Raw Chocolate

03/10/12 07:38:57PM
15 posts

Chocolate community...what are your opinions on companies that claim they used raw chocolate in their bars? I have been hearing varied things on this topic. Does anyone know for certain if fermented beans can be used in bars without being roasted? Thank you!

updated by @kat: 04/10/15 03:13:50AM
03/10/12 11:12:11PM
75 posts


Please read the many posts on this exact topic here before askingpeople to repeat their responses.

03/11/12 12:34:10AM
15 posts

Thank you for your response Nat. I did a search, and did not get a direct answer, though I may not have been looking in the right way. Also, I ask people's thoughts on this, if they do not want to respond, they do not have to, therefore not repeating themselves. Sorry if it offended you in some way, I am just wanting some thoughts on this topic.

03/11/12 09:00:43AM
754 posts

1) W/o having a universal definition of what 'raw' is, it's a moving target

2) I find it implausible that anyone claiming to make raw chocolate is actually doing so. at best they likely don't know what they're doing, at worst they're intentionally misleading their consumer

3) Almost no matter what your definition of raw is, it represents a huge. huge. huge. huge. safety risk from a microbiological standpoint. Unless your irradiate. Which i'm almost equally positive no one's doing. Killing your customers has been scientifically proven to be a terrible business model.

Clay Gordon
03/12/12 12:33:39AM
1,680 posts


As Nat says, this is a topic that has been discussed - a lot - here on TheChocolateLife.

Sebastian also rightly points out some very important aspects of the debate, one of which is the question of what does "raw" mean (i.e., what is the max temp), and other is the question of safety.

Like many things, the answers to your questions are much more complicated than they appear to be on the surface.

What is Meant by Raw?

Raw means uncooked. The raw food "movement" has put a ceiling on the maximum temperature that food can be exposed to before being considered cooked. Unfortunately, there is no universal agreement on what that maximum temperature is. Some people say it's 40C (about 104-105F) others say 115F (about 46C) and others say 118F (47.7777C).

Whatever the temperature is, there is, in fact, no scientific proof to support the basic claim that food enzymes are denatured and are no longer effective above any of these temperatures. I quote from TheRawChocolateCompany.com (referenced in a comment on your other post), "All fresh vegetable/plant foods contain enzymes that aid digestion. Heating can degrade many of these enzymes, increasing the strain on the body's own enzyme production.Eating food with reduced enzymes makes digestion more difficult. This in turn can contribute to toxicity in the body, excess consumption of food, and ultimately obesity and chronic disease."

These ideas were first proposed by Ed Howell in his book, "The Theory of Enzyme Nutrition." To the best of my knowledge, there have been no credible, independent, scientific studies that validate these claims. (Gabriel Cousens is not independent, and in many quarters is not considered credible, so you can't cite his "research.")

In fact, there is a large body of evidence to suggest that many beneficial enzymes in food do, in fact, survive at much higher temperatures than 118F and do so for long periods of time, especially in aqueous environments.

The Burden of Proof

The raw food community has been making these claims for a long time. When pressed, the response is generally, "Prove us wrong." This is unscientific - the proper way to respond is to buck up and do (i.e., pay for) the independent research to prove what you are claiming.

Cooking is Inherently a Bad Thing

While it is true that prolonged exposure to heat can degrade some nutrients in food, it is also the case that cooking can make the nutrients in some food more bio-available (e.g., broccoli). It is also the case that cooking does, in many cases, create valuable nutrients that do not exist in a food in its raw state. For example, the antioxidants found in coffee are found only in roasted coffee; the process of roasting creates valuable nutrients in this case and, I suspect, in many others.

Know Your Physics

Cooking is about contact time and how heat is applied, not just about getting something to a particular temperature. It is preposterous to believe that all of the enzymes in a dried cocoa bean (assuming there were any in the first place, which there probably aren't) were denatured instantly the moment the exterior of the bean was exposed to a temperature above 118F. I can drop 35kg of beans into a half-bag coffee roaster set at 350F and the temperature will immediately drop to below 100F and take quite some time to recover to 250F. Does the fact that the beans are exposed to 350F for a fraction of a second as the temperature in the roaster is quenched by the mass of the beans mean the beans are cooked?

No, it doesn't. It will take many minutes for the roaster temp to rise above 118F and when it does, at least for a short while, evaporative cooling from moisture leaving the bean will keep the temperature of the surface of the bean well below 118F. How do I know this? I've actually measured it.

So - at what point are the beans considered "cooked?" The moment the outer surface is exposed to temps above 118F? When .02% of the mass of the bean reaches 118F? 0.2%? 2%?

Food Safety

There are several ways to do a "kill step" in chocolate that won't "violate" the chocolate by cooking it. One is to soak the cocoa beans in hydrogen peroxide. This is a common and accepted practice in the organic world and it has been used, to some extent, in the raw chocolate world.

Another way to perform the kill step is to expose the beans to very hot, very humid air for a short period of time. You have to remember that cocoa beans are covered with a paper-like shell. It actually takes a while for the heat of the roaster to completely penetrate the shell and start to raise the surface temperature of the bean inside past 118F. Long enough, in fact, to perform a kill step - if the humidity is