Avocado maturity testing using dry matter

Page last updated: Wednesday, 1 May 2019 - 8:12am

Please note: This content may be out of date and is currently under review.

Fruit must meet minimum quality levels to meet consumer expectations and encourage return purchases. Avocado fruit maturity will not improve after picking, so it is essential that the fruit reaches required marketing preferences before harvest. Research has shown a good relationship between dry matter content, fruit maturity and consumer preference. The following article provides a simple guide to testing dry matter.


Avocados should not be harvested until they reach a degree of maturity at which they will ripen to acceptable eating quality and deliver a positive experience to consumers. Avocados should also not be harvested too late as late hanging fruit place a carbohydrate load on the tree which reduces next years crop yield.

Harvest maturity will vary from year to year and with location on your property for each variety. Rootstocks may also have an influence.

Determining maturity

Avocado fruits have a number of characteristics that help indicate harvest maturity.

Judging maturity on these characteristics is not reliable, but with experience in comparing them with dry matter test results, they can help indicate when to start dry matter testing. These characteristics include:

  • fruit stalk is larger, swollen and distinctly yellow, rather than green
  • seed coat is dry, dark and somewhat shrivelled, rather than pale whitish
  • fruit is generally larger — but not always so
  • skin is dull and lustreless, with a powdery appearance rather than shiny. The usefulness of this depends on variety. For example, it is not much use on the early, thin-skinned types such as Bacon.
  • 'Hass' fruit that are very mature will start to go purple on the outside.

Percentage dry matter

Percentage dry matter is the easiest of the reasonably accurate maturity tests.

Research has shown a good correlation between dry matter and consumer acceptance. The level at which you harvest will depend on variety and intended market. For example, consumer research conducted for Avocados Australia Limited has demonstrated that the variety Hass has improved consumer acceptance if left to reach at least 23% dry matter.

Note that varieties also have an upper level of dry matter (maturity), after which palatability drops off. This is heavily location–dependent. Growers should discuss this with their marketing group. To avoid this and having late hanging fruit affecting next years yield try and harvest as soon as possible after reaching the 23% dry matter mark.

Testing procedures

Dry matter testing can be carried out using either a conventional or microwave oven and an accurate set of scales.

Keep records of the harvest date and maturity test results for future reference.

Sample preparation

  • Select five avocados representative of fruit you intend to harvest. Note that fruit on the northern side of the tree and higher will be more mature than fruit low on the southern side, so consider your harvesting plans when selecting representative fruit. Also consider that there will be variability within the orchard; to make an informed decision on maturity in an orchard it is better to do several samples of five fruit from around the orchard than to only do one sample of five fruit from a few places in the orchard.
  • Cut each fruit longitudinally into quarters — stem end to base and select two diagonally opposite quarters from each fruit.
  • Remove the seed as well as any adhering seed coat and peel the fruit sections.
  • Shred the flesh of the 10 quarters (that is, the two diagonally opposite pieces from each avocado) using a fine kitchen grater — ideally the shreds should be less than 1mm thickness which is achieved on graters with five cutters per square centimetre.
  • Weigh a shallow, heat-proof (or microwave-proof) dish and record this weight. Make sure the dish is completely dry.
  • Mix all shreds thoroughly and spread at least 100g of the avocado flesh uniformly over the shallow heat or microwave-proof container. Weigh the container plus avocado flesh and record this weight.

Drying procedure

Conventional oven

Pre-heat oven to 100–110°C. Place dish in centre of oven and leave undisturbed for five hours. During drying, be careful to avoid burning the avocado flesh and minimise opening the oven door. An easily-read oven thermometer is useful to monitor the temperature.

After five hours, allow to cool. Weigh to determine the dried avocado weight. With your first tests you should redry the sample for a further 30 minutes and then reweigh to ensure that the sample is fully dried. Record the dried weight.

Microwave oven

Place the dish in the microwave and run microwave at medium/low for 20 minutes. You may need to adjust power setting and time depending on conditions, microwave type etc. Avoid burning the flesh and dry to a constant weight. Record this weight then repeat the procedure until there is no change in weight of the dish.

By reheating and reweighing you will establish when the sample is fully dry and can adjust the time required for future tests. When first using the microwave technique, keep a constant watch on the sample until you are confident of the settings and time needed.

(Note: To avoid possible damage to your microwave, it is advisable to have a container of water near the back corner to maintain humidity in the oven. Avoid moving this container after drying your avocado sample until it has cooled.)

Calculating dry matter

Use the following calculation: weight of dried avocado sample (less weight of container), multiplied by 100, divided by weight of fresh avocado sample (less weight of container).

Calculation example:

Weight of fresh avocado sample (less weight of container) = 125g
Weight of dried avocado sample (less weight of container) = 30g
30g multiplied by 100 divided by 125g
= 24% dry matter

Further reading

Avocados Australia's Best Practice Resource contains articles on avocado maturity testing, harvesting and handling.


Alec Mccarthy
Declan McCauley