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This is the second in a series of articles about chocolate, the main ingredient of many of Art of Appreciation’s most popular gift baskets.

By Lia Blanchard

Chocolate liquor is a product of the early processing of all chocolate, as well as cocoa butter and cocoa powder – but it isn’t alcoholic, so it isn’t the source of all the feel-good feelings we get from our beloved chocolate binges!

After cocoa pods are harvested, usually in September, the 30-50 beans inside are roasted, cracked, and shelled. The pieces of beans are called nibs, and the nibs are milled into a paste – this is chocolate liquor.

It All Begins as Liquor

Chocolate liquor can be used in many different ways, depending upon the desired product. It can be mixed and further processed to produce different kinds of chocolate, something that we’ll cover in later articles in this series.

Or, chocolate liquor can be separated into cocoa powder and cocoa butter, using one of a few different methods – which method is used depends, again, upon the desired result.

A hydraulic press can be used to squish the cocoa butter (vegetable fat) out, leaving behind a mass called presscake. The presscake is powdered into cocoa powder. The manufacturer may use various amounts of pressure to produce presscake with varying amounts of remaining fat.

Instead of a press, a manufacturer may choose to use the “Broma process” of extracting cocoa butter and cocoa powder from chocolate liquor. The Broma process removes a higher percentage of cocoa butter by warming the chocolate paste (liquor) to the point where the fat melts away. The residue that remains is processed into cocoa powder. Domingo Ghirardelli is credited with the discovery of this method, which is also called the “natural method”.

A third method of removing cocoa powder and cocoa butter from chocolate liquor is the Dutch method, known for producing chocolate that is less acidic and more mellow in flavor. This is achieved by treating with alkali products to remove bitterness.

What happens to the powder and the butter?  

Cocoa powder, the low-fat solid produced by any of the above methods, is rich in flavonoids and also contains fair quantities of several minerals, caffeine, and theobromine. The powder is used for baking, drinking, and flavoring other foods.

Cocoa Powder

Cocoa butter, the soft rich fat produced by processing chocolate liquor, is also called theobroma oil. It’s used in the chocolate-making process, as well as an ingredient of other foods and certain toiletries and pharmaceuticals. Cocoa butter is a popular ingredient in skin care products because of its velvety texture and emollient properties.

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