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What’s The Difference Between Fermented and Non-Fermented Raw Cacao?

What's The Difference Between Fermented and Non-Fermented Raw Cacao? | Are you confused by the array of marketing terms used to sell cacao products (raw, organic, fair trade, blessed by fairies)? You just want a high quality cacao! I want to help you understand the difference between 2 of those terms: fermented & non-fermented. | WildernessFamilyNaturals.com
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What's The Difference Between Fermented and Non-Fermented Raw Cacao? | Are you confused by the array of marketing terms used to sell cacao products (raw, organic, fair trade, blessed by fairies)? You just want a high quality cacao! I want to help you understand the difference between 2 of those terms: fermented & non-fermented. | WildernessFamilyNaturals.com

Are you confused by the array of marketing terms used to sell cacao products?

First of all, there’s the difference between cocoa and cacao (hint: the highly processed version is the former).

Furthermore, you need to decide if you want it raw, organic, fair trade, non-GMO, sustainably harvested, or blessed by fairies. (Ok, not really.) 😉

Finally, there’s the difference between fermented and non-fermented raw cacao to consider. You’re probably thinking to yourself at this point – I just want a high-quality cacao product that’s healthy for my family!

One thing to be clear on– they are not all created equal.

Rest easy; you can have your cacao and know that you’ve found a product that’s healthy for your family. You just need to know a few things about the different processes first.

To help you understand some of this terminology, I’m going to dig a little deeper into the difference between fermented raw cacao and non-fermented raw cacao.

Fermented Raw Cacao

Traditional cultures fermented cacao beans to increase the cocoa flavor. Fermentation also helps to reduce cacao’s naturally occurring bitterness and the phytic acid present in cacao while increasing the cacao flavor and aroma.

(Phytic acid is a protective substance present in all nuts, beans, grains, and seeds. It prevents the body from absorbing the minerals from these foods by binding to the minerals. Hence reducing phytic acid is essential for easier digestion and more efficient mineral absorption from these foods. Soaking, sprouting, and fermentation are the traditional methods by which phytic acid is reduced. In cacao, it’s fermentation!)

If not properly fermented and dried, mold and undesirable pathogens may develop. Hence, many store-bought cocoa products are treated with high temperatures, Dutch (alkali) processed, or irradiated to kill off bacteria.

Consequently, this negates many of the potential health benefits of consuming raw cacao (source).

A study found that the best temperatures to ferment and dry beans at were between 112°F – 122°F (source). The closer to 122°F that the fermentation temperature reaches, the better the quality of the dried cacao is.

Correctly fermenting cacao beans is important to maintain its nutritional qualities. No exposure to high heat treatment should be necessary to kill off pathogens if fermented correctly. Hence this enables a producer to maintain a truly raw cacao product.

What if you prefer the mild, less bitter taste of natural cacao?

This is why some may wish to consume non-fermented raw cacao.

Non-Fermented Raw Cacao

Not all cacao products undergo a fermentation process.

Because of its distinct mild flavor, some taste buds may prefer a non-fermented cacao powder.

One of the greatest benefits of consuming a non-fermented cacao product is the higher antioxidant flavonoids.

We use an ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) score to measure flavonoids. The non-fermented form of cacao has an ORAC score of 1549 μmol TE/g. This is over 3 times the ORAC score of another familiar superfood: goji berries (source)!

Studies have also revealed that the antioxidant capacity and flavanol content of certain non-fermented cacao beans have a significantly higher antioxidant capacity and flavanol content to their fermented counterparts (source).

So, Which One Should You Use?

I, personally, use both!

If a recipe will benefit from a stronger cacao flavor, I opt for the fermented. If I’m making a smoothie with other natural sweet ingredients to balance the bitterness, I opt for the non-fermented.

It’s worth experimenting as to whether you prefer the taste of either fermented or non-fermented cacao as taste buds differ. Wilderness Family Naturals stocks both fermented raw cacao and non-fermented raw cacao. These beans are USDA certified organic and raw. They are sourced from small family farms in the Dominican Republic who have been practicing sustainable farming methods for generations.

Did you know the difference between fermented and non-fermented raw cacao? Which one do you prefer?

Updated: 11/13/2017

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These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

7 Comments

  • Reply
    Heidi
    January 24, 2017 at 11:01 pm

    Hello, What is the ORAC score for the fermented cacao? Thank you!

    • Lindsey Dietz
      Reply
      Lindsey Dietz
      January 25, 2017 at 1:37 am

      Here you go, Heidi: This raw cacao powder has antioxidant activity as exhibited by an ORAC score of 1086 μmol TE/g. Raw Cacao Laboratory Testing Results (That’s from the product page on the WFN site.)

  • Reply
    The Dark Side Of The Cocoa Industry (& why WFN is Fair Trade-Certified)
    April 19, 2017 at 7:02 am

    […] from cacao powder to cocoa powder (yes, there’s a difference!), from fermented to non-fermented, from cacao nibs to cacao butter and everything between, it’s safe to say we’ve fallen […]

  • Reply
    Robert Medred
    January 1, 2018 at 6:07 pm

    What is the Cadmium content of this cacao?

  • Reply
    DIY Healthy Chocolate Chips {just 3 ingredients!!!}
    January 10, 2018 at 7:37 pm

    […] Raw cacao powder is high in iron, fiber, and Vitamin C. (Read about all 8 health benefits of raw cacao and then decide if you want fermented or non-fermented cacao.) […]

  • Reply
    Michelle
    January 16, 2018 at 4:38 pm

    Hi, between the two, which has more of a health benefit, fermented or non-fermented cacao powder? Or is there no real significant difference?

  • Reply
    jeffburris
    July 22, 2018 at 8:20 pm

    Thanks so much. I’m learning here… I obtained some organic raw cacao nibs and was amazed at how the powder tasted freshly ground in hot beverages. I noticed that, instead of just making a dry powder, at first it was a sticky powder that even slightly, accidentally pressed clumps of quickly dried up into solid shapes like fiber-board. There’s some kind of volatile liquid in it that seems to dry up faster than water. Consuming it before letting it dry up means you’re getting something unavailable in pre-ground, fully dry powder, for better or for worse (sometimes for the better in the world of nootropics or ethnobotanicals looking for healthy cognitive boosters, so maybe here as well, like the DHEA or something?) One thing I was confused about was the first bit stated, ” Fermentation also helps to reduce cacao’s naturally occurring bitterness and the phytic acid present in cacao while increasing the cacao flavor and aroma,” but later stated, “What if you prefer the mild, less bitter taste of natural cacao? This is why some may wish to consume non-fermented raw cacao,” and also stating ,”Because of its distinct mild flavor, some taste buds may prefer a non-fermented cacao powder”. The first sentence seems to conflict with the next two. So I got a little confused as to which one was less bitter. I was wondering if there was a bit of a typo and, still, the fermented is less bitter, but not as mild in terms of a different element like chocolaty flavor? Thanks!

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