What exactly do cocoa solids percentages mean on chocolate ingredients labels?
If you’re a chocolate lover you’ve probably noticed the numbers on the back of the chocolate bar. The cocoa solids percentage and also milk solids percentage are two essential numbers that can help to determine the quality and taste of chocolate. In this article we’ll explore what these numbers mean and how they affect the chocolate that you consume.
Cocoa solids percentage
The cocoa solids percentage is the amount of cocoa liquor, cocoa solids and cocoa butter combination that is present in the chocolate. This percentage is also known as the cocoa content and it is a legal requirement in the UK to display on the packaging usually in the form of “minimum cocoa content”.
A chocolate bar with the wording “contains 70% cocoa solids minimum”
This means that you can expect the chocolate bar will be made of at least 70% cocoa liquor, cocoa solids and cocoa butter combination as a minimum and the remaining 30% will be sugar, vanilla and other ingredients. The higher the cocoa solids percentage, the more intense and sometimes bitter the chocolate will taste.
A chocolate bar with 70% cocoa will be dark chocolate. Dark chocolate has a higher percentage of cocoa solids than milk chocolate or white chocolate resulting in a more concentrated cocoa flavour.
A chocolate bar with the wording “contains 53% cocoa solids minimum”
A chocolate bar with 53% cocoa will be dark chocolate. Dark chocolate has this high percentage of cocoa solids resulting in a concentrated cocoa flavour. Chocolate with a high cocoa solid typically has a lower melting point and can produce a smoother texture. A dark chocolate with 53-55% cocoa solids is likely to be less bitter than a dark chocolate with 70% cocoa solids.
Some chocolate enthusiasts believe that higher cocoa percentages mean higher quality chocolate but this is not necessarily the case. Chocolate is available in 98% or even 99% cocoa solids but many would argue that chocolate contain more than 53% cocoa solids is too bitter and more than 70% cocoa solids is unpalatable.
Milk solids percentage
The milk solids percentage refers to the amount of milk powder or other dairy ingredients present in the chocolate. The milk solids percentage is usually lower than the cocoa solids percentage usually ranging between 10-20%.
Milk chocolate contains cocoa solids and milk solids. The balance between cocoa solids and milk solids is crucial in determining the taste and texture of milk chocolate. In general, the higher the cocoa solids percentage, the less milk solids used, resulting in a stronger chocolate flavour. Conversely, the more milk solids used, the less intense the chocolate taste.
A milk chocolate with at least 30% cocoa solids and 18% milk solids is a good quality chocolate, giving a good cocoa flavour and a creamy sweet taste and the perfect balance between cocoa and milk solids that British consumers look for in a milk chocolate.
It is a legal requirement in the UK for the amount of cocoa solids and milk solids in chocolate to be declared on the chocolate packaging.
The majority of white chocolate is made up of sugar, cocoa butter, milk and vanilla, giving a sweet, creamy taste. There is no requirement in the UK to declare the cocoa butter or milk content in white chocolate.
Summing up the percentages in chocolate
The percentage and balance of cocoa and milk solids present in chocolate affects it’s flavour, texture and quality. Understanding the numbers can help you make an informed choice when purchasing chocolate. For a strong, intense chocolate flavour look for chocolate with a higher cocoa solids percentage. If you prefer a creamier, sweet taste, look for chocolate with higher milk solids percentages.