The Impact of Post-Harvest Practices on Cocoa Drying Efficiency

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Ancient cultures in South America used cocoa beans during important religious rites or as a gift to distinguished warriors. Cocoa beans are obtained from cacao plants, which are native to that region.

Later, cacao trees spread to other tropical and subtropical regions of the world. However, the status and worth that cocoa beans stand for have not changed over time. Even in today's technologically advanced world, cocoa beans are still recognised as a high-value good and are currently most frequently utilised in the production of chocolate, one of the world's most beloved sweets.

In fact, chocolate's so popular that global demand has created a 100 billion industry. Countries such as Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, and Indonesia supply cocoa beans to chocolate-loving countries like Switzerland, Germany, and Belgium. Because of the increased global movement of cocoa beans, cocoa farmers must guarantee the quality of their harvests.

The quality of cocoa beans can directly affect the quality of chocolates, so cocoa farmers and traders are careful to retain peak quality. Given that cocoa beans are extremely sensitive to moisture and are susceptible to the growth of mould, this is particularly true for the Cocoa drying process.

The quality of cocoa beans is significantly influenced by post-harvest procedures, especially how effectively the beans are dried. Proper post-harvest methods can improve cocoa drying efficiency, which can lead to better-quality cocoa beans and improved income for cocoa farmers.

Some effects of post-harvest procedures on the speed of drying cocoa include the following:

Harvesting: The effectiveness of cocoa drying can be impacted by the date of the harvest. The beans in cocoa pods that are taken too soon might not be fully mature, which might cause uneven drying. When cocoa pods are harvested too late, the beans may already be fermenting, which can reduce the effectiveness of drying.

Fermentation: A crucial post-harvest procedure that influences the flavour and aroma of cocoa beans is fermentation. Inadequate fermentation can result in uneven drying, off flavours, and unpleasant odours. Cocoa beans that have undergone proper fermentation are simpler to dry and may provide beans of superior grade.

Drying: The most important post-harvest procedure that influences the effectiveness of cocoa drying is drying. The moisture content of cocoa beans can be effectively dried down to the desired range of 6% to 8%. The quality and marketability of cocoa beans might be impacted by mould growth or other faults if they are not dried properly. The drying process used, the drying period, and the drying environment can all have an impact on how effectively cocoa is dried.

Storage: For cocoa beans to remain high-quality and avoid reabsorbing moisture, proper storage is crucial. To prevent mould growth and other flaws, cocoa beans should be kept in a cold, dry environment. As a result of the beans' increased moisture content from improper storage, which can make them more challenging to dry, improper storage can also affect how well cocoa is dried.

The Right Way to Dry Cocoa Beans

A few tips on cocoa drying beans are provided by the International Cocoa Organisation. They contend that fermented cocoa beans should be dried slowly in order to complete all the chemical processes required to give cocoa its proper bitterness and other flavours.

The drying process typically takes five to seven days to reduce the beans' moisture content from 70% to 7%. Sun drying or artificial drying are two options for doing this. Sundrying is a typical traditional method since it is substantially less expensive than artificial drying, especially for smallholder farmers. The relatively thin coating of cocoa beans is laid out on mats or concrete floors, twisted, or scraped to promote even drying.

This process, which can be completed in places with longer dry seasons like Cote d'Ivoire, takes five to ten days. Mechanical techniques are used in artificial drying to reduce the moisture content of the cocoa beans. Because cocoa producers must make a larger investment, this method is more expensive.

Mechanical dryers are necessary due to the humid atmosphere in places like the humid rainforest regions of Southeast Asia or the temperate highlands of Brazil. Inadequate cocoa drying can result in low-quality harvests that would have to be sold for less money. Particularly if re-wetting takes place as a result of too much moisture in the air, the flavour and composition of the cocoa beans would be impacted.

Free Fatty Acids (FFA) in the cocoa beans are of special concern to cocoa producers and traders. Higher FFA levels in the cocoa beans correspond to higher moisture absorption. The pleasant bitterness that chocolate manufacturers prefer is often replaced by rotten overtones when FFA levels are too high. Innovative drying methods, like the GrainPro Collapsible Dryer Case, can help save priceless cocoa beans from unpredictable weather or too much moisture for those searching for a more affordable drying option.

When not in use, the Collapsible Dryer Case is a portable drying surface that can be folded and zipped in case of sudden downpours or at night when the temperature starts to fall and moisture begins to accumulate. The cocoa beans will stay dry because of the material's strong barrier characteristics, which successfully fend off moisture.

In addition to being convenient, this solution is made to prevent contamination of the dried cocoa beans. In order to prevent small rocks and other debris from becoming mixed in with the dried cocoa beans, the Collapsible Dryer Case includes inflatable walls.

Moisture Content Is Important in the Processing of Coffee:

The quality of a brew can be affected by the moisture content of the coffee beans. As a result, it's crucial to check that each batch of harvested coffee has the ideal level of moisture, which is typically approximately 11.5% when the beans are prepared for shipping and storage. Given that numerous factors, like climate and altitude, in various parts of the world would also alter coffee's moisture content, it is crucial to pay attention to how the beans are handled in each stage of processing.

It can be disastrous for both farmers and roasters if the beans are handled improperly or ignored during the drying process. During the drying process, it is crucial to take care not to overexpose the beans, but under-drying can also result in a number of issues. The coffee beans may suffer permanent harm from over-drying, including loss of acidity and aroma quality, which results in diminished flavour and taste. The beans may also become overly brittle and vulnerable to breaking when ground at the same time. The freshness and colour of the beans can also be affected by overdrying, which would result in a loss of quality and a decrease in price.

