Cocoa Post Harvest — picking ripe pods, essential to good fermentation!!

Share this:


A month and a half after flowering begins the development of the embryo.

Maturity is reached after 5 to 6 months depending on the variety of the cocoa tree. The pod, is considered ripe when its colour changes .. for example,  the green pods turn yellow, the red ones turn orange.

It is important to note that the harvest season is spread over many months and it is common to see  flowers and pods at many different stages of growth on the same tree!  As pods ripen at different times, the harvest season spreads over many months and ideally, a picker needs to harvest every fortnight at the least….



                             immature pod


Harvesting unripe pods

If harvested pods are immature, the composition of the pulp is not complete. It is either hard and firmly traps the seeds or the pulp is low in sugar. Such cocoa will not ferment properly. Yeast activity relies on the pulp having a good amount of sugars (Fructose, glucose etc..) It will lead to purple beans that have little aroma, strong astringency and excessive bitterness.

Harvesting overripe pods

This time the pulp begins to dry out and this leads to poor fermentation, with the same consequences as before:

Lots of purple beans with little aroma, strong astringency and bitterness.
But harvesting overripe pods has other consequences:
The seeds begin to germinate and mold can enter the seed. The most serious comes from the risk of secretion of toxins by molds.

Rotten Pod

Harvest recommendations

In any case,
to harvest only ripe pods, it is necessary to observe their colour change by planning weekly passages on the plantation. The main challenge for a farmer is to gather enough pods to allow for proper fermentation. The main issues tend to happen at the start and the end of the harvest season when only few pods can be picked especially when the farm is small.  Farmers group can consolidate their crop to one fermentation location. The ideal setup is a centralized fermentary collecting wet beans from surrounding farmers.