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plant design & fitout 17

A labour-intensive process follows whereby the pods are split
by hand and the beans are removed from the shell. This process is undertaken within two
days of harvesting.
Once all the beans have been
removed from the pods they are placed inside porous wooden boxes
made of quila. Wood has good insulating properties and can hold the
natural yeast necessary to trigger the process of fermentation.
Fermentation triggers chemical reactions, which create flavour precursors in the cocoa, eventually transforming into beautiful chocolate
aromas. If this is not managed carefully, the chocolate will not have a
good flavour profile despite the quality of the cocoa beans used. During
this process, the cocoa beans get an identity. The perception of citrus
tones correlate to acidity level, and flavours of berries and floral notes
come from alcohols produced by yeasts during fermentation. These flavour notes affect the final product.
Due to seasonal temperature changes, the challenge is controlling the rate
of fermentation to achieve consistent results. Daintree Estates is studying
different processes to maintain consistency in the fermentation process. Experiments on procedures that allow them to control certain factors are performed at the post-harvest facility where they explore techniques and processes that are practised in cheese and wine making that may have parallel results.


The next step is the drying of
the cocoa beans. The beans
are dried in a natural process
where fermented beans are
laid on steel trays placed in a
purpose-built shelter and
gently dried under the sun,
allowing the remaining acids
in the seeds to evaporate and
produce a low-acid, high-cocoa flavoured product. The whole process is dependent on ambient temperature and humidity levels, which can take up to 10 days. The rate of
drying has an important effect on the flavour and quality of the dried
beans: too slow and mould may develop, too fast and oxidative reactions
are not completed thoroughly. Correctly drying the beans reduces moisture content and makes the beans resistant to spoilage. In high humidity
regions, artificial drying methods are used. These methods, incorrectly
performed, can create harsh, smoky aromas that contaminate the taste
of the cocoa beans and inhibit the evaporation of acetic acid, resulting in
beans with a sour flavour profile.

shells are separated from the beans. The beans are cracked separating the
nibs from the husks. With movement and the right amount of airflow, the
lighter weight husks are separated from the nibs. The nibs are then ground
into cocoa mass along with other ingredients to produce chocolate where it
will go through a process of conching.

Conching is the process of grinding the cocoa mass into very fine smooth paste. The
facility in Mossman has a small-scale production set-up where conching is carried out
using a nib pregrinding cycle, followed by a
stone ground melanger cycle. Recipe development and testing are also performed onsite. Larger production quantities are sent to
Daintree Estates' contracted processing
chocolate refiners. Both types of conching
produce a final chocolate that has a particle
size less than 18 microns, which the human tongue can no longer recognise as
gritty. Prolonged conching time gentrifies the flavours in the chocolate.
This is the final stage of flavour development. The fluid chocolate is then precrystallised and moulded into chocolate blocks or bars.


Elaine Young is a consulting pastry chef and
chocolatier who provides expert advice and creative
input for pastry and chocolate operations to the
hospitality and food manufacturing industries. She
can be contacted at





At this point, the post-harvest process is finished. However, the next steps in
cocoa processing are also performed in the facility. This first involves roasting. This delicate process builds on the flavour precursors created during
fermentation and drying. The cocoa beans are roasted using a 20kg drum
roaster. Various flavours are awakened due to the effect of the Maillard reaction where hundreds of different flavour compounds
are created, which in turn
break down to form yet
more new flavour compounds, resulting in flavour precursors being converted into rich caramel
and nutty flavour notes.
The roasted beans then
go through a process of
winnowing where the

Licence No. 216017C


June 2015|Food&Drink business