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The Science of Chocolate


The Science of Chocolate

Are you interested in all the nitty gritty details of cacao and chocolate - genetics, geopolitics, agronomy, taxonomy, and the like? Then this is the group to join to take a deep dive into chocolate.

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Latest Activity: Dec 10

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Discussion Forum

Adjusting the process for flavors

Started by Jason Walter. Last reply by Jason Walter Nov 21. 8 Replies

Micrometers - Measuring particles

Started by Christian Tyler. Last reply by Daniel Haran Oct 31. 2 Replies

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Comment by Sacred Steve on October 26, 2010 at 11:19pm
I like to look at it this way...
peanuts, the seed of a plant, are a food. And, you can grind them into peanut butter, which is also a food. Cacao beans are seeds, and you can grind them into a 100% cacao content chocolate bar. Therefore, chocolate is a food. Of course, you can add sugar to either.
Comment by Mann Made Chocolate on October 22, 2010 at 3:25pm
@Glorious Chocolate - it turns out that "food" is variously defined by different governments. In the U.S., the FDA defines food as: "a raw, cooked, or processed edible substance, ice, beverage, or ingredient used or intended for use or for sale in whole or in part for human consumption, or chewing gum." (source: Food Code 2009).

For reporting purposes, the FDA lumps three categories together as
"Chocolate/Confections/Candy" and any of those are, legally, "food."

Yet, I suppose I'm not alone in feeling there SHOULD be some kind of a distinction between chocolate (which has nutritive as well as bioactive compounds beyond the supply of calories) and simple candy that provides only calories (and maybe a tiny bit of protein in some cases).

While legally both chocolate and candy are "food," I think the "common sense" distinction is that candy connotes a substance that is composed of compounds that are only distantly related to their original plant source (e.g. sucrose, palm kernal oil, agar, etc.) while 100% chocolate is essentially just a processed plant product. Chocolate can be thought of as existing in nature - it is in some sense just a seed that is fermented, roasted, pressed, etc. (i.e. processed). Thus, all the mysterious compounds (known and unknown) that characterize plant life are, to one degree or another, part of chocolate which makes it feel more like "food" to me. Candy per se doesn't exist in nature (although certainly sweet things do). I can artificially create a candy; no one can artificially create (real) chocolate.

But again - blurry lines. What about candied orange peels vs. say a 70% chocolate bar? Candied orange peels are an original plant-derived product mixed with sugar. The chocolate bar is also an original plant-derived product mixed with sugar (and some vanilla and lecithin). Are candied orange peels more or less "food" than a chocolate bar?

Perhaps asking how many angels can dance on the tip of a cocoa nib will be easier to figure out.
Comment by Mark J Sciscenti on October 22, 2010 at 1:46pm
Hi Glorius, that answer I suspect is complicated. My studies all point to the high phenolic compounds (or in shorthand - antioxidants); biochemicals that effect the body and brain plus the high mineral content that points to chocolate being food. That is of course if you consume a high cocoa percentage chocolate, I.e. low in sugar, no dairy, etc... If you eat the cocoa nibs or even unroasted cacao beans you will get more of these compounds.
Comment by Gloria "G Chocolate" on October 21, 2010 at 8:49pm
what makes chocolate a food vs a candy?
Comment by Deanna Pucciarelli on August 29, 2010 at 5:12pm
The reason that the higher Kcal count for the 100% cocoa, is that cocoa is high in fat which has 9kcal/g versus sugar 4kcal/g. The more the sugar in a product and the less the fat (cocoa butter) the lower the total kcal. But also the lower the mineral/polyphenols, etc that comes from the cocoa bean.
Comment by María Soledad Troya on August 29, 2010 at 3:40pm
An answer for Ilana about calories in liquor. We just exported 100 % coberture and 77% coberture. The official tag said that the 100%'s have 7260 calories per k. , while surprisingly the 77%'s have 5100 calories per k. I would have thought that more sugar , more calories, what seems clear is that chocolate alone is got more calories than sugar.
Comment by John Hepler on August 29, 2010 at 12:06pm
A few issues:
Unfermented cacao is used locally (within the countries of Mexico and Nicaragua, and liekly the rest of them in Cent Am), I'm thinking because its less trouble, thus cheaper.
This is very rough stuff, I made 20 lbs of chocolate from it and it was inedible, very acid. The locals get around this-- I've seen it plenty firsthand-- by roasting right up to the point of burning the stuff. Terribly sad to see. Then they have a near-burnt cacao, very strong which they can dilute greatly, add a lot of sugar and make a quite passable beverage.
ALL cacao for export is Fermented
By the way, the chocolate I made 3 years ago from raw beans is almost palatable now, the amazing power of aging the chocolate.

Distinguishing criollo from forastero: my guess is that these names represent the two endpoints on a genetic spectrum and there are 1000s of hybrids in between. The USDA has a program of testing, contact
Dapeng.Zhang@ARS.USDA.GOV who says they can distinguish the gene content by percentages.

This is not to say that the very old time criollo types are superior to the ubiquitous forastero. In fact the purple color of the forasteros are surely more loaded with ORAC, and all that colored goodness that nature provides-- moreso than the pale colors associated with criollos.

But I am interested in the tastes of the criollo. And it looks like they need some help to survive.

And finally, for the Atkins diet question, I think it is clear that apart from the substantial recognized health benefits of eating almost ANy chocolate, the problem of weight control, hunger and satiation remain.

Briefly, there is likely a cutoff point of sugar content relative to the fat/protein combination: the high sugar side leads to faster absorption, more insulin stimulation (thus greater tendency to fat storage), more hunger sooner thereafter, and less long term satiation.
I think it is safe to assume that this cutoff point is about 25% sugar, aka the 75% bar. Maximum satiation per unit ingested is what we are looking for. The 70% bar is probably close but it all looks pretty impossible to get more specific.
Total carbs in a 100 gram 70% bar (by an interesting net calculation, see is 120 calories. However, this may well be mitigated by all that fat that slows down the absorption.
Comment by Ilana on March 6, 2010 at 11:37am
a friend of mine is on the Atkins diet. He asked me about carbs in chocolate. I just don't know! Does anyone know for 70% and also for 100%(liquor)? Interesting...
Comment by xinhong liu on February 10, 2010 at 11:24am
Hi Nancy,

Your observation is still very helpful to me. Thanks.

Comment by Nancy Nadel on February 10, 2010 at 11:14am
Thanks for the explanation and correction to my guess. Because I am still working another job as well as being a chocolate maker/chocolatier, I don't have much time to study and my guess was from observation from the between harvest times I am in Jamaica.

Do you know the midge's range because I do see lots of growth on the branches as well as the trunk. Now that I think of it, I see a lot of overripe pods on the branches as opposed to on the ground. I think I've seen whole pods on the ground but they might have a little nibble in them from an animal, typically rats in Jamaica, that made it fall as you described.

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