Ask the Alchemist #90


I notice that you have always advocated a minimum 35% of cocoa butter... yeah, I know about the basic 50% pre-existent in the cacao! However, my 62% is an easy pour, - enjoy this - easier than the 60% that I've tried.

Would I be right in thinking that the bean I'm using, a 3-day dry, Trinitario hybrid in Fiji, has enabled me to get that wee bit of 'extra' cocoa butter that makes the 62% a nice pour, but the 60% that little bit too much of a bother without added cocoa butter.

Your musings, please...

As nice as it might be, I would not say you are getting any ‘extra’ cocoa butter. I believe your thinking is flawed based on the assumption my advocation of 35% is the absolute, bare minimum you need and it is a scientifically rigorous number. Thank you for the potential pedestal placing, but in reality it is actually a rather carefully crafted number, padded enough to reduce the number of problems people have during formulation.

What that means is that given that the percentage of cocoa butter can range from 45-55%, and we ball park 50%, we don’t actually know how much we are using. We also don’t know how well you roast, what other ingredients you use, how much they absorb moisture (which requires more cocoa butter) or if you use lecithin (which requires less cocoa butter).

When using cocoa beans roasted well and protected from moisture, sugar that has been dried right before I use it and a little lecithin, and a cocoa bean of know ‘high’ cocoa butter percentage, I have been able to make a chocolate with a calculated cocoa butter percentage of 26%. On the other hand, using another bean, and a milk chocolate recipe without lecithin, just tossing cool ingredients in here and there (but recording of course), my percentage of cocoa butter showed a whopping 42%. The average? 34%. But look at that spread. 14%!! So for the easy of a neat and tidy number, and hedging my bets a little, I bumped my recommendation 1% to 35%. My goal for a ‘minimum’ being that 99% of the people that try it will succeed. That’s all.

So, your 62%? That’s somewhere in the 31% cocoa butter level. Yep, that’s between 26% and 42%. Totally in the realm of ‘normal’.

Most of my suggestions and advocations (I like my new word) are just that. They are starting points to ease you into success. After that, you SHOULD move to your tastes and circumstances. That’s the real Alchemy part.

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