Cocoa Process

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

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To produce cocoa, the cacao beans are roasted, the shells removed, and the nibs ground into chocolate liquor. The liquor is pumped into pots in a hydraulic press and squeezed to separate the butter from the solids. The defatted liquor is compressed into disks called cocoa cakes, which are milled to produce cocoa. The cocoa attributes are affected by the type of cacao beans, the roast level of the beans, and the residual fat content of the cocoa. Cocoas are typically pressed to produce high-fat cocoa (22 to 24 percent fat), medium fat cocoa (10 to 12 percent fat), or defatted cocoa (less than1 percent fat). The nibs, liquor, cake, or cocoa can also be alkalized to modify the pH, color, and flavor. Because cacao beans are naturally acidic, chocolate makers have developed methods to reduce the acidity. The Aztecs reduced the acidity by mixing wood ashes into the chocolate. Because of the lack of sophistication of the Aztec wood ash addition, European chocolate manufacturers did not appreciate the potential of this alkalizing process until years later. In the 1860s, the Dutch company van Houten was the first to industrialize the alkalization process for cocoa. Because of its origins, the alkalization process is also referred to as “dutching,” or the “Dutch process.” Treating cocoa with alkali can produce various flavors and colors, ranging from brown to red to black.