The Science of Good Chocolate

Scientists at the University of Edinburgh have been studying a 140 years old mixing technique which holds the key to making good chocolate.

And of course, it’s all down to physics.

Conching – is responsible for creating chocolate’s distinctive smooth texture.

The implications of the results from the research could help to produce chocolate with lower fat content and could help make the manufacturing process more energy efficient.

Mixing technique

Edinburgh researchers studied mixtures resembling liquid chocolate created using the conching process, which was developed by Swiss confectioner Rodolphe Lindt in 1879.

Their analysis, which involved measuring the density of mixtures and how they flow at various stages of the process, suggests conching may alter the physical properties of the microscopic sugar crystals and other granular ingredients of chocolate.

Until now, the science behind the process was poorly understood.

Smooth texture

The new research reveals that conching – which involves mixing ingredients for several hours – produces smooth molten chocolate by breaking down lumps of ingredients into finer grains and reducing friction between particles.

Before the invention of conching, chocolate had a gritty texture. This is because the ingredients form rough, irregular clumps that do not flow smoothly when mixed with cocoa butter using other methods, the team says.

Helen’s Home Cooking:Video & Recipe for Chocolate Cookies

Chocolate cookies

chocolate cookies

Physics insights

Their insights could also help improve processes used in other sectors – such as ceramics manufacturing and cement production – that rely on the mixing of powders and liquids.

The study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, involved a collaboration with researchers from New York University. The work in Edinburgh was funded by Mars Chocolate UK and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

Helen’s Home Cooking: Video and Recipe for

Nutty Chocolate Chip Cookies

Nutty Chocolate Chip Cookies

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1 reply »

  1. I sent the link for this, to Howie (Firth), saying that this makes physics even more interesting! And Howie answered, thus……..

    “And indeed Wilson Poon whose team carried out the research is coming to this year’s Orkney Science Festival. He’d originally offered a talk about his work on chocolate but we’d also been speaking about an interesting talk that he does on science and religion, which one organisation is keen to host, so he’s going to come back next year as well to do the chocolate then, but I hope he will be able to speak about it to one or two schools who he will be visiting.”

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