Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Impact of fermentation, drying, roasting and Dutch processing on flavan-3-ol stereochemistry in cacao beans and cocoa ingredients

W Jeffrey Hurst1*, Susann H Krake2, Stephen C Bergmeier2, Mark J Payne1, Kenneth B Miller1 and David A Stuart1

Author Affiliations

1 The Hershey Center for Health and Nutrition, The Hershey Company, 1025 Reese Avenue, Hershey, PA 17033-0805, USA

2 Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Ohio University, Athens, OH 45701, USA

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Chemistry Central Journal 2011, 5:53  doi:10.1186/1752-153X-5-53

Published: 14 September 2011

Abstract

This paper reports a systematic study of the level of flavan-3-ol monomers during typical processing steps as cacao beans are dried, fermented and roasted and the results of Dutch-processing. Methods have been used that resolve the stereoisomers of epicatechin and catechin. In beans harvested from unripe and ripe cacao pods, we find only (-)-epicatechin and (+)-catechin with (-)-epicatechin being by far the predominant isomer. When beans are fermented there is a large loss of both (-)-epicatechin and (+)-catechin, but also the formation of (-)-catechin. We hypothesize that the heat of fermentation may, in part, be responsible for the formation of this enantiomer. When beans are progressively roasted at conditions described as low, medium and high roast conditions, there is a progressive loss of (-)-epicatechin and (+)-catechin and an increase in (-)-catechin with the higher roast levels. When natural and Dutch-processed cacao powders are analyzed, there is progressive loss of both (-)-epicatechin and (+)-catechin with lesser losses of (-)-catechin. We thus observe that in even lightly Dutch-processed powder, the level of (-)-catechin exceeds the level of (-)-epicatechin. The results indicate that much of the increase in the level of (-)-catechin observed during various processing steps may be the result of heat-related epimerization from (-)-epicatechin. These results are discussed with reference to the reported preferred order of absorption of (-)-epicatechin > (+)-catechin > (-)-catechin. These results are also discussed with respect to the balance that must be struck between the beneficial impact of fermentation and roasting on chocolate flavor and the healthful benefits of chocolate and cocoa powder that result in part from the flavan-3-ol monomers.