Cocoa Butter

Cocoa butter is the common name given to the fat obtained by subjecting chocolate liquor to hydraulic pressure. It is the main carrier and suspending medium for cocoa particles in chocolate liquor and for sugar and other ingredients in sweet and milk chocolate.

The FDA has not legally defined cocoa butter, and no standard exists for this product under the U.S. Chocolate Standards. For the purpose of enforcement, the FDA defines cocoa butter as the edible fat obtained from cocoa beans either before or after roasting. Cocoa butter as defined in the U.S. Pharmacopeia is the fat obtained from the roasted seed of Theobroma cacao Linne.

Composition and Properties

Cocoa butter is a unique fat with specific melting characteristics. It is a solid at room temperature (20°C), starts to soften around 30°C, and melts completely just below body temperature. Its distinct melting characteristic makes cocoa butter the preferred fat for chocolate products.

Cocoa butter is composed mainly of glycerides of stearic, palmitic, and oleic fatty acids. The triglyceride structure of cocoa butter has been determined as tri-saturated, 3%; mono-unsaturated (oleo-distearin), 22%; oleo-palmito-stearin, 57%; oleo-dipalmitin, 4%; di-unsaturated (stearo-diolein), 6%; palmitodiolein, 7%; and tri-unsaturated, triolein, 1%.

Although there are actually six crystalline forms of cocoa butter, four basic forms are generally recognized as alpha, beta, beta prime, and gamma.

Substitutes and Equivalents.

In the past 25 years, many fats have been developed to replace part or all of the added cocoa butter in chocolate-flavored products. These fats fall into two basic categories commonly known as cocoa butter substitutes and cocoa butter equivalents.

Cocoa butter substitutes and equivalents differ greatly with respect to their method of manufacture, source of fats, and functionality; they are produced by several physical and chemical processes. Cocoa butter substitutes are produced from lauric acid fats such as coconut, palm, and palm kernel oils by fractionation and hydrogénation; from domestic fats such as soy, corn, and cotton seed oils by selective hydrogénation; or from palm kernel stearines by fractionation. Cocoa butter equivalents can be produced from palm kernel oil and other specialty fats such as shea and illipe by fractional crystallization; from glycerol and selected fatty acids by direct chemical synthesis; or from edible beef tallow by acetone crystallization.

In the early 1990s, the most frequently used cocoa butter equivalent in the United States was derived from palm kernel oil but a synthesized product was expected to be available in the near future.

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