Feedsee Food : Percentage Cacao : Guide to choosing chocolate
The term percentage cacao refers to the ingredients by weight that come from the cacao bean such as chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, and cocoa powder. American cacao standards require a milk chocolate to contain at least ten percent chocolate liquor. Semisweet or bittersweet chocolate must contain at least thirty-five percent chocolate liquor, resulting in a higher percentage cacao and a more intense chocolate flavor. White chocolate has a different flavor profile because its entire percent cacao comes from only cocoa butter. A higher percent cacao means less added sugar. Cacao refers to the bean, which is the source of the cacao components of chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, and cocoa powder. Chocolate liquor is produced by grinding the cacao bean center to a smooth, liquid state. Cocoa butter is the fat naturally present in cacao beans that melts at body temperature and gives chocolate its unique mouth feel. Cocoa powder is the product made by removing part of the fat from the cocoa bean and grinding the remaining material to a powder.
The cacao content percentage on a chocolate bar indicates the total percentage of ingredients by weight that come from the cacao bean. This includes cocoa solids (which provide most of the flavor) and cocoa butter (which contributes to the texture and 'melt-in-your-mouth' quality of the chocolate).
Chocolate Bar Labels and Cacao Percentage
- 100% Chocolate: This is pure chocolate liquor which is basically ground-up cacao beans. It contains no sugar, no milk, no added fats, and tends to have a very bitter flavor. It's often used in baking or in recipes where other ingredients provide sweetness.
- Dark Chocolate: This typically has a cacao content of 70-99%. The rest is usually sugar, though there may be small amounts of added cocoa butter or vanilla. Higher percentages indicate more intense, less sweet flavors.
- Semisweet or Bittersweet Chocolate: These types of chocolate usually contain between 60-70% cacao, with the rest being sugar, vanilla, and sometimes added cocoa butter. The specific definitions can vary, but both types are darker and less sweet than milk chocolate, making them popular for baking.
- Milk Chocolate: This typically contains 10-20% cacao, with the remaining percentage being sugar, milk solids or milk fat, and vanilla. Because of the high sugar and milk content, milk chocolate is much sweeter and milder than dark chocolate.
- White Chocolate: This contains no cocoa solids at all, and is instead made from cocoa butter (at least 20%), sugar, and milk. Despite its name, because it lacks cocoa solids, it's not technically chocolate.
The percentage of cacao is often seen as an indicator of quality and flavor intensity, but other factors like the quality of the cacao beans, the specific production process, and the presence of any additional flavorings or ingredients can also significantly impact the taste and quality of the chocolate. Therefore, choosing chocolate based on cacao percentage is largely a matter of personal preference.