Cocoa Percentages 

A man holding cocoa beans

Chocolate is one of the most beloved treats in the world, and there are several factors that go into what makes a chocolate bar taste great, starting with where the cocoa beans are grown. You can read more about the origin of chocolates here, but for today we are looking at another of those factors, which is the percentage of cocoa mass in the ingredients and what those percentages mean.

For many of us, the percentages on a bar of chocolate are a bit of a mystery, and we aren’t necessarily sure of what they mean. In its simplest form, the percentage tells you what weight your chocolate bar is made up of the actual cocoa bean, called cocoa mass – this includes what is called cocoa liquor and cocoa butter, both originating from the bean but which are separated during the processing of the chocolate into the two distinct ingredients.

This percentage can help give us a little insight into the intensity and depth of cocoa flavour the chocolate has, but it is no real indicator of the quality of your chocolate bar. The quality of your chocolate is much like a fine wine and comes in part from the region in which it is grown, as well as the skill of the chocolatiers who process the beans, with the addition of other ingredients. Like a skilled chef making an exquisite meal for you, out of a simple selection of ingredients – years of practice and a passion for quality, combined to create a delicious chocolate for you to enjoy. You can read about where our chocolate comes from here.

cocoa solids and cocoa butter

So, in a milk but more commonly a dark chocolate, the cocoa percentage is the total of the cocoa mass and the cocoa butter combined. More mass market chocolates, often use less of these more expensive ingredients, and more of the cheaper ingredients, so you can see a milk chocolate with a cocoa percentage of around 20%. This however doesn’t diminish the chocolate, it appeals to many of us, as we grew up eating it. Our classic milk chocolate has a much higher total of cocoa mass and cocoa butter, totalling 45%, so double that of more mainstream mass-produced chocolates.

A white chocolate only contains the cocoa butter and not the cocoa mass, so is a little different when we talk of percentages. 

A higher percentage of cocoa solids typically means a more intense, complex flavour with less sugar in the ingredients, while a lower percentage means a sweeter flavour profile, as the remaining percentage of the ingredients is made up of sugar, milk, vanilla, and often soya lecithin. 

The awareness around the positive health benefits of dark chocolate has led to a much greater trend around higher percentage chocolates, and it is commonplace now to see many brands with dark chocolate bars of 85% and higher. In Colombia, the National drink enjoyed by many people every day, is 100% cacao, which simply means, the chocolate only has cocoa mass and cocoa butter, with nothing else added. 

A close up of hands stirring a cocoa drink

The higher percentage dark chocolates, when you are getting into the 80% and above is an acquired taste, as they can be quite bitter due to the very low sugar content, so maybe aren’t for everyone – having said that, my 2-year-old nephew, loves 85% chocolate, and gobbles it up with delight when given some, always asking for more!

As with all foods, it comes down to trying different things to see what you like. Over the years, we’ve noticed that as we get older, our preference changes, and we move away from the milk, more towards the darker chocolates. Our classic dark chocolate is a lovely 60%, so very appealing to many, and great for eating, making into hot chocolates and baking with. Where many recipes call for a 70%, I often find them a little bitter and I generally use our Classic dark 60%, as that hits the spot for me personally. 

Demoulding dark chocolate

Remember, while better for you due to having less sugar, the higher percentage doesn’t reflect quality of flavour, for that you’ll need to try lots of brands to find your own personal favourite. Now what better reason do you need than that!


About Linda

Linda is the founder of Choc Affair, with a passion for creating wonderfully delicious chocolates, that are ethically made.