Ask the Alchemist #151

  1. I have learned (the hard way) that not all cocoa butters are created equal. In fact, there seems to be a huge variation in quality, with some CBs having a very metallic taste. What is the reason for this variation in quality and what causes the metallic taste? Bad storage?
  2. Is there any substantive difference between “cold pressed” CB and regular CB?
  3. Does CB go bad? How long can it be stored at room temperature?
  4. Have you ever tried to press CB from your own beans? Is there any cost effective way to do this?

That is very true.  All cocoa butters are not equal.  Just like cocoa beans, roasts, chocolates and everything else.  I honestly don't know what causes that metallic taste, but I have found it across the board regardless of type, roast or age.  My educated guess is that it is related to what variety of cocoa bean it comes from.  In the absence of other chocolate flavors, that metallic flavor makes me think of bitterness and astringency.  Which leads me to think it is most likely the choice of source beans.  Generally speaking, high yield beans like CCN-51 produce more than average quantities of cocoa butter.  They also tend to be more astringent and don't produce fantastic chocolate, but the butter can be 'cleaned up'.  But only to such a degree.  The result can be that off taste.

Cold pressed butter.  My opinion is that there is no substantive difference.  I've heard theories about higher nutrients, enzymes and other fully unsubstantiated claims.  But I have yet to see one single piece of real data that backs up any of the claims.  The only difference I have yet to see is that as it is usually produced from raw beans, there is very little chocolate flavor, and the yield is significantly lower, so the price it higher.

I have never seen cocoa butter go bad.  It is pretty much that simple.  I guess it could if it was held in a liquid state for a while.  In that case it would oxidize or turn rancid, but you would have to work at it.  The triglycerides in cocoa butter are made up of medium length fatty acids.  This makes them naturally very resistant to rancidity as usually only short chain triglycerides go rancid.

Yes, I have tried pressing my own cocoa butter.  Mostly it has been a failure.

I have tried straight up pressing of nibs and liquor and fully failed.  I recovered nothing.  Screens clogged or broke.

I've tried mixed liquor with water and trying to get the butter to separate.  Nope. Didn't work.  I even tried tossing various laboratory techniques at it, like salting out.  Still nothing.

I had some success mixing a little water to make the chocolate seize and then letting the cocoa butter drip out.  You can read about it here. I was about to get about 12% recovery from a LOT of work.

But I have had recent success using an oil expeller press.  I'm actually getting comparable recovery to traditional pressing.  About 30-35% based on the original weight (50% would be perfect).  Go look around at oil expeller, but remember you heard it here first.  If all goes right, I may be offering one up for sale.  The only downside so far is the time it takes.  Namely 150-170 grams in 30-40 minutes.  Stay tuned for a full report.

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