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Chocolate Q&A

Ghirardelli Baking Bar Family What does the percentage of cacao content mean? Cacao content refers to the total cacao content in the chocolate, which is everything derived from the cocoa bean. The three cocoa components are: chocolate liquor, cocoa butter and cocoa powder.

For example, in our 60% Cacao Dark Chocolate SQUARES Chocolate, the 60% cacao content is made up of cocoa butter and chocolate liquor with the remaining 40% made up of sugar, vanilla, and other ingredients.

Is higher cacao content always better? Not necessarily. The cacao content gives an indication of how intense or how sweet the chocolate will be. The preference for higher cacao content chocolate may change from person to person or from time to time.

For example, one moment you may prefer the 60% Cacao Dark Chocolate SQUARES Chocolate while another you may prefer 72% Cacao Twilight Delight Intense Dark Chocolate, depending on whether you want something more sweet or more intense.

Ghirardelli has a 100% Cacao Unsweetened Baking Bar. While this is the highest cacao content possible, it is for baking, not eating since it is very bitter and has absolutely no sugar added.

When I look across brands, can I compare Ghirardelli's 60% Cacao Dark Chocolate with other companies' 60% Cacao Dark Chocolate? Not necessarily. Since cacao content can be comprised of any one of the three cocoa bean components, the flavors may be very different. A chocolate made from more cocoa powder may not achieve as an intense chocolate flavor. Ghirardelli achieves 60% cacao content without using any cocoa powder.

Additionally, Ghirardelli's process of hand-selecting the world's finest cocoa beans and roasting them to perfection ensures an intense chocolate flavor. Other brands with similar cacao content may not be as selective in their roasting process to get the same intense chocolate flavor.

Why do I need to know the cacao percentage? Knowing the cacao percentage will help you select the chocolate to satisfy your craving. Since higher cacao content chocolate is less sweet with a more intense chocolate flavor, knowing the cacao content will help you select the perfect chocolate for you.

Cacao content is also important when pairing with other foods and beverages. Find out more about Chocolate Pairings.

For baking chocolate, knowing the percentage allows you to control the sweetness and chocolate intensity in your baked goods.

Is cacao percentage the main indicator of quality? While cacao percentage will determine the intensity of the chocolate, the quality of chocolate is also affected by many other factors including:

  • Quality and selection of cocoa beans
  • Roasting process
  • Grinding, blending, and conching processes
  • Technology employed in the chocolate making process
  • Quality of other ingredients (for example, vanilla vs. vanillin)
  • Experience in chocolate making

Ghirardelli's process of hand-selecting the world's finest cocoa beans and roasting them to perfection ensures an intense chocolate flavor. Other brands with similar cacao content may not be as careful in their bean selection, roasting, or manufacturing process, yielding a lower quality product. Find out more about the Ghirardelli Difference.

What is the difference between "cacao" and "cocoa"? Historically, "cacao" and "cocoa" were used interchangeably since "cocoa" is easier to understand. However, technically, "cocoa" should be used in referenced to powder products, while "cacao" should be used when referring to the bean, which yields the cacao components - chocolate liquor, cocoa butter and cocoa powder.

When I look at another brand's products, it says "Chocolate Flavor." What does that mean? Some other brands don't use real chocolate in their products, so by regulation, they cannot be labeled as chocolate. Ghirardelli uses real chocolate in its products. Find out more about Chocolate Varieties.

Is a bean blend or single origin better? The proprietary blend of bean varieties allows Ghirardelli to achieve a specific Ghirardelli taste that is consistent year after year. With single origin chocolate, the flavor may vary from year to year based on the crop of beans that year. Ghirardelli uses a proprietary blend of bean varieties that has been refined over the company's 150-year history to provide the company's distinct and intense chocolate taste. The exact source of the beans is a closely held family secret.

Is chocolate with higher cacao content "darker?" Yes, in general, "darker" chocolate and higher cacao content chocolate mean the same thing – more intense chocolate taste and higher percentage of cacao components, although the definition of dark chocolate is very broad.

With Ghirardelli chocolate, higher cacao content means that the chocolate tastes darker, has more intense chocolate flavor, and has less sugar. However, when comparing across brands, higher cacao content may not mean darker since a chocolate made from more cocoa powder may not achieve as an intense chocolate flavor. Also, other brands with similar cacao content may not be as selective in their roasting process to get the same intense chocolate flavor.

What are some ways to entertain with chocolate? Find out more about Entertaining with Chocolate.

How should I taste chocolate? Find out more about how the experts taste chocolate.

I just opened a chocolate bar and the chocolate is dry with white spots on it. What is this? Most commonly, this is "bloomed" chocolate. Chocolate bloom occurs when chocolate has been exposed to wide changes in temperature. Although it may look unpleasant, bloomed chocolate is not harmful to eat. Find out more about bloom.

What is "dutched" cocoa? Dutched cocoa means the cocoa underwent a process that results in milder chocolate flavor notes by reducing acidity. The dutching process can also change the color from light red to brown to black. Dutched cocoa works well in chocolate items such as devil's food cake or brownies.

How much caffeine is in chocolate? The amount of caffeine in chocolate is very low. A 1.4- ounce piece of milk chocolate contains about the same amount of caffeine as a cup of decaffeinated coffee. There is an average of 6 mg. of caffeine in both an ounce of milk chocolate and a cup of decaf coffee, while a cup of regular coffee contains between 65 and 150 mg. of caffeine.

What is cocoa butter? Cocoa butter is a natural fat that is present in cocoa beans. It is obtained by pressing the unsweetened chocolate, or "chocolate liquor." Cocoa butter is not a dairy product as is sometimes thought.

What is Soy Lecithin? A natural emulsifier derived from soybeans, which is added to chocolate to help maintain an emulsion between the cocoa butter and sugar.

Is Chocolate Liquor alcohol? Chocolate liquor is the ground up center (nib) of the cocoa bean (otherwise known as unsweetened chocolate) in a smooth, liquid state. It contains no alcohol. Read more about How Chocolate is Made.

How should chocolate be stored? Chocolate should be kept wrapped tightly in a cool, dry place with a temperature ranging from 60-75°F. If the storage temperature exceeds 75°F, some of the cocoa butter may appear on the surface, causing the chocolate to develop a whitish cast, known as "bloom." The chocolate will still, however, be fine to eat. In hot climates or during the summer, chocolate can be stored in the refrigerator, although this isn't ideal as the chocolate may absorb odors from other foods. Dark chocolate actually improves with age, like a fine wine, if stored in an airtight container at 60-65°F.

What is Ghirardelli's stance on the proposal to change the definition of chocolate?

Ghirardelli does not support the changing the "standard of identity" or "definition" of chocolate. As you may have heard, the FDA is considering changing the "standard of identity" for chocolate. These changes (proposed by other chocolate manufacturers) would allow for the addition of vegetable oil in place of cocoa butter without losing the ability to call the product Milk Chocolate, Semi-Sweet Chocolate or Bittersweet Chocolate. This substitution is not allowed today unless manufacturers clearly label their products as "chocolaty", "chocolate flavored", sweet chocolate and vegetable fat coating, or milk chocolate and vegetable fat coating.

If the proposed changes are approved, consumers would have no idea by reading the front of the label whether the traditional milk, semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate are suddenly made with other vegetable fats rather than the cocoa butter that they have come to expect.