AMA: Ask Me Anything (About Cocoa or Chocolate) #1 – Edible Crystals

AMA: Ask Me Anything (About Cocoa or Chocolate) #1 – Edible Crystals

The Question

Chocolate is a crystal. What other crystals do we eat? Chocolate is mind (and taste bud) blowing eh?


It’s actually not completely accurate to say that chocolate itself is a crystal. 

Chocolate contains cocoa butter – the percentage depends on the chocolate recipe – that has crystallized through a process known as tempering. Properly crystallized cocoa butter gives chocolate its characteristic sheen and break.

For an in-depth description of the chemical structure of cocoa butter, tempering, and crystallization, I refer you to Chapter 6, Crystallizing the Fat in Chocolate in Stephen T Beckett’s excellent The Science of Chocolate. [ < Amazon affiliate link.] Anything I write hear would be a summary of the science presented in the book and I think it’s best if you read the science from an expert on the subject. This book is also a must-have in every chocolate makers or confectioners reference library.

If you’re in a hurry to know the skinny, try this article produced by the American Chemical Society on its specialist website The Elements of Chocolate.

Having got that out of the way, what other crystals do people eat?

  • Salt
  • Sugar (sucrose) and many sugar substitutes (e.g., xylitol)
  • Many forms of sugar candies, e.g., candied citrus peels, candied flowers, fudge, and toffee, among many others
  • Butter and margarine (you can even purchase 100% butter fat crystals)
  • Ice
  • Ice cream
  • Crystallized juices (Lemon Lime Orange Grapefruit from True Citrus on Amazon)

It needs to be pointed out that some of the foods on the list above are crystalline (e.g., salt and sugar) while many others (e.g., ice cream) that like chocolate contain crystals but are not crystals in and of themselves.


What do you think of this answer? Is there anything you think is missing or that needs clarification? Please let me know in the comments.

Archived Comments

Andy –

One side effect of fermentation is that it kills the seed and keeps it from germinating Allowing fresh cacao seeds to germinate (sprout) before fermenting is considered to be a defect as it diverts resources from within the seed away from chemical flavor precursors. Allowing the seed to sprout before/during fermentation would not prevent fermentation, it would result in defective beans. One key consideration is that the sprouted germ pokes a hole in the shell and this hole is vulnerable to contamination during the rest of fermentation, drying, and shipping and storage.

I’m a huge fan of sprouted seeds for flavor and nutrition.
I’m wondering if anyone has tried sprouting cacao beans before drying and processing them as nibs?
This may not be possible as it would prevent the fermentation stage,or, would it.
Very curious about this.
Thanks for this great resource Q& A.

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