We know that to make the best chocolate in the world, there has to be utmost care for fermentation cacao, a step usually neglected by the chocolate industry. But why does fermentation matter? Our fermentation series explains it for you.
The science of fermentation is known as zymology.
Fermentation is a biochemical reaction caused by microorganisms in an anaerobic environment (with no oxygen). Yeasts and bacteria are microorganisms. Microorganisms are living things, and like us, they consume oxygen. In the absence of oxygen (*), and with nothing else, the microorganism will die. However, if available, the microorganisms will turn to consume carbohydrates (e.g., sugar or starch) and produce typically ethanol (alcohol), lactic acid, or carbon dioxide (Co2). More pragmatically, if you take an apple and place it in a closed jar, the bacteria naturally present on the apple will be deprived of air, and will switch to consuming the sugar of the fruit, and will produce alcohol. This is the reaction behind cider production.
The practice of fermentation can be traced back a thousand years ago. But it’s only in 1789, with Lavoisier, that a scientific study of fermentation. Louis Pasteur is among the notable zymologists. At the time fermentation was understood only as a chemical reaction. Pasteur contributed to this science by proving that fermentation is the result of living organisms. His studies also showed that specific types of microorganisms would cause specific types of fermentations and specific products.
(*) There are some microorganisms, “Saccharomyces”, that even in the availability of air, will prefer to consume carbohydrates if available, and cause fermentation. The most common example of that is sourdough.
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