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Finding the Right Type of Cocoa Powder

Organic Cocoa Powder Types

Left to right: Organic Natural Cocoa Powder, Organic Dutch Cocoa Powder, Organic Dark Dutch Cocoa Powder

Cocoa powder can be used in a range of product formulations beyond confections. It is widely used in dairy, baked goods and beverages but also adds flavor and/or color to sauces, marinades and even supplements. Due to variations in color, flavor, fat content, and pH, it is important to find the right type of cocoa powder for your application.

This News & Views blog post is designed to give you the basic information you need to find the right cocoa powder for your application.

What is cocoa powder?

Press Cake Cocoa Powder
With cocoa butter removed, remaining solids form a compact press cake, which is then ground into cocoa powder

When cocoa pods are harvested from the trees, cocoa beans are removed from the pods, fermented, and dried. Then dried beans are roasted to develop the flavor and aroma of the cocoa. Roasted beans (cocoa nibs) are milled to create cocoa liquor, which is either conched to make chocolate products or pressed. Cocoa powder is the dry cocoa solids produced by pressing cocoa liquor to remove much of the cocoa butter.

In addition to providing rich brown color and chocolate flavor, cocoa powder has a high concentration of flavanol antioxidants. It also contains various trace minerals in higher quantities than found in cocoa liquor or cocoa butter alone.

Fat Content of Cocoa Powder

High fat and low fat options are available for both natural and Dutch cocoa (see below). The fat percentage refers to the amount of cocoa butter remaining in the powder. Low fat cocoa typically falls around 10-12% fat and high fat cocoa is typically 20-22% or 22-24% fat.

In product formulations that contain other fats, a lower fat content cocoa powder can be used. For example, in the case of ice cream, milk fat is more important for texture and flavor than fat derived from the cocoa powder itself. The same applies for manufactured products that use a different fat source for texture or value.

Cocoa Powder pH: Dutch vs. Natural

The distinction between natural and Dutch cocoa has to do with acidity. The acidity, or pH, of the cocoa powder affects its flavor, dissolvability, and color (higher pH means a darker color). Generally, manufacturers determine the pH that is correct for their products, and pastry chefs use powders in the 7.5-8.0 pH range.

Natural cocoa powder is cocoa that retains its natural acidity. It is typically lighter in color and has a stronger chocolate flavor with bitter and sour notes intact. Agostoni Organic Natural Cocoa Powder 10-12% has a pH of 5.5 ± 0.5. Fairtrade and high fat (22-24%) options are available upon request.

Color Tip:
When considering color, it's important to look at cocoa powder in a wet solution like the photo at the top of this post. This shows color differences you cannot see as easily when looking at dry powder. Wet solutions better represent cocoa’s color in application.

Dutch-process cocoa powder is also called alkalized cocoa powder or simply Dutch cocoa. This is cocoa powder that has been through an alkalization process to neutralize its acidity. This process produces a darker colored cocoa with a mellow flavor. This type of cocoa dissolves more easily in liquids. Agostoni Organic Dutch Cocoa is pH 7.3 ± 0.3 and is available in high fat (20-22%) or low fat (10-12%). Fairtrade Dutch cocoa powder is available upon request.

Agostoni offers Organic Dark Dutch Cocoa Powder. The distinction here is the average pH of 8.0 ± 0.3. It is more alkalized than the standard Dutch and this produces a difference more in the color than the flavor of the cocoa. More heavily Dutched cocoa has a darker color and more intense cocoa flavor.

Other cocoa powders exist on the market including red cocoa (alkalized cocoa with a red hue), black cocoa (very dark, highly alkalized cocoa) and various blends of Dutch and natural. Once you have a good sense of any pH and/or color requirements you have, you can find a cocoa that meets your needs.

Agostoni Cocoa Powder

Agostoni organic natural and Dutch cocoa powder is made from high quality beans grown in Central and South America. These beans are sourced sustainably through their Equal Partner Direct Buying Program.

Cocoa powder is made in-house. The plant is fully automated and equipped with a sophisticated computerized system, which allows for traceability from the raw materials to the finished product. Representative samples are tested from every incoming bag of cocoa beans to weed out any of inferior quality (such as those that have not been dried or fermented properly). Additional sensory evaluation is done on lots of chocolate and cocoa products produced at the facility to control and ensure consistent quality.

Finally, all Agostoni cocoa powder is tempered. Tempering is a process of heating and cooling that stabilizes the product so all crystals are set along a temperature curve. Tempering cocoa powder improves the shelf life, color brightness and “flowability,” meaning the powder will not harden or compact into clumps in the bag.

To learn more about Agostoni chocolate and cocoa products, please contact your Global Organics Account Manager or email