Additionally, under-moistured coffee might be over-roasted by roasters, resulting in burnt coffee and a loss of earnings. Due to this, the beans must be gently dried slowly while being regularly monitored. On the other hand, because of the excess moisture, under-dried coffee beans might grow mould. Coffee beans that have these harmful fungi growing on them pose a health danger to anyone who consumes them. Under-dried coffee may get contaminated with substances like mycotoxins and aflatoxins. All internal organs, particularly the kidneys and liver, could potentially suffer damage from these compounds, which are known to be carcinogens. Making sure that no mould grows is an essential step in the preparation of coffee.

It is advised that operators always keep an eye on the beans' moisture content, whether they are drying on a patio, in netting, or in drying racks. To prevent pollutants from blending into the beans, it is crucial to handle and store coffee in sanitary facilities. Coffee needs to be preserved from farm to cup, and GrainPro's hermetic technology solutions are the ideal instruments for this.

Is farming cocoa harmful to the environment?

Many people would refer to the taste of chocolate as it is – a taste of heaven – since it balances the diverse flavours of bitter and sweet in a deliciously enticing way. Despite how amazing it is, chocolate did not appear out of thin air. This amazing invention, which is adored by billions of people, is the result of several meticulous steps beginning with its source: the cocoa bean.

'Sustainable chocolate' has been a buzzword in the food sector for a while. Anything that is sustainable and doesn't have an impact on future generations is considered to be environmentally friendly. However, it's possible that sustainable cocoa cultivation isn't truly in any way sustainable. This article will examine if cocoa plantations can eventually become more environmentally friendly.

The tropics have long employed a method of sustainable agricultural practices called cocoa farming. There has been no debate of cocoa farming's effects on the environment, despite the introduction of new sustainable and organic certifications.

Western Africa is one of the best places on Earth to grow cocoa beans due to its rich soil and heavy rainfall, yet all too frequently this region gets cleared of its forests to make room for plantations. If deforestation increases production yields (i.e., more trees can be grown back than were chopped down), it may appear to be a necessary evil. However, this is not always the case, as replanting often fails to fully restore lost habitat.

The soil quality of the cleared ground may be subpar, making it difficult for new plants to establish themselves. On steep hillsides, there are attempts to restore cocoa plants, but due to the weak soil, landslides happen during the rainy season and further devastate the area. This results in flooding of nearby communities or river sedimentation, when valuable or delicate aquatic habitats may be lost. Budgetary resources would be needed to help ameliorate these major environmental problems.

Good agricultural practices alone are not enough to define sustainable farming. It concerns wholesome supply chains. When farmers receive a fair wage without the need for subsidies and there is little need for the use of pesticides or fertilisers that are harmful to the environment, farming is seen to be healthy. Deforestation, climate change, and disease prevention are the three main challenges to sustainable cocoa production. Poor land management for cultivating cacao trees and industrial logging operations are the main causes of deforestation.

Additionally, the destruction of traditional cocoa-growing regions' forests is a substantial contributor to the rise in greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.

When planting their crops, farmers cut down trees to get rid of competition from nearby plants and animals that can deplete the soil's water or nutrients, which is necessary for the growth of cocoa beans. Erosion may result from this, which raises the level of sediment in waterways and lowers water supply. Deforestation's residual nutrients have the potential to seriously harm rivers and streams.

Another significant problem that affects cacao growers is "black pod rot," a disease of the cocoa tree that results in an annual crop output loss of about 60%. The result is that a lot of farmers in Western Africa and Central America are compelled to switch to less sustainable farming methods, such as cacao produced in the shade.

Our ecology is being destroyed by the myriad issues in the current "sustainable" cocoa cultivation, so a fix is urgently required for better output. All components of the production process, from cultivating the beans to creating chocolate products, must be carried out ethically in order to have healthy production, environmental protection, and economic prosperity for farmers.

Growing cacao is a demanding and labor-intensive operation. The beans that go into making our favourite chocolate bars require a lot of time and work. Because of these companies' relatively cheap pricing points, it can be simple for us to ignore the amount of labour that goes into the products we buy from Hershey's or Nestlé.

However, now that you know where your cheaper chocolate comes from, you might start to wonder whether going with the cheaper alternative is preferable to choosing to support farmers that use sustainable farming methods and can contribute to the long-term preservation of this stunning environment.

To enhance the flavour and look of cocoa, it is occasionally alkali- or Dutch-processed. However, a large amount of flavanols are lost as a result. The greatest flavanols are retained in natural cocoa, which is sold in the baking section.

The amount of caffeine increases with the quantity of cocoa solids. About 50–60 mg of caffeine can be found in two ounces of 70% dark chocolate. In contrast, a cup of coffee weighing 8 ounces has 100–200 milligrammes of caffeine. Keep the chocolate if it has bloomed rather than discarding it. By melting the chocolate, thoroughly stirring it, and then letting it gradually cool back into a solid, you can get rid of the bloom.

The production of chocolate involves a labor-intensive process that frequently involves child labour or less priced labour from other countries. Chocolate that has the designation "Fair-Trade" has been produced with no child labour and at a fair wage.

In conclusion, post-harvest procedures are very important in determining how effectively cocoa beans dry. It is possible to boost the efficiency of cocoa drying, which will result in higher-quality cocoa beans and greater financial rewards for cocoa farmers.

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