Pre-harvest | Post harvest | Drying | Storage | Shipping | Standards


Fermentation boxes should be constructed of a suitable local hardwood in dimensions typically 1.2 m × 1.2 m × 1.2 m.  They should be constructed in such a way that the heat evolved during fermentation is conserved and liquids produced during fermentation can freely drain away.  The floors of the sweatbox should therefore be either slatted with spaces of about 5 mm between slats or drilled with 10 mm holes spaced 25 mm apart.   A sweatbox of these dimensions can hold between 900 – 1000 kg of wet cocoa when filled to a height of approximately 0.75 m.  Sweatboxes should ideally be built with a double wall in which the space between the internal and external walls of a side are filled with either sawdust or sugar cane bagasse for improved insulation.

Fermentation should begin less than 24 hours after the pods have been cracked and the beans extracted.  Ideally, beans should be placed in the fermentation boxes on the same day that they are received.  The wet cocoa beans should be covered in the box with fresh banana leaves and jute sacks to insulate the top of the box.  Plastic should not be used.  Covering conserves the heat evolved during fermentation.

Fermentation usually lasts between 6 – 8 days depending on weather conditions and time during the cocoa season.  Fermentation usually takes longer at the start and peak of the cocoa crop but shortens towards the end of the crop when there is less mucilage available for fermentation.  Initial turning during fermentation is done after 48 hours and an additional turning 48 hours thereafter to facilitate adequate aeration of the fermenting mass and to ensure that beans from the top and bottom are thoroughly mixed together.  A fresh layer of banana leaves can be added to the original banana leaves after each turning to ensure adequate insulation.

The optimal end of fermentation can be checked from the end of the 5th day by cutting a sample of beans longitudinally.  The inner surfaces of the beans should show well defined ridges and the colour inside should be light pink to brown and the outer edge of the cotyledon should have a dark brown colour.  Temperature during fermentation usually peaks after the second turning  (around the 5th day of fermentation) and should reach 47 – 49ºC. 

More on Processing

Pre-harvest | Post harvest | Drying | Storage | Shipping | Standards