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Nov 25, 2007 06:01 AM

Chocolate: cocoa butter vs cocoa solids

Hi there, I'm wondering if anyone can fill me in on the reasoning behind the proportions of cocoa butter vs cocoa solids, in dark chocolate.

I've noticed that cheaper chocolate tends to have cocoa butter as the first ingredient - resulting in a high-fat chocolate. More expensive chocolate often has cocoa solids first - resulting in a lower-fat chocolate.

Is cost the only factor that determines which ingredient is first? Is it generally preferable to have cocoa solids predominate? Is it possible to have chocolate with very little cocoa butter?

Thanks for any enlightenment you can offer!

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    1. They are two different things... solids being the actual chocolate (ie cocoa powder) and butter being the fat. More expensive chocolate probably has a higher percentage of cocoa solids in them (ie the 67%, 70%, 80% chocolates are the percentage of cocoa solid) the butter adds the smoothness.. more cocoa butter more softness. Wikipedia has this explanation....
      Cocoa solids is a term for the nonfat component of chocolate. It may also be called cocoa powder when sold as an end product.
      The fatty component of chocolate is cocoa butter.
      The separation of the two may be accomplished by a press, or by the Broma process.
      Cocoa solids is what lends a chocolate bar its characteristic flavor and color, while cocoa butter is what provides smoothness and a low melting point.
      Also, cocoa solids is what contains most of the antioxidants associated with chocolate. Accordingly, health professionals recommend consuming chocolate in forms that are high in cocoa solids while low in cocoa butter, such as hot cocoa [1].

      So cost is one factor, but also how the manufacturer wants the chocolate to taste is probably the most important factor. Yes, you can have chocolate with very little butter..the higher percentages usually have less.

      Hope that helps....

      2 Replies
      1. re: jenluxy

        Well, I'm on a quest to find chocolate with high cocoa solids & low cocoa butter, then! I've seen that even among chocolates of the same "cocoa" percentages, the fat content can vary. So that would imply that "cocoa content" can refer to either solids or butter. My high-solids search continues!

        1. re: bellywizard

          According to a recent article in Cook's Illustrated, the cocoa percentage refers to combined amount of cocoa solids and cocoa butter, so the proportions of each can vary among chocolates that have the same cocoa percentage.

      2. The proportion of cocoa butter in a chocolate is what determines it's fluidity when melted. This is important if the chocolate is to be used for dipping or molding, both of which require very fluid chocolate. It also effects the mouth-feel of the chocolate; low-fat chocolates tend to coat the mouth with a clingy residue. For a chocolate to go nice and fluid when it melts, it will have to have a cocoa butter percentage >38% (most fine couvertures will be in the low 40's).

        The remainder of a dark chocolate's composition will be sugar and cocoa solids. The cocoa solids are responsible for the vast majority of chocolate's flavor (cocoa butter has some aroma, but contributes very little to overall flavor) and the much-tauted anti-oxidant properties are also in the cocoa solids. But most mortals will find cocoa solid percentages in excess of about 35% to be overly aggressive (this depends to some extent on the cocoa variety used).

        So if a manufacturer sets out to make a dark couverture chocolate with the currently fashionable 70% cocoa, it will have, by definition, 30% sugar. Then it will need its 40% cocoa butter for fluidity, which will result in a cocoa solids content of 30%.

        If the goal is to produce one of the edgier 85% cocoa chocolates, then the sugar would, of course , be only 15%. Here, a 40% cocoa butter content would result in a cocoa solids percentage of 45%, WAY too much. So the manufacturer will have no choice but to lower the solids and increase the butter, and he'll end up with something like 48% cocoa butter, 37% cocoa solids and 15% sugar. It will be very fluid and very expensive.

        Which brings me to my last point: cocoa butter is by far the most expensive component of the chocolate (vanilla aside). A manufacturer will only put in as much as necessary to assure the working properties and mouth-feel that he wants his product to have.

        OK, one more point, then I'll shut up: When the ingredients label says cocoa butter, it's referring to the cocoa butter that's added beyond what comes in with the cocoa beans (AKA cocoa, cocoa mass, chocolate liquor). But that cocoa is itself half cocoa butter already. That means that a 75% cocoa chocolate will need very little added cocoa butter, because so much butter comes in with the cocoa itself. Confusing, huh?