We have all seen a number printed on a chocolate bar or a bag of chocolate chips like 52% or 70%. If you have ever wondered what this number means you are not alone. It took me a while to understand cocoa percentages as well.
What does the cocoa percentage mean?
The chocolate percentage on a label tells you how much of the chocolate, by weight, comes from ingredients derived from cacao beans. The rest of the bar is made up of other ingredients, such as sugar, milk (in milk chocolate, white, and some dark chocolate), and emulsifiers. Soy lecithin was the standard for many years but many chocolate manufacturers have switched to sunflower lecithin. Chocolate also contains flavorings such as vanilla to enhance the taste of the chocolate.
Are all chocolates created equal?
Keep in mind that two chocolate products with the same percentage of chocolate on the label can have different percentages of cocoa solids and cocoa butter. This can lead to big differences in the flavor, consistency, and melting point of these chocolates. (Think chocolate chips vs chocolate bar on top of cookies - the same percentage but the chips stay in shape while the bar melts into puddles)
Does higher cocoa content mean better taste?
Also, do not assume that a bar with high cocoa percentage will taste better than a low percentage bar. Chocolate flavor preferences, like wine, vary with each of our palates. The percentage doesn't let you know if the beans themselves were of good quality. It also does not tell you if the beans were processed correctly to bring out the beautiful flavor notes. Fermentation, drying, and roasting are as important as the beans themselves in producing a great flavor.
Cocoa Percentage simply explained
So when it comes to cocoa percentages more does mean less! When a chocolate bar has a higher cocoa percentage it means it has more cocoa mass and less room for other ingredients like sugar.
Want to learn more?
Please make sure to check out my other articles about chocolate which can be found here.