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6.5.2: Types of Chocolate

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    From the Cocoa Bean to the Finished Chocolate

    In North America, chocolate manufacturing started in Massachusetts in 1765. Today, in the factory, the beans get cleaned, and magnets take out metallic parts, and then sand, dust, and other impurities are removed. Some starch will be changed into dextrins in the roasting process to improve flavor. Machines break the beans and grind them fine until a flowing liquid is produced, called chocolate liquor. Through hydraulic pressure, cocoa butter is reduced from 55% to approximately 10% to 24% or less, and the residue forms a solid mass called press cake.

    The press cake is then broken, pulverized, cooled, and sifted to produce commercial cocoa powder. The baking industry uses primarily cocoa powders with a low fat content.

    At the factory, chocolate is also subject to an additional refining step called conching. Conching has a smoothing effect. The temperature range in this process is between 131°F and 149°F. Sugar interacts with protein to form amino sugars, and the paste loses acids and moisture and becomes smoother.

    Watch this video on the chemistry of chocolate to learn about the chemical reactions related to heat, melting point, and formation of crystal structures in chocolate.

    Types of Chocolate Commonly Used:

    True chocolate contains cocoa butter. The main types of chocolate, in decreasing order of cocoa liquor content, are:

    • Unsweetened (bitter) chocolate
    • Dark chocolate
    • Milk chocolate
    • White chocolate - contains no chocolate liquor at all.

    Unsweetened Chocolate

    Unsweetened chocolate, also known as bitter chocolate, baking chocolate, or cooking chocolate, is pure cocoa liquor mixed with some form of fat to produce a solid substance. The pure ground, roasted cocoa beans impart a strong, deep chocolate flavor. With the addition of sugar in recipes, however, it is used as the base for cakes, brownies, confections, and cookies.

    Dark (Sweet, Semi-Sweet, Bittersweet) Chocolate

    Dark chocolate has an ideal balance of cocoa liquor, cocoa butter, and sugar. Thus it has the attractive, rich color and flavor so typical of chocolate, and is also sweet enough to be palatable. It does not contain any milk solids. It can be eaten as is or used in baking. Its flavor does not get lost or overwhelmed, as in many cases when milk chocolate is used. It can be used for fillings, for which more flavorful chocolates with high cocoa percentages ranging from 60% to 99% are often used. Dark is synonymous with semi-sweet, and extra dark with bittersweet, although the ratio of cocoa butter to solids may vary.

    • Sweet chocolate has more sugar, sometimes almost equal to cocoa liquor and butter amounts (45% to 55% range).
    • Semi-sweet chocolate is frequently used for cooking. It is a dark chocolate with less sugar than sweet chocolate.
    • Bittersweet chocolate has less sugar and more liquor than semi-sweet chocolate, but the two are often interchangeable when baking. Bittersweet and semi-sweet chocolates are sometimes referred to as coverture (see below). The higher the percentage of cocoa, the less sweet the chocolate is.


    The usual term for top quality chocolate is coverture. Coverture chocolate is a very high-quality chocolate that contains extra cocoa butter. The higher percentage of cocoa butter, combined with proper tempering, gives the chocolate more sheen, firmer “snap” when broken, and a creamy mellow flavor. Dark, milk, and white chocolate can all be made as coverture.The total percentage cited on many brands of chocolate is based on some combination of cocoa butter in relation to cocoa liquor. In order to be labeled as coverture by European Union regulations, the product must contain not less than 35% total dry cocoa solids, including not less than 31% cocoa butter and not less than 2.5% of dry non-fat cocoa solids. Coverture is used by professionals for dipping, coating, moulding, and garnishing. What the percentages don’t tell you is the proportion of cocoa butter to cocoa solids. You can, however, refer to the nutrition label or company information to find the amounts of each. All things being equal, the chocolate with the higher fat content will be the one with more cocoa butter, which contributes to both flavor and mouth-feel. This will also typically be the more expensive chocolate, because cocoa butter is more valuable than cocoa liquor. But keep in mind that just because two chocolates from different manufacturers have the same percentages, they are not necessarily equal. They could have dramatically differing amounts of cocoa butter and liquor, and dissimilar flavors, and substituting one for the other can have negative effects for your recipe. Determining the amounts of cocoa butter and cocoa liquor will allow you to make informed decisions on chocolate choices.

    Milk Chocolate

    Milk chocolate is solid chocolate made with milk, added in the form of milk powder. Milk chocolate contains a higher percentage of fat (the milk contributes to this) and the melting point is slightly lower. It is used mainly as a flavoring and in the production of candies and moulded pieces.

    White Chocolate

    The main ingredient in white chocolate is sugar, closely followed by cocoa butter and milk powder. It has no cocoa liquor. It is used mainly as a flavoring in desserts, in the production of candies and, in chunk form in cookies.

    Dutch Process Cocoa

    This Dutch process is a treatment of the chocolate product with alkali, usually potassium carbonate. Cocoa beans have a pH of approximately 5.2. The treatment with alkali raises the pH of the finished product to 6.8 and higher. The process affects the flavor and color of the chocolate product. Alkaline solution is generally applied to the raw beans or nibs but not to the liquor. If alkali is used in the cocoa liquor, it tends to react and leaves a soapy flavor.

    Dutch cocoa is generally more expensive than natural cocoa. Whether or not the cocoa powder is Dutch process has some importance for some recipes. The Dutch process:

    • Lowers acidity
    • Increases solubility
    • Enhances color
    • Smooths flavor

    Because Dutch cocoa has a neutral pH and is not acidic like natural cocoa, it cannot be used in recipes that use baking soda as the leavening agent, which relies on the acidity of the cocoa to activate it. Rather, Dutch process cocoa can be used in recipes that use baking powder for leavening.

    Two piles of cocoa powder. The dutch process cocoa is much darker brown than the natural process cocoa.
    Figure 1. Dutch process and natural cocoa.

    Compound Chocolate

    Compound chocolate is the most commonly used chocolate in the baking industry today. It is also referred to in the trade as coating chocolate, confectionary coating, non-temper coatings, or baker’s chocolate. Note: It should not be confused with the Baker’s brand chocolate, easily obtained in supermarkets, which is generally pure chocolate.

    A typical chocolate coating contains approximately 35% to 40% fat, which is a type of hard fat (usually hydrogenated palm kernel oil), 8% to 18% cocoa, approximately 2% milk solids, and a small amount of lecithin and flavor; the remainder is pulverized sugar. Since there is no cocoa butter (generally) present in compound chocolate, it offers a cost savings, and it eliminates the time spent needed in tempering.

    Because of the replacement of cocoa butter, compound chocolates are not appropriate to use in moulding applications. With the other oils and fats in compound chocolate, it will not set as firmly as a cocoa butter chocolate, making it difficult if not impossible to remove from a mould. Another factor to consider is that properly tempered cocoa butter chocolate will shrink slightly, and this aids in the removal from molds.

    Compound chocolate melts at approximately 95°F to 99°F and is best for coating at approximately 104°F. If any liquefying agent is needed, palm kernel oil can be used. Most compound chocolate is thin enough for coating.

    The shelf life of fresh bakery goods enrobed with compound coating does not present any problems with bloom because hard fat is used to adjust the melting point and carries enough seed to make tempering unnecessary. While temperature control is not as critical as when using true chocolate, heating coating to 122°F and higher could destroy seed crystals and reduce the coating’s viscosity.

    Coatings that are well adapted to freezing are produced. Here, ability to withstand the freeze/thaw cycle without brittleness and cracking is important. In any case, products going into the freezer should be tightly enclosed in plastic wrap. The wrap should not be removed until the product is defrosted.


    Viscous means “sticky”’ and the term viscosity refers to the way in which the chocolate flows. Chocolate comes in various Viscosities, and the confectioner chooses the one that is most appropriate to his or her needs. The amount of cocoa butter in the chocolate is largely responsible for the viscosity level. Emulsifiers like lecithin can help thin out melted chocolate, so it flows evenly and smoothly. Because it is less expensive than cocoa butter at thinning chocolate, it can be used to help lower the cost of chocolate.

    Moulded pieces such as Easter eggs require a chocolate of less viscosity. That is, the chocolate should be somewhat runny so it is easier to flow into the molds. This is also the case for coating cookies and most cakes, where a thin, attractive and protective coating is all that is needed. A somewhat thicker chocolate is advisable for things such as ganache  and flavoring of creams and fillings. Where enrobers (machines to dip chocolate centres) are used, the chocolate may also be thinner to ensure that there is an adequate coat of coverture.

    Viscosity varies between manufacturers, and a given type of chocolate made by one manufacturer may be available in more than one viscosity. Bakers sometimes alter the viscosity depending on the product. A vegetable oil is sometimes used to thin chocolate for coating certain squares. This makes it easier to cut afterwards.

    Chips, Chunks, and Other Baking Products

    Content and quality of chocolate chips and chunks vary from one manufacturer to another. This chocolate is developed to be more heat stable for use in cookies and other baking where you want the chips and chunks to stay whole. Ratios of chocolate liquor, sugar, and cocoa butter differ. All these variables affect the flavor.

    Chips and chunks may be pure chocolate or have another fat substituted for the cocoa butter. Some high-quality chips have up to 65% chocolate liquor, but in practice, liquor content over 40% tends to smear in baking, so high ratios defeat the purpose.

    Many manufacturers package their chips or chunks by count (ct) size. This refers to how many pieces there are in 1 kg of the product. As the count size number increases, the size of the chip gets smaller. With this information, you can choose the best size of chip for the product you are producing.

    Other chocolate products available are chocolate sprinkles or “hail,” used as a decoration; chocolate curls, rolls, or decorative shapes for use on cakes and pastries; and chocolate sticks or “batons,” which are often baked inside croissants.

    Storing Chocolate

    Chocolate will keep for up to a year at a temperature of 18°C to 20°C (64°F to 68°F) with a relative humidity level of 60%. These are the ideal storage conditions. It is not always possible in bakeries to meet the ideal, but in general, room temperature is all right. Chocolate must be kept safe from odours and humidity, and therefore the refrigerator is not the ideal place to store it.

    These guidelines apply also to all pure chocolate products, such as chocolate chips, hail, and sticks. All must be protected from humidity and odours and kept cool and dry at room temperature in sealed containers or in the original packaging.

    Media Attributions

    Dutch Process and Natural Cocoa © F_A is licensed under a CC BY (Attribution) license

    This page titled 6.5.2: Types of Chocolate is shared under a CC BY 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by BC Cook Articulation Committee (BC Campus) .

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