Barry Callebaut develops improved fermentation process

16 Mar 2015

Barry Callebaut, VIB (Flanders Institute for Biotechnology) and KU Leuven (University of Leuven), with the support of IWT (Agency for Innovation by Science and Technology-Flanders), have managed to improve the process of cocoa fermentation. Building on techniques inspired by Belgian brewers, the researchers developed a special yeast that is said to unlock the flavour and […]

Barry Callebaut develops improved fermentation process

chocolate-gathering-3542813Barry Callebaut, VIB (Flanders Institute for Biotechnology) and KU Leuven (University of Leuven), with the support of IWT (Agency for Innovation by Science and Technology-Flanders), have managed to improve the process of cocoa fermentation. Building on techniques inspired by Belgian brewers, the researchers developed a special yeast that is said to unlock the flavour and aroma precursors in cocoa beans and enrich the chocolate’s full flavour development. With the new yeast, Barry Callebaut says it will now be able to customise the flavour development of cocoa to the specific needs and wants of its customers more than ever.

Over the past three years, Professor Kevin Verstrepen and his team at VIB and KU Leuven isolated hundreds of different yeasts from cocoa fermentation processes on various pilot sites of the Barry Callebaut Group in Africa and Asia Pacific. These yeasts were then examined in labs to determine which characteristics yielded superior chocolate. Based on the results, the research team developed a new yeast strain combining all the desirable traits.

“When this ‘new yeast’ is added while the cocoa is fermented in the bush, the process becomes faster and more consistent,” said Professor Verstrepen. “Moreover, the new yeast strain produces more desirable aroma compounds and hampers the growth of unwanted yeast. The result is even tastier chocolate.”

The whole process of cocoa fermentation is based on Saccharomyces cerevisiae or the yeast used to brew beer.

“A completely natural process – refined during a hundred years of winemaking and beer brewing – now makes it possible to unlock the flavour and aroma precursors in the cocoa beans,” said Gino Vrancken, Global R&D Program Manager at the Cocoa Science Team at Barry Callebaut. “A Belgian artisan product will now contribute to a new national pride. We could not make this story any more Belgian.”

Barry Callebaut has two fermentation research facilities dedicated to finding ways to optimise the natural fermentation processes and to develop insights in creating exciting new flavours. For nearly ten years, the company says it has been a pioneer in the field of controlled cocoa fermentation, a 100% natural process. Experiments were conducted with several microorganisms in a microbial starter process. Today, Barry Callebaut claims it is the first, in collaboration with the Verstrepen Lab (VIB / KU Leuven), to craft yeast starter cultures that enrich the full flavour development of the end product, chocolate with a more intense flavour.