The percentage (%) of cocoa

Dark chocolate, the real thing, is only composed of cocoa and sugar. Yes, but what does “cocoa” actually mean ? Does this include cocoa butter? What is the percentage of cocoa butter in chocolate? What is the best chocolate according to these criteria? So many questions to which it is generally difficult to obtain answers. Packaging almost never mentions the amount of cocoa butter in a chocolate. Take a look at who's making money off whose backs.

Cocoa percentage, what does it mean?

The percentage of cocoa in a bar includes all products made solely from cocoa, it also includes cocoa butter . Most of the cocoa in a chocolate comes from crushed cocoa beans and reduced to a cocoa mass, also called cocoa liquor (not to be confused with cocoa alcohol ) . However, it is also possible to add cocoa butter. The latter counts in the total cocoa percentage of the chocolate.

Peruvian chocolate, 100% by Vinte Vinte

Peruvian chocolate, 100% by Vinte Vinte

Why add cocoa butter? Depending on the type of beans — more or less rich in fat —, the way they are processed and the machines used, it may be necessary to add cocoa butter to thin the cocoa mass. The share of cocoa butter is then a technical consideration and is generally less than 5% of the total cocoa mass.

Does the percentage of cocoa butter impact the taste of chocolate?

Beyond technical needs, incorporating cocoa butter is also a personal choice of the chocolatier. This parameter allows it to influence two properties linked to the taste of chocolate: texture and intensity of flavors.

Cocoa São Tomé
Solar drying of São Tomé cocoa beans

Adding fat changes the texture, making the chocolate more melting. It is for this reason that many Swiss chocolatiers incorporate them. The tradition of melting chocolate — inherited from the invention of very melting milk chocolate — also influences black bars. It then happens that the percentage of cocoa butter exceeds 10% and even reaches 15%. This is what we also call in Switzerland crémants.

Micro batch bean-to-bar chocolate conching

Micro batch bean-to-bar chocolate conching

However, be careful with substitutes. Some chocolatiers prefer lecithin , much cheaper and easier to work with than cocoa butter. Beyond economic issues, soy lecithin poses two problems. First, soy farming is generally a significant driver of deforestation. Second, in the mouth, lecithins, whether soy or sunflower, do not melt as quickly as cocoa butter. This change impacts the melting sensation of the chocolate.

From a taste point of view, like any fat used wisely, cocoa butter is an excellent natural flavor enhancer. It captures many of the cocoa flavors during the mixing phase, known as conching, to better restore them during tasting. This is also particularly true for chocolates with inclusions, for example dehydrated fruit.

Where does cocoa butter come from?

But actually, how is cocoa butter produced? Nearly half of the raw cocoa bean is fat. The extraction of these materials makes it possible to produce cocoa butter.

Two techniques exist. On a larger scale, after roasting, the beans are crushed and the liquor thus obtained is then pressed to extract the cocoa butter. The residue is what we call lean cocoa or cooking cocoa powder. It is the fact of working the cocoa mass that makes cocoa butter so expensive compared to other vegetable fats. Traditionally, for smaller quantities, roasted beans can be cooked with water. The water temperature will melt the fat, which like any hydrophobic element will then float and can thus be harvested on the surface.

Cocoa pod Theobroma cacao Trinitario in Bahia, Brazil.

Cocoa pod Theobroma cacao Trinitario in Bahia, Brazil.

Whatever method is chosen, cocoa butter carries the smell of the cocoa from which it comes and any defects, for example from too strong roasting. This is why industrial cocoa butter and/or intended for cosmetic use is often deodorized. It then loses all its own taste interest.

Is “grand cru” cocoa butter better?

Just like dark chocolate with cocoa beans coming from a single plantation, cocoa butter can also be produced with the harvest from the same farm. For dark or milk chocolate that contains cocoa mass with already intense aromas, the difference between blended and/or deodorized cocoa butter will not be felt. On the other hand, for a white chocolate that focuses everything on cocoa butter, it's another story. The notion of grand cru or single origin cocoa butter is becoming relevant. La Flor had thus created a white chocolate with cocoa from an Ecuadorian hacienda . A creation which gave its letters of nobility to white chocolate which is so often criticized.

As for white chocolates, it is easier to know the exact percentage of cocoa butter. It is equal to that of the cocoa percentage!

Thanks to Nicolas for his expertise 🍫


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