Cocoa liquor is the product from which cocoa butter and cocoa powder are made. It is also the base raw material for making chocolate. No other ingredient in the chocolate formula has such an impact on the ultimate outcome of the product as cocoa liquor. Dark chocolate is basically a mixture of liquor, sugar and cocoa butter, whereas in milk chocolate, milk powder has also been added. Although cocoa liquor is sometimes used as a flavoring component in other food products, its principal use is as an ingredient in the manufacturing of chocolate.
It is not uncommon to use different words for the same product or raw material. This is the case with cocoa liquor. It is also often called cocoa mass, sometimes cocoa paste, and in the United States, it is referred to as unsweetened chocolate, chocolate liquor, or simply chocolate.
When discussing cocoa liquor, it is almost inevitable to directly deal with its prime application: the making of chocolate. It plays such a predominant role in determining the ultimate flavor of the chocolate that it is justified to extensively dwell on the subject of how the flavor in cocoa liquor is developed.
The flavor of cocoa liquor is dependent on three very distinct and equally important factors:
- The type of cocoa bean used (generic background and growing conditions)
- The flavor precursor development in the bean during fermentation and drying, as well as the first steps in further handling
- The flavor formation during subsequent processing
To be able to determine the flavor profile of a cocoa liquor, six different descriptors have been defined: favorable ones like cocoa, bitterness, bouquet, and richness/body, and less favorable ones such as astringency and acidity. Off-notes are classified separately under descriptors like burnt, hammy, smoky, moldy, earthy, and woody.
The ultimately desired chocolate flavor may vary considerably, not only from manufacturer to manufacturer but also regionally. Some consumers prefer a robust flavor, whereas others prefer a mild flavor like that of milk chocolate.
The roasting process of good fermented beans renders a characteristic brown color to the cocoa liquor. Differing roasting conditions may lead to color differentiation in the liquor. A low-roasted liquor will have a slightly lighter color compared to a high-roasted liquor. In chocolate, however, these color differences will not be very distinctive. The color of Criollo beans is somewhat lighter than the Forasteros’ color, but this difference mostly disappears after roasting. Some bean types, the so-called light breaking beans like those from Java and Madagascar, are substantially lighter in color than others. Both of these bean types are classified as fine flavor beans, and they not only enable the manufacturer to produce a chocolate with typical value-added top flavor and color notes, but they may also call their chocolate fine-grade chocolate (Edelschokolade) in the European Union. Thus, both the applied technology and the chocolate formula make it possible to influence the color of the end-product.