“Dutched” or Alkalized Cocoa

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About

In Europe and sometimes the United States, cocoa powder is produced from cocoa beans that have been treated with an alkaline substance, potassium carbonate. This treatment, sometimes called “dutching” because its inventor was the Dutch chocolate pioneer Conrad van Houten, raises the cocoa pH to a neutral 7 or alkaline 8. The application of an alkaline material to the beans either before or after roasting has a strong influence on their general chemical composition. In addition to adding a distinctly alkaline taste (like that of baking soda), alkaline treatment reduces the levels of roasty, caramel-like molecules (pyrazines, thiazoles, pyrones, furaneol) and of astringent, bitter phenolics, which now bond to each other to form flavorless dark pigments. The result is a cocoa powder with a milder flavor and darker color. Dutched cocoa can be produced in shades running from light brown to nearly black; the darker the color, the milder the flavor.