Bittersweet Symphony: Optimized particle sizing in the chocolate manufacturing process

The smooth and distinct mouth-feel of chocolate requires unique texture and melting characteristics. A prerequisite for high quality is a well-defined particle size distribution that is first optimized and later routinely controlled. The PSA offers an easy solution for this challenge.

Chocolate is one of the most popular food types and flavors in the world, but it is not easy to describe. One could say it is a suspension of phospholipid-coated sucrose and cocoa particles in a liquid fat, typically cocoa butter, but on the other hand you find a complex variety of flavors in each bite of chocolate that melts smoothly on your tongue creating happiness and satisfaction.

Generating such a distinct mouth-feel requires a defined texture and melting characteristic of each chocolate. A more detailed look at the components shows a chocolate composition of cocoa, milk powder, sugar, cocoa butter and in most cases also lecithin.Chocolate compositionLecithin is an amphiphilic molecule with both hydrophilic and lipophilic properties, which is used for smoothing textures and emulsifying mixtures. It promotes de-agglomeration of clumps and wetting, inducing softening and decreasing viscosity.

The manufacturing process of chocolate starts with the harvesting of cacao pods and isolation of the beans. The pulp, surrounding the cocoa beans is partially converted into alcohol through a fermentation process. Cacao beans endure the heat, acid, and enzyme effects from the fermentation and develop the typical flavor. Afterwards they are dried for the following roasting, cracking and winnowing. The roasted cocoa nibs are then grinded to liquefy the cocoa butter and subsequently refined to further reduce the particle size and distribute the cocoa butter evenly. This is the first crucial step which will determine the final particle size distribution, and therefore affect the creamy mouth-feel. Through the refining step a mass called chocolate liquor is formed. Depending on the chocolate flavor desired, further ingredients such as sugar, lecithin, milk or cream powder and spices are added together with cocoa butter. Further grinding and conching develops the final flavor of chocolate. Chocolate liquor can be further pressed to separate cocoa butter. The resulting cocoa cake is used to produce cocoa powder.

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