Cocoa Fermentation Using Wireless Monitoring
Date Published: January 4, 2012
Wireless Data Logger w/ Temperature & Humidity External Sensors
CAS DataLoggers recently provided the datalogging solution for a cocoa manufacturer which needed to record temperature and humidity in cocoa fermentation boxes in the tropics. The beans had to be carefully fermented to bring out the best flavors and give chocolate its richness. After farmers gathered the cocoa pods and scooped the cocoa beans out, the cocoa beans were fermented inside wooden boxes or “sweatboxes” for a period of six days. A 220 lb. batch of beans along with their pulp was placed in these boxes, and given the amount of fermentation, the temperature would rise quickly, often climbing to 122°F (48°C). Throughout the process, the beans also needed to be rotated within the sweatboxes. However, if they were rotated too often, the beans would be too oxygenated, overheating and causing dark blotches. If the beans were rotated too infrequently, though, fermentation would be incomplete since beans in the center of the sweatbox got less oxygen than those on the sides. The entire process was extremely painstaking, but without closely-monitored fermentation, the cocoa beans would not result in high-quality chocolate. Therefore the manufacturer required a wireless monitoring solution which could communicate with office computers to ensure that the temperature and humidity inside the sweatboxes did not exceed specifications.
The cocoa manufacturer installed 4 T&D RTR-503 Wireless Temperature and Humidity Data Loggers, along with a T&D RTR-500 Wireless Data Logger USB Base Station, atop the wooden sweatboxes. The external sensor on each RTR-503 datalogger was placed inside each box and began measuring and recording the temperature and humidity levels while the cocoa beans fermented inside. Each wireless unit had a temperature measuring range of 0°C to 55°C (32°F to 131°F) and a humidity measuring range of 10% to 95% RH. The loggers measured in both Celcuis and Fahrenheit and were housed in water-resistant cases, with a clear LCD display and options for screw terminals or wall mounts.
The loggers’ wireless communication ranged up to 150 meters (500 feet), and their data could be collected remotely via USB, GSM technology, LAN and handheld data collectors. Current readings and recorded data from the sweatboxes were downloaded from the RTR-503 data loggers (Remote Units) via wireless communication with the Base Station, and then by connecting them to a PC with a USB cable, the data was easily downloaded to an office computer. By registering another RTR-500 as a Repeater, the wireless range could be expanded even further. Each logger had an 8,000 data set memory and a battery life of about 10 months that could be upgraded to last about 4 years. A Base Unit could download via wireless communication one RTR-503 Remote Unit at full logging capacity in about four minutes.
Additionally, by registering the RTR-500 as a Base Unit, it was possible to download recorded data and current readings from the remote units and send the data by e-mail or FTP to a designated address. The
unit was also set up to monitor for warnings and send warning reports via e-mail. Moreover, by sending the recorded data to the online T&D WebStorage Service, the manufacturer carried out monitoring of all current readings and/or warnings as well as shared the data via a PC web browser.
The wireless base station also included software for automated download, real-time monitoring, and email alarm. By setting the Warning Monitoring Function to "ON", if the set upper or lower limits were suddenly exceeded and that occurrence had been judged by the RTR-500 to qualify as a warning, a Warning Report Mail containing warning details was immediately sent to up to four specified addresses, providing total transparency to the temperature and humidity profiling process.
The cocoa manufacturer realized several benefits to the fermentation process after setting the wireless Temperature and Humidity Data Loggers and the wireless base station to monitor temperature and humidity levels inside the wooden sweatboxes. The T&D wireless system not only monitored the cocoa beans but also sent the data to an office PC and even sent email alarms when temperature or humidity went out of specification. The recorded data also aided in analysis to make improvements such as finding the optimal rotation time. These dataloggers enabled workers to micromanage the painstaking fermentation process, ensuring a superior chocolate with a taste that made all the work worthwhile.
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