What Exactly Is Cocoa Butter? Watch This To See How It's Made

What the hell is cocoa butter? And why is it both an ingredient in candy bars and a moisturizer?This short video lets you see where cocoa butter comes from and what "chocolate" looks like without it.


This video gives you a rundown of how beans turn into chocolate - and the far less glamorous cocoa butter. First, whole beans, with their shells, are lightly roasted. The temperature shouldn't go above 135 degrees Fahrenheit. There's a lot of fat in the beans that no one wants to melt quite yet.

The beans are then de-shelled. The shells get thrown away, leaving the cocoa nibs. (The nibs are the actual stuff that makes chocolate.) At the twenty-five second mark, you see the nibs being fed into a grinder. Grinding the nibs down is a tough process. Grind them too aggressively and they heat up to the point where the fat in them melts. That's okay for home cooks, but most processing facilities want to grind them down fine.

Next, the relatively fine-ground nibs are actually melted down into chocolate liquor. There is no actual alcohol in the substance. Liquor just sounds fancy. It's made of roughly equal parts cocoa solids and cocoa butter. The more melting, the more filtering, and the more grinding that gets done, the smoother the liquor will be.

Finally, the smooth liquor is pressed and strained, keeping the solids in one place, but expelling all the oil. The solids become a slightly-chalky-looking dry mass of cocoa solids. The oil eventually cools into a solid yellow block of cocoa butter. Cocoa butter is just the vegetable oil made from pressing cocoa nibs.

Most chocolate recipes recombine the cocoa butter and the chocolate solids, but do so in varying ratios to get different flavors and textures. White chocolate, for example, uses no cocoa solids and adds sugar, milk, and vanilla to pure cocoa butter.

And if you want to see the universality of the chocolate making process, here's a video of women in Cameroon making cocoa butter using basically the same process, but different equipment.


How did anyone ever come up with this insanely complex process in the first place? Who looked at cocoa beans and said "wow, we can make a tasty drink/treat from that AS SOON AS WE INVENT ORGANIC CHEMISTRY?"