Fermentation of cocoa beans requires precise collaboration among two bacteria, and yeast

Jun 10, 2014

Good chocolate is among the world's most beloved foods, which is why scientists are seeking to improve the product, and enhance the world's pleasure. A team of researchers from Germany and Switzerland—the heartland of fine chocolate—have embarked upon a quest to better understand natural cocoa fermentation and have published findings ahead of print in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

"Our studies have unraveled the metabolism of the rather unexplored acetic acid bacteria in the complex environment," says corresponding author Christoph Wittmann of Saarland University, Saarbruecken, Germany

In the study, Wittmann and his collaborators from the Nestle Research Centre, Lausanne, Switzerland, simulated cocoa pulp fermentation in the laboratory. They mapped metabolic pathway fluxes of the acetic acid bacteria, feeding them specific isotopes that could easily be tracked. Wittmann compares the process to viewing the flows of city traffic from the sky. "We could see what they eat and how they use the nutrients to fuel the different parts of their metabolism in order to grow and produce extracellular products," he says.

The key molecule to initiate flavor development is acetate, says Wittmann, noting that "The intensity of the aroma from a fermented bean is amazing."

Production of acetate requires two major nutrients: lactate and ethanol. These are produced by , and yeast, respectively, during the initial fermentation of cocoa pulp sugars, says Wittmann.

The bacteria then process these simultaneously, via separate metabolic pathways, ultimately producing acetate from them.

"This discovery reveals a fine-tuned collaboration of a multi-species consortium during fermentation," says Wittman. And that may help improve selection of natural strains for better-balanced starter cultures.

Explore further: Study identifies highly efficient new Cas9 for in vivo genome editing

More information: The manuscript can be found online at aem.asm.org/content/early/2014… 048-14.full.pdf+html . The final version of the article is scheduled for the August 2014 issue of Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

Related Stories

A channel of unexpected significance

Aug 13, 2012

Scientists from the research groups of Prof. Dr. Susana Andrade and Prof. Dr. Oliver Einsle, members of the Institute of Organic Chemistry and the Cluster of Excellence BIOSS, the Centre for Biological Signalling ...

Recommended for you

Longer DNA fragments reveal rare species diversity

15 hours ago

A challenge in metagenomics is that the more commonly used sequencing machines generate data in short lengths, while short-read assemblers may not be able to distinguish among multiple occurrences of the ...

Simplifying SNP discovery in the cotton genome

17 hours ago

The term "single-nucleotide polymorphism" (SNP) refers to a single base change in DNA sequence between two individuals. SNPs are the most common type of genetic variation in plant and animal genomes and are, thus, an important ...

Japanese company 'makes tear-free onions'

Mar 31, 2015

The sobbing of a chef as he chops onions in the kitchen could be a thing of the past thanks to one Japanese company which says it has produced a tear-free vegetable.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.