Chocolate Requires Complex Mix of Science to Truly Be Delicious, Say Physicists

The proper mixing technique dictates how smooth and delicious your chocolate can taste.

Writer and philosopher Fernando Pessoa once said, “Look, there's no metaphysics on earth like chocolates.” There is something magical about chocolate, the taste and texture special has a place in the hearts and minds of both children and adults around the world.

RELATED: SCIENTISTS ARE JOINING FORCES TO SAVE CHOCOLATE FROM EXTINCTION

With a rich history dating back 2000+ years, today the worldwide consumption of chocolate every year is estimated to be at least 7.2 million metric tons.

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However, the world’s obsession with “great chocolate” may be more science than magic with researchers from the University of Edinburgh stating that the secret behind delicious chocolate centers around a complex mix of science.

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Creating Great Chocolate

A 140-year-old mixing technique is responsible for the smoothe beloved texture that leaves your mouth watering and craving more chocolate. Known as conching, researchers have uncovered the physics behind this process and its power to produce delicious chocolate.

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Why do you ask? Though you are sure to get the obvious benefits of chocolate there is a method to the researchers’ madness. The findings presented in the journal, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, could open the doors to producing chocolate that is not only lower in fat content but could assist with making the process of chocolate manufacturing more energy efficient.

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Imagine having chocolate that is not only good for you, sustainable and delicious? No more chocolate guilt.

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The Process

Developed by  Swiss confectioner Rodolphe Lindt in 1879, researchers used his conching process to better understand chocolate. The team measured the density of mixtures and how they flow at various stages of the process.

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Originally misunderstood, chocolate conching may be responsible for altering the physical properties of the microscopic sugar crystals and other granular ingredients. In short, conching smooths molten chocolate by breaking down lumps of ingredients into finer grains and reducing friction between particles.

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 Imagine chocolate that is not smooth in texture. This was the reality before the invention of conching. Chocolate tends to be irregular in texture, featuring random clumps, rough and grainy. However, the insights gained from this research is not just limited to chocolate.

As mentioned by Professor Wilson Poon, of the University of Edinburgh's School of Physics and Astronomy, who led the study, "We hope our work can help reduce the amount of energy used in the conching process and lead to greener manufacturing of the world's most popular confectionery product.”

“By studying chocolate making, we have been able to gain new insights into the fundamental physics of how complex mixtures flow. This is a great example of how physics can build bridges between disciplines and sectors."

Industries that rely heavily on the mixing of powders and liquids such as ceramics manufacturing and cement production could learn a thing or two about conching, using the technique to improve their processes.

What is your favorite brand of chocolate?

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