beans in the same box for more than two (2) days.
  • Fermentation takes 6-10 days.  However, seven (7) days is good.

The beans are purple at the beginning, and turn reddish when they are fermented.

However, the most common methods used in Sierra Leone are the heaps and baskets.

 

BOX SIZES FOR FERMENTATION OF VARIOUS BEANS QUANTITIES

 

Amount of cocoa (kg)

Box dimensions (internal dimensions)
Length (cm) Width (cm) Depth (cm9)
25 Kg 33 26 30
50 Kg 49.5 29 35
100 Kg 70 43.5 39
250 Kg 80 80 40

 

During fermentation the temperature should be monitored, as the case in all fermentation methods.  In box fermentation qualities of beans 100kg or less, turning can be done by hand.

Larger quantities of beans example, 250 kg and above, partitioned boxes are used.

In this case, turning of beans is performed by shoveling them from one side of the partition to the other.

DRYING COCOA BEANS

Drying of cocoa is an important step in cocoa processing as some of the reactions which produce good flavoured cocoa are still proceeding during the drying process.

Ideally, cocoa should be dried over a five to seven (5-7) days’ period.  This allows acids in the cocoa to evaporate off and produce a low acid, high cocoa flavoured product.

SUN DRYING

Dried in the sun:

  • The beans are spread on boards, bush sticks or bamboo cane raised one (1) metre above ground level.
  • The layer of beans should not be very thick, not more than 4cm for quick and uniform drying.
  • Stir the beans frequently and protect from rain.
  • Proper drying takes 5 – 10 days.

SOLAR DRIERS (PLASTIC)

Driers use rocks painted black to collect heat from the sun and vent the hot air through drying bed.  They also have a roof which can be lowered when it rains and at night and this saves having to remove the cocoa around.

Kit is recommended that the drying beds are not loaded more than 50kg wet beans per square meter.  Loading higher amount could result in mold contamination of the cocoa.

Cocoa, dried by solar drier takes five to six days (5-6) and is free from mold contamination.

CONSTRUCTION OF SOLAR DRIERS AND FERMENTATION BOXES

Solar driers should be constructed on a concrete bases, 6.5m length, 1.5m in width and 100mm thick.  The length of the concrete base should run in an East – North – South direction so that the two wings are heated evenly by the sun traveling East-West.  The following instructions should be followed where erecting a solar drier.

  1. The sheet is marked with a “this way up sticker”. The sheet must be installed with this ticker facing up to the sun.

Do not remove stickers until construction is complete.  If the sheeting is to be removed at any time for any reason, it is important that they be replaced with the correct side facing up.

  1. Fixing: the hole for the screw (in the sheet) must be per-drilled with a 10mm hole.  This allows for expansion and contraction, pre-drill this hole before you screw down the sheet.
  • Cleaning: The sheeting must be kept clean to maximize the best drying conditions.  Sheeting should be cleaned periodically with a soft cloth.  Ideally this can be done during rain.

SORTING OF BEANS

The following are removed to enhance good market price:

  • Flat beans
  • Germinated beans
  • Broken beans
  • Moldy beans

BAGGING

Good beans are put into jute bags.  Synthetic plastic bags should be AVOIDED, as they deteriorate the beans faster due to sweating.  Bags should be clean, sound, sufficiently strong and properly sewn.  Cocoa should be shipped only in new bags.