Photo Composite: © Valentyn Volkov / Alamy / iStockphoto
Mike Pomranz
June 22, 2017

Beer, wine and chocolate already have plenty in common. First, of course, they are all awesome. Second, each product undergoes a fermentation process. For chocolate, cocoa beans need to be fermented before they can be roasted and turned into the sweet we know and love. Typically, this process is done with natural fermentation, meaning it uses whatever yeasts happen to be around at the fermentation site. But new research shows that using specific yeasts, such as those found in products like beer and wine, has the potential to make better quality chocolate or even chocolate with unique flavor profiles.

The research was conducted by The University of Leuven and the Flanders Institute for Biotechnology along with chocolate brand Barry Callebaut and was published in a paper titled “Application of a breeding strategy to generate robust yeast starter cultures for cocoa fermentations” – a name far less exciting than the results it discusses.

According to Food Navigator USA, Kevin Verstrepen, a PhD who worked on the project, said that based on chemical analysis, chocolates produced with these yeasts were more consistent and better quality than chocolate created through natural fermentation. Possibly even more intriguingly, “different yeasts yielded different chocolate flavors, indicating that it would be possible to create a whole range of specialty chocolates to match everyone’s favorite flavor,” Verstrepen said.

The specifics of what “everyone’s favorite flavor” actually means aren’t completely clear, but knowing how different yeast strains affect beer and wine, it’s not hard to extrapolate out some guesses. Chocolatiers could theoretically use specific yeasts to turn chocolate more fruity or more sour, similar to the ways beer and wine take on these different characteristics depending on what yeasts are used.

What’s truly amazing is that more thought hasn’t been put into combining booze and chocolate like this in the past. 

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