Great chocolate is complex mix of science, study finds

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The science of what makes good chocolate has been revealed by researchers studying a 140-year-old mixing technique.

Scientists have uncovered the physics behind the process – known as conching – which is responsible for creating 's distinctive smooth texture.

The findings may hold the key to producing confectionary with lower fat content, and could help make chocolate manufacturing more energy efficient.

Mixing technique

Edinburgh researchers studied mixtures resembling liquid chocolate created using the conching process, which was developed by Swiss confectioner Rodolphe Lindt in 1879.

Their analysis, which involved measuring the density of mixtures and how they flow at various stages of the process, suggests conching may alter the physical properties of the microscopic sugar crystals and other granular ingredients of chocolate.

Until now, the behind the process was poorly understood.

Smooth texture

The new research reveals that conching – which involves mixing ingredients for several hours – produces smooth molten chocolate by breaking down lumps of ingredients into finer grains and reducing friction between particles.

Before the invention of conching, chocolate had a gritty texture. This is because the ingredients form rough, irregular clumps that do not flow smoothly when mixed with using other methods, the team says.

Physics insights

Their insights could also help improve processes used in other sectors – such as ceramics manufacturing and cement production – that rely on the mixing of powders and liquids.

The study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, involved a collaboration with researchers from New York University. The in Edinburgh was funded by Mars Chocolate UK and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

"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 confectionary product. By studying chocolate making, we have been able to gain new insights into the of how complex mixtures flow. This is a great example of how can build bridges between disciplines and sectors," says Professor Wilson Poon, School of Physics and Astronomy.


Explore further

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More information: Conching chocolate is a prototypical transition from frictionally jammed solid to flowable suspension with maximal solid content, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2019). DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1901858116 , https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2019/05/06/1901858116.short
Citation: Great chocolate is complex mix of science, study finds (2019, May 8) retrieved 23 May 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2019-05-great-chocolate-complex-science.html
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