Cocoa Powder - Natural vs. Alkalized
Cocoa powder is a major component of the cacao bean, or seed, which is used to make chocolate. Apart from cocoa powder, the seed contains a high amount of fat (approximately 50%), which is known as cocoa butter.
To make cocoa powder, it has to be extracted from chocolate liquor. The liquor is first made by refining cacao from its coarse state to a very fine texture. Next, with the aid of a cocoa butter press, the liquor is then filtered through a sieve at an extremely high pressure, forcing the fat (cocoa butter) to separate from the solids (cocoa powder).
The remaining solids in the press resembles that of a cake, and has to be pulverized into a powder. This powder contains approximately 12% fat, which is a reduction of nearly 40% from its original makeup.
Types of Cocoa Powder
There are two main types of cocoa powder available. They are natural and alkalized (dutch processed).
Natural cocoa powder is left untreated in its natural state. It has a lighter brown colour and a lower PH level. There are more characteristics remaining from the cacao itself lending a more distinct flavour in desserts or drinks. When used in baking, the addition of an alkaline ingredient such as baking soda will aid in the leavening of your dessert.
Alkalized cocoa powder, or Dutch Process, has a higher PH level due to an alkali solution being added to the beans, nibs or powder. This reduces the acidity and darkens the colour, ranging from a deep reddish brown to nearly black. The level of acidity and colour will vary depending on the level of alkalization. This is most commonly used in baking with recipes that call for baking powder.
Tins of cocoa powder ready to be sealed
Check out this experiment
We put both types cocoa powders to the test to see which type performed best and what flavour we loved most. This is part of the R&D for a future bar to hit our shelves. It's based off of one of our all time favourites, Cookies & Cream.
For this test, we used our natural cocoa powder. This comes from one of our all time favourite suppliers, Kokoa Kamili. They are producing amazing cacao in Tanzania, and the cocoa powder is on par for both quality and flavour.
We also grabbed a higher quality alkalized cocoa powder from Camino.
We whipped up a few tests of the cookie for our Cookies & Cream bar. Using natural cocoa powder, we made two different batches, one containing baking soda and one without. We repeated the tests with alkalized cocoa powder and baked them to the same specifications. We were looking for differences in texture, colour, flavour, and reactions during baking.
Making cookies with natural cocoa powder
Here's what we noticed
- As a dough:
- Natural cocoa powder was softer and pliable
- Natural had a creamier texture
- Alkalized was slightly drier with a salty taste
- As the finished cookie:
- Natural was more airy and crisp
- Alkalized had a slight visual increase in size
- There was a distinct colour difference between both
Natural cocoa powder (left) vs Alkalized cocoa powder (right) in the cookie
Which one is better?
Our team prefers to use ingredients that are lesser processed. When baking, we used more natural cocoa powders for their uniqueness of flavour. Both have their benefits and drawbacks, so find a brand or a type of cocoa powder that works best for you, and stick with it!
If you are in doubt about your cocoa powder being natural or alkalized, look on the ingredient statement. If it is one ingredient, then you have natural. If there is a second ingredient such as potassium carbonate, you have alkalized.