chocolate percentages

Cocoa percentages explained

Lots of us get confused about the cocoa percentage on chocolate bars, the percentage tells you how much, by weight, is from pure cocoa beans. Including the cocoa liquor and cocoa butter. The term is often found on premium chocolates, especially dark chocolate but increasingly on milk and now on some white bars too.

It can give us a rough guide to flavour intensity, milder or deeper chocolate flavour. Finding this % on the label can help you choose a chocolate that matches your taste preferences or your recipe’s needs but nothing can substitute tasting.

cacao percentage refers to cocoa butter as well as the cocoa mass together they are referred to as cocoa solids. White chocolate’s, entire “cacao %” comes from cocoa butter, so it will have a different flavour profile.

What do the numbers mean? Higher cocoa percentages may equal the following:

  • Less Sweetness: A higher “% cacao” means less added sugar. For example, a 70 percent cocoa dark chocolate has roughly 10 percent less sugar than a 60 percent cacao dark chocolate. Unsweetened cooking chocolate is 100 percent cacao with no added sugar, and it can be very bitter.
  • Greater Flavour Intensity: generally, a higher “% cacao” gives a more intense chocolate flavour. But some bars have more cocoa butter so may feel smoother in the mouth. 
  • Varying Amounts of Flavanols Content: Chocolate has received lots of positive news from health researchers because of its Flavanols. While these compounds are present in chocolate liquor and cocoa powder, actual levels of Flavanols in a particular product may fluctuate widely depending upon the recipe, cocoa beans used, processing practices, and storage and handling conditions. Therefore, “% cocoa” doesn’t necessarily indicate a chocolate’s flavanol content.

Common Terms

Cacao: Refers to the bean, which is the source of chocolate liquor, cocoa butter and cocoa powder.

  • Chocolate Liquor: Produced by grinding the centre of bean, called the nib, to a smooth, liquid state.
  • Cocoa Butter: The fat naturally present in cacao beans that melts at body temperature and gives chocolate its unique mouthfeel.
  • Cocoa or Cocoa Powder: The product made by pressing most of the cocoa butter out of the cocoa bean and grinding the rest to a powder.

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