Chocolate Percentages-What Do They Mean?
Posted by Jeff Stern on June 06, 2017
You've probably heard a lot about dark chocolate, that you should eat chocolate that is 70% or higher in cocoa content. There are health benefits from dark chocolate and you want to get them. A lot of information and buzzwords are tossed around on food labels too: "raw," "gluten free," "vegan." Do any of these matter? If you have have dietary restrictions that have been confirmed by testing and/or a doctor, of course they do. But what we are going to focus on here are chocolat percentages and what they mean.
You won't find percentages on every day candy bars as these are mostly sugar. You will find percentages on many of the better brands that you might find in Trader Joe's or even many supermarkets nowadays. Some of these include brands like Lindt, Chuao, Cadbury's, Green & Black's, as well as lesser known, but higher quality handmade bars. These include brands like Dandelion Chocolate, Dick Taylor, and Millcreek Cacao Roasters.
You have probably seen many different bars with different percentages on the label, and you may not know what they mean. You can find bars with no indication of percentage, and others ranging from the low 30% range upward. Typically, you will see numbers like 50%, 62%, 68% and 70 and 80%.
Three Key Ingredients in Chocolate
Bars of chocolate can contain different amounts of sugar, and that's the key to understanding percentages. Basically, there are three ingredients that make up a chocolate bar.
First is cocoa mass. Cocoa mass is the amount of pure cocoa beans in the bar. Cocoa or cacao beans are made up of cocoa solids and fat. No sugar is naturally present in cocoa beans, so remember that fact. When solid cocoa beans are first ground up, they turn liquid (like in the photo above). This liquid, unprocessed chocolate is called cocoa mass or cocoa liquor.
Second is cocoa butter - or in some cases vegetable fat. Ideally, you will be eating chocolate that contains no vegetable fats, only pure cocoa butter. Additional fats, either pure cocoa butter or vegetable fats, are sometimes added to chocolate.
Finally, sugar is the third component. Whatever the percent is on the bar, sugar is the remaining component that brings it up to 100%. So for example, a 62% bar is 38% sugar. 100% minus 62% equals 38%. A 70% bar is made up of 30% sugar.
Most milk chocolate is 65% sugar or higher, the remaining ingredients being powdered milk and cocoa mass. While the large majority of chocolate fans prefer milk chocolate, it is the unhealthiest form of chocolate, heavily depending on dairy (powdered milk) and sugar. Both of these ingredients serve to lower costs and sweeten the chocolate.
So remember, just subtract a percent on the label from 100%, and you immediately will know that the remaining amount is the amount of sugar in the bar.