Impact of starter cultures and fermentation techniques on the volatile aroma and sensory profile of chocolate

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The sensory quality of chocolate is widely determined by the qualitative and quantitative composition of volatile compounds resulting from microbial metabolism during fermentation, and Maillard reactions taking place during drying, roasting and conching. The influence of applying mixed starter cultures on the formation of flavour precursors, composition of volatile aroma compounds and sensory profile was investigated in cocoa inoculated with cultures encompassing a highly aromatic strain of Pichia kluyveri or a pectinolytic strain of Kluyveromyces marxianus, and compared to commercially fermented heap and tray cocoa. Although only minor differences in the concentration of free amino acids and reducing sugars was measured, identification and quantification by dynamic headspace gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (HS/GC-MS) revealed pronounced differences in the composition of volatiles in roasted cocoa liquors and finished chocolates. 19 of the 56 volatile compounds identified in the chocolates were found in significantly higher amounts in the tray fermented sample, whilst significantly higher amounts of 2-methoxyphenol was measured in the two inoculated chocolates. The P. kluyveri inoculated chocolate was characterized by a significantly higher concentration of phenylacetaldehyde and the K. marxianus inoculated chocolate by significantly higher amounts of benzyl alcohol, phenethyl alcohol, benzyl acetate and phenethyl acetate compared to a spontaneously fermented control. Sensory profiling described the heap and tray fermented chocolates as sweet with cocoa and caramel flavours, whilst the inoculated chocolates were characterized as fruity, acid and bitter with berry, yoghurt and balsamic flavours. The choice of fermentation technique had the greatest overall impact on the volatile aroma and sensory profile, but whilst the application of starter cultures did affect the volatile aroma profile, differences were too small to significantly change consumer perception of the chocolates as compared to a spontaneously fermented control.

Original languageEnglish
JournalFood Research International
Issue numberPart C
Pages (from-to)306–316
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 2014

Bibliographical note

2nd Conference on Coffee Cocoa and Tea Science (CoCoTea2013)

    Research areas

  • Cocoa fermentation technique, Kluyveromyces marxianus, Pichia kluyveri, Sensory profiling, Starter culture, Volatile aroma compounds

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