Ask the Alchemist #158


Would you have a graph showing the temperatures at which type V crystals melt for different chocolates?

I get this or some variation of this question once a month it seems.  It is totally understandable.  It would be really great to know that if you have a 60% chocolate, you look it up on a chart, and find you can always take it to exactly 87.6 F without having it bloom later.

Unfortunately it is also completely impossible to produce for a lot of reasons.

There three main reasons.

  • Different cocoa beans contain different amounts of cocoa butter
  • Different cocoa beans contain different types of cocoa butter
  • You have no good way to know those exact amounts.

What this means is that a 60% chocolate made from beans from Peru will have a different amount of cocoa butter (what is getting tempered) than a 60% from the Ivory Coast.  The former bean may have 50% cocoa butter but the later 57%.  That right there will change the maximum tempering temperature.

Different amounts of cocoa butter change your tempering temperatures.

But even if we get rid of that variable it still will not help us.  Let’s say we are told the cocoa butter percentage, and press out single origin butter to add back so they are the same amount, then you still can find that the 60% chocolates have different maximum melting points.

The reason is that all cocoa butter is not created equal.

I have to resort to a bit of basic chemistry.  In its simplest form,  cocoa butter is made up of three parts (fatty acids).  Each part can be one of 7 different fatty acids (although 3 commons ones are used 95% of the time).  The longer the fatty acid, the higher the melting point.

Look at the three examples of what cocoa butter can be made up of.

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Notice the difference?  How as you go down, the parts get longer?  As that happens the melting point goes up.

That fact right there, coupled with having no way to find out just what combination you cocoa butter has defeats us if we try and build a graph.  If you cocoa butter has more of the first type, you melting point will be lower than if it has more of the third type.

How much lower?  Probably about 2 F.  Which is why there is always a range when giving tempering instructions.  ‘raise to 87-89 F’.

On the other hand, if you are talking about just one bean and different percentages of sugar and cocoa butter, now that can be graphed.  But you have to do it yourself for it is unique to your recipe and cocoa bean.

And I am going to talk about that next week, and why in reality if you do it you may find it less than helpful.  Stay tuned.

And always

Send in your Ask the Alchemist questions to questions@chocolatealchemy.com

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