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hi guys,

I'm new to chocolate making can you'll please tell me when i should add the lecithin to the other ingredients?

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Lecithin is an emulsifier and it's not needed. You can make a great batch of Chocolat without it. If you choose to use it I would suggest when you add your sugar and vanilla, if using.

Lecithin is NOT an emulsifier, and chocolate is not an emulsion.  Chocolate is essentially a suspension of tiny particles of stuff in fat - fat that exhibits specific solidification properties.  Having said that, lecithin's role in chocolate is to essentially coat all of the tiny particles of "stuff" (cocoa beans, sugar, vanilla, etc) and make the particles slide much easier through the fat.  The increase in fluidity created by the lecithin is why chocolate makers like it.  It's a cheap alternative to adding more cocoa butter (fat), which also increases fluidity.


Having clarified that point, I have seen lecithin lose it's effectiveness when added at the beginning of the refining phase.  By the end of 3 days of refining and conching, the chocolate is quite thick.  As a result, when we were using lecithin (I don't use it anymore), my staff would add the lecithin to the refiner about one hour before we were to remove it from said refiner.  This allowed the lecithin to work without breaking it down too fine.




thanks journey

I've read alot of discussions regarding the use of lecithin .. both positive and negative. i have made two batches of chocolate before this and did not use in either. This batch that i am making has genorous amounts of milk powder and sugar (most indians prefer milk chocolate, though i prefer dark) and thus i decided to use it to help with viscosity issues. do u think milk chocolate can be mabe without lecithin?

the formulation i used is

250 gms nibs

150 gms cocoa butter

200 gms milk powder

50 gms clarified butter

half a vanilla pod

1-2 gms lecithin

First, remember that lecithin is all about reducing the amount of cocoa butter you use; therefore as Journey notes, it's not essential.  If you choose not to use it, you simply compensate by adding more cocoa butter.

Second, it's awfully difficult to tell you when to use it w/o knowing more specifics, such as:

- in your formula, you need to first calculate what the % fat is.  it's impossible for me to do so with the information provided (ie you say milk powder - is that skim milk?  whole milk?  and if whole, is it 26% or 28%?)

- would need to know more about your process?  how are you mixing and grinding? if it's the stone melange, the answer is 'it depends'.  if you add all your nibs and dry materials and the amount of fat that you want to add up front, and the unit is struggling to grind, then you'll need to add lecithin (or more fat, or get a bigger motor...) simply to aid in the mechanics of grinding. 

Can a milk chocolate be made w/o lecithin?  absolutely.  it will just cost you more to do so.

Thanks Brad and Sebastian 

i have got a much better understanding from both your comments

please correct me if i'm wrong

in essence the goal is to is to cover/coat or insulate all the solid particles (cocoa, sugar, milk solids, etc) with fat in order to get a smooth mouth feel.. so if i have enough fat in my formulation i wouldn't need lecithin?


My apologies, I was speaking of soy lecithin.  Soy lecithin is an emulsifier, and it’s added to chocolate to keep the cocoa and the cocoa butter together.  Madre Chocolat and Manoa Chocolat both in hawaii have great success making chocolat from bean to bar WITHOUT using lecithin or soy lecithin.  Felchlin Chocolat out of switzerland has also had great success making there Cru Sauvage chocolat without the added ingredient.  At the end of the day its about choice and satisfaction with your product if YOU think it is necessary.  Many have had success with it and without.

Journey, you're right that Soy lecithin (and that's what was being referred to in an earlier post) is used as an emulsifier.  HOWEVER, it is not used for this purpose in chocolate, and it CERTAINLY isn't used to keep cocoa and cocoa butter together.  It's purpose is the exact opposite.  In chocolate it's used in place of added cocoa butter to increase fluidity (decrease surface tension), not increase binding/surface tension between the particles of cocoa beans and the fat.


The bottom line when it comes to the use of lecithin in chocolate:  you can cheap out on the use of cocoa butter to a certain point by including lecithin.  However at some point you will still need to add some cocoa butter for fluidity.


I brought this point up in another discussion, and it wasn't argued there either.  The term "soy lecithin as an emulsifier" in chocolate bar ingredients is marketing jargon by manufacturers, because it sounds better than "soy lecithin as a lubricant".


Do your homework Journey and you'll see I'm right.




As has already been noted, lecithin coats the particles so you need less cocoa butter.  It also ties up the moisture in chocolate.  Chocolate is usually about 1% moisture, so can make syrup once it dissolves sugar, but it's not all available for that, some being tied up in the fiber and such.  Since it is an emulsifier, you don't want to add it until the end of your conching.  Add before refining and it can help absorb moisture if the room is even a little humid.  The heat from the friction in refining melts some of the sugar, making it amorphous, so it likes water, just like pulverized sugar.  Then during conching one of your objectives is to remove moisture, and having the lecithin in just makes it harder. 

Hmmmm.... I don't know Mark.


I've never heard of lecithin being used to absorb water.  Nor have I heard of sugar melting during the refining process. My view is if that much heat is generated, then you're WAY too hot.


I've also never heard of Lecithin being used to aid in the crystalization of the Cocoa butter to make the final chocolate "harder"...


Maybe Sebastian can weigh in here.  He's a lot more conversant on Lecithin than I....





Only have a few moments now i'm afraid, not much time to get into it.

Lecithin is an ampiphillic emulsifier - one end of it is hydrophillic (attracted to water), end end is lipophillic (attracted to fat).  One of the (many) reasons chocolate can get thick is as Mark notes, there is a small amount of moisture present - sugar carries a monolayer of moisture with it, milk has some adsorbed to it's protein, lactose has water of crystallization, etc.  Where that moisture comes into contact with, say, sugar you get a phase transition (your sugar goes from crystalline to solution - forms a syrup), and anyone who's ever spilled a soda and missed a spot in cleaning it up knows well that it can get sticky as all get out.  The hydrophillic end of lecithin will, essentially, 'stick' to that syrup phase, whereas the other end of lecithin will 'stick' to the cocoa butter (a bit more complicated than that but you get the jist) forming a bridge between the two, essentially making it less sticky.

Now, conching generates (or can, dependent on your process) a lot of heat, and some of the moisture can be volatilized off during conching - so if you've got a process that does this, adding lecithin too early may tie up the moisture, making it harder for it to go away.  However, not all processes blow off moisture very well, so it's good to know your process. Some processes get hot enough that you hit what's called the glass transition point of a crystal (sugar), and you can shift it from a crystal to an amorphous state (glass). Amorphous sugars like to collect ambient moisture.

Afraid i've never looked at hardness as a function of lecithin.  My gut tells me that the more lecithin you use the softer your chocolate gets (by just a tad) as lecithin is 50% fluid oil, but again i've no direct experience measuring it and as such don't know for certain.

Thank You all,

really understand the use of lecithin better after reading all your comments. Ill be trying my next batch without lecithin,

thanks again



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