We’ve all probably had that experience where we’ve left a delicious piece of chocolate sitting in the car while for a little too long. And when we do clue in that it’s a warm day, the chocolate is now basically a puddle.
Have you ever wondered which type of chocolate melts the fastest? While it may seem like a low stakes question, it actually has implications for a lot of different industries like chocolate manufacturers, companies that create custom chocolate that is sent through the mail, and businesses that produce or store chocolate in warm climates.
In fact, food scientists at the Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria are attempting to produce heat-resistant chocolate for countries such as Nigeria that endure high temperatures all year round.
So there is a lot of interest in this beyond the anecdotal — and scientists have done research on the topic. So let’s take a look at the information that’s out there.
The Chocolate Journey
First, let’s talk about the basic building blocks of chocolate. As you know, there are three main types of chocolate — milk, dark and white. In order to produce chocolate, a long process is required.
Chocolate comes from the cacao tree or the Theobroma Cacao. This equatorial tree is very sensitive and needs very specific growing conditions, including enough shade and protection from the wind during the early years.
Cacao pods are harvested from the tree when they are mature. The pods are football-shaped and contain anywhere from 20-50 beans within. Around 500 cacao beans will produce a pound of bittersweet chocolate.
Next, the beans are fermented, which is a key part of creating the flavour that we know as chocolate today. (Unfermented chocolate is created and enjoyed in some parts of the world, like in Mexico and Central America and is used in traditional dishes).
After fermentation, the beans are traditionally sun-dried, though large scale manufacturing might bring in machines to help speed the process. Next, the beans are sorted, cleaned and roasted. After roasting, the shells are removed from the bean, leaving only the roasted cocoa nib, which is the key ingredient for making chocolate.
The nibs are then ground into a paste called chocolate liquor, which contains both cocoa solids and cocoa butter in roughly equal proportion. It is considered the “essence of the bean”.
From here, the liquor I pressed until the cocoa butter is squeezed out, and it is separated into cocoa powder and cocoa. This is how we get rich cocoa butter with fine cocoa particles suspended in it. Chocolate liquor can either be used directly in the production of chocolate bars or further processed to separate the fat, known as cocoa butter, from the cocoa solids.
Ok, we’re getting close here. The next steps are called conching (more grinding and refining), blending (combining various quantities of ingredients to create the different types of chocolate) and tempering (the slow heating and setting process that makes chocolate have its smooth, melt in your mouth quality).
And there you have it, chocolate is ready for eating. No big deal, right? It’s actually incredible to think of the long journey that chocolate goes on to get to us, the chocolate lovers of the world. So knowing all this, isn’t it even more of a shame when it melts?
Which Type of Chocolate Melts the Fastest?
It all comes down to ingredients. When above we mentioned the blending of ingredients to make different types of chocolate, here’s how that breaks down:
Dark chocolate: sugar, cocoa butter, cocoa liquor, and (sometimes) vanilla
Milk chocolate: sugar, cocoa butter, cocoa liquor, milk or milk powder, and vanilla
White chocolate: sugar, cocoa butter, milk or milk powder, and vanilla
Based on this information, any guesses for which chocolate might melt the fastest? If you guessed dark chocolate, you’re right! You should probably treat yourself to a piece of chocolate right now.
Why is it that dark chocolate melts the fastest?
It is because dark chocolate is in the most natural state. When we add extra ingredients like milk or milk products, sugar, fats and other things, these lower its melting, because these ingredients have different melting points.
If you want to experiment at home, take one piece of each type of chocolate — high quality works best — and place them on a pan with wax paper or a hot plate if you have one. Make sure the heat below is evenly distributed. You will notice that the dark chocolate begins to sweat almost immediately, while the white chocolate holds its form the longest.
The melting point of chocolate falls between 86°F and 90°F. That’s why it’s important to store it in a cool, dark place like the cupboard so that it is not exposed to fluctuations in seasonal temperatures.
It’s actually best to keep chocolate at a temperature below 70 degrees. Studies show that most chocolate will at least begin to soften at around 75°F to 95°F.
Chocolate has come a long way over the years. From an elixir used in ceremonies to a sweet treat, chocolate is now used to signify holidays, to share with friends, and even as a marketing tool. We have seen some really innovative ways that companies are using chocolate as tools to show client appreciation, customer outreach, and client engagement.
It’s a whole new world for chocolate out there. Of course, it only matters if chocolate is in its basic, unmelted form, so do your best to keep it in a cool place so that it can be enjoyed by all.