Chocolate Explained

Chocolate is made from the cocao bean. It’s dried, roasted, and ground, and during the grinding process, cocoa liquor is produced from which two distinct items are extracted. These are a fat called “cocoa butter” and a solid called “cocoa mass”. The cocoa mass is then refined to make cocoa powder.

Different varieties of chocolate are produced depending on what’s added to the cocoa mass. Each has a different chemical make-up and the differences between them are not solely in the taste. It only makes sense, then that different varieties will react differently to heat and moisture and other ingredients in the recipe, so make sure you use the type of chocolate the recipe calls for as using something else will affect results.

As a general rule, these definitions will help you understand the differences:

  • Cocoa is chocolate liquor with much of the cocoa butter removed, creating a fine powder.
  • Alkalized cocoa powder (aka Dutch processed cocoa), is treated with an alkali during processing to produce a mellower, less harsh-tasting, but darkly colored cocoa. Depending on how it’s produced, it may or may not have other ingredients added, such as sugar.
  • Unsweetened Chocolate is the cooled and hardened version of chocolate liquor. It’s used primarily as an ingredient in recipes and is not generally eaten as is.
  • Bitter Chocolate (aka Dark or Plain Chocolate) is a combination of cocoa mass, cocoa butter and sugar. It usually contains about 35% cocoa liquor.
  • Semi-sweet Chocolate has about 15% chocolate liquor with extra cocoa butter and sugar added.
  • Sweet cooking chocolate is essentially the same as semi-sweet chocolate with more sugar added for taste.
  • Milk Chocolate is exactly what its name implies. It’s made with cocoa mass and cocoa butter, and milk or milk powder. Sugar and vanilla are also added. Normally contains about 15 % cocoa liquor.
  • White Chocolate is not really chocolate at all as it contains no cocoa solids. White chocolate is primarily cocoa butter, sugar, milk and vanilla, which gives it the smooth ivory or beige color for which it is named. White chocolate is the most fragile form of all the chocolates. It must be warmed slowly or it will burn and seize.
  • Couverture is a special kind of chocolate used by the pros and some of us who have discovered that its wonders far outweigh its price! A couverture is simply a chocolate with a higher cocoa butter content (a minimum of 32%, often as much as 39%). This high cocoa butter content contributes fluidity, smoothness, strength and ease of handling. In most cases, these chocolates also contain a higher cocoa solid content which heightens the flavor.


The formula on couverture packaging may look like this: 70/30/38. This means that there is 70% cocoa solids, 30% sugar, and 38% total fat content.

70/30/38 describes an extra bitter couverture and indicates 70 percent cocoa solids and only 30 percent sugar.

60/40/38 describes a bitter couverture, which is the most frequently used one.

50/50/38 is “semisweet" coverture.

36/42/38 is milk chocolate couverture.

Author: LMAshton
Howdy! I'm a beginner artist, hobbyist photographer, kitchen witch, wanderer by nature, and hermit introvert. This is my blog feed. You can find my fediverse posts at

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