Once fermentation is complete, the cacao farmers dry the beans, often just by spreading them out on a flat surface in the sun. Drying can take several days, and if not done carefully can allow undesirable bacteria and molds to grow both on and within the beans and taint them with undesirable flavors.
Once dried to about 7% moisture, the beans are resistant to further microbial spoilage. They’re then cleaned, bagged, and shipped to manufacturers all over the world.
From the book On Food and Cooking (2nd edition) by Harold McGee. © 2004 Harold McGee.
By permission of Scribner, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.