Assessment of cocoa (Theobroma cacao L.) butter content and composition throughout fermentations

Food Res Int. 2018 May:107:675-682. doi: 10.1016/j.foodres.2018.02.070. Epub 2018 Mar 6.


Cocoa fermentation is a crucial step for the development of cocoa aroma and precursors of high quality cocoa and by-products. This bioprocess has been studied for years to understand cocoa chemical changes but some matters concerning changes in fat content remain that are investigated in this work. Changes in the quantity (free and total fat), extractability and composition of cocoa butter were assessed in samples from Madagascar, the Dominican Republic and Ecuador. Increases in free fat content were highlighted in samples from each origin thanks to the use of the 'soxtec' solvent method, which preserves the integrity of the butter. A 4.71% increase in free fat was measured in the Ecuadorian samples fermented for 144 h. Conversely, total fat content remained stable throughout fermentation. Protein and polyphenol contents decreases were linked to fat content augmentation by a strong negative interaction. Triglyceride and total and linked fatty acid kinetics (0 to 6 days) of the butter remained statistically stable during fermentation, as did unsaponifiable matter. The origin of fermentation had a predominant and significant impact on composition, revealed by PCA. This work underlines and explains the importance of fermentation process in improving yield of fat that can be extracted while preserving the composition of this cocoa butter. This study highlights an interaction in cocoa unfermented or partially fermented beans. This phenomenon causes butter content retention but is slowly broken after 72 h fermentation. Therefore, fermentation appears to be also necessary to enhance the cocoa butter content extracted from the nibs.

Keywords: Cocoa butter; Fatty acids; Fermentation; Free fat; Total fat; Triglycerides.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Cacao / growth & development
  • Cacao / microbiology*
  • Dietary Fats / analysis*
  • Dominican Republic
  • Ecuador
  • Fatty Acids / analysis
  • Fermentation*
  • Food Handling / methods*
  • Food Microbiology / methods*
  • Madagascar
  • Plant Proteins, Dietary / analysis
  • Polyphenols / analysis
  • Seeds / growth & development
  • Seeds / microbiology*
  • Time Factors
  • Triglycerides / analysis


  • Dietary Fats
  • Fatty Acids
  • Plant Proteins, Dietary
  • Polyphenols
  • Triglycerides
  • cocoa butter