Cocoa Percentage – What the Number Means

Do you select your chocolate based on percentage?
People adamantly say, “I only eat 70% chocolate.”  Or, “I won’t eat any chocolate if it is over 85% (under 70%).”  When asked if they understand what the number is telling them they may not know the meaning, but insist on this steadfast rule.  In a recent survey, chocolate percentage came up one of the top reasons most likely to influence a chocolate bar purchase, but buyers are not really sure what percentage means.

What the Number Means
Chocolate percentage is not some fancy calculation or weird mathmatical formula.  It is the sum of the cocoa in the bar.

Cocoa mass + Cocoa butter = Cocoa percentage

There.  Done.  Easy.  Not so fast!

Not All Bars Are Equal
Each chocolate producer has their own recipe for how they like their chocolate.  Some like it creamy and smooth.  Some thick.  Cacao beans naturally contain about half cocoa butter, but if the chocolate maker likes a creamier bar they will have to add more cocoa butter.

Therefore, the percentage of cocoa butter to cocoa mass will vary depending on the maker and mouthfeel of the chocolate will differ.  So not all 70% chocolate bars will be the same:

  • Bar A:  70% with 35% cocoa mass and 35% cocoa butter
  • Bar B:  70% with 40% cocoa mass and 30% cocoa butter
  • Bar C:  70% with 30% cocoa mass and 40% cocoa butter

You have to find the one you like.  Awesome…more chocolate research 🙂

I find it’s best not to focus your chocolate purchases based on percentage.  That 60% chocolate bar may be just the right match for you.  Embrace the chocolate world and enjoy a wide selection of wonderful chocolate.  Start today!

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4 Responses to Cocoa Percentage – What the Number Means

  1. Interesting. This may explain why I found a 70% bar drier than an 82% bar by the same bean-to-bar manufacturer. Now maybe, for the sake of research and full information, we can get bar makers to disclose the cocoa mass and cocoa butter percentages as well.

    • Hi Victoria!
      I was fascinated to find this out as well. Like you, it explained so much about my tastings of various chocolate bars.
      I don’t know if chocolate companies will ever get to that kind of disclosure. I’ve been told the recipes are usually closely guarded. We’ll see!

  2. Lowe says:

    This is a good point, and I especially find large variations in the amount of cocoa butter in percentages >80%. Other frequently added ingredients are vanilla and soy lecithin. Together they add up to ~1% of the weight. Sugar is the easiest to determine since it’s just 100% – cocoa percentage. I find that there are great differences in the sweetness between bars that are 35%, 25%, and 15% sugar (65%, 75%, 85% cacao). The amount of sugar has a great influence on the taste and also needs to be taken into account.

    • Hi Lowe!
      Thanks for checking out the post and commenting. You are right. There are other ingredients in chocolate. In this post, I was just pointing out the cocoa percentage.
      As for the sweetness of chocolate, I find that cocoa has a big influence there as well. Dark, earthy chocolate might need to be tamed by sugar, while a more delicate, fruitier chocolate can add its own sweetness.

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