Gilberto Vinícius de Melo Pereira, Maria Gabriela da Cruz Pedrozo Miguel, Cíntia Lacerda Ramos and Rosane Freitas Schwan
Biology Department, Federal University of Lavras, Lavras, Minas Gerais, Brazil.
Spontaneous cocoa bean fermentations performed under bench- and pilot-scale conditions were studied using an integrated microbiological approach with culture-dependent and culture-independent techniques, as well as analyses of target metabolites from both cocoa pulp and cotyledons. Both fermentation ecosystems reached equilibrium through a two-phase process, starting with the simultaneous growth of the yeasts (with Saccharomyces cerevisiae as the dominant species) and lactic acid bacteria (LAB) (Lactobacillus fermentum and Lactobacillus plantarum were the dominant species), which were gradually replaced by the acetic acid bacteria (AAB) (Acetobacter tropicalis was the dominant species). In both processes, a sequence of substrate consumption (sucrose, glucose, fructose, and citric acid) and metabolite production kinetics (ethanol, lactic acid, and acetic acid) similar to that of previous, larger-scale fermentation experiments was observed. The technological potential of yeast, LAB, and AAB isolates was evaluated using a polyphasic study that included the measurement of stress-tolerant growth and fermentation kinetic parameters in cocoa pulp media. Overall, strains L. fermentum UFLA CHBE8.12 (citric acid fermenting, lactic acid producing, and tolerant to heat, acid, lactic acid, and ethanol), S. cerevisiae UFLA CHYC7.04 (ethanol producing and tolerant to acid, heat, and ethanol), and Acetobacter tropicalis UFLA CHBE16.01 (ethanol and lactic acid oxidizing, acetic acid producing, and tolerant to acid, heat, acetic acid, and ethanol) were selected to form a cocktail starter culture that should lead to better-controlled and more-reliable cocoa bean fermentation processes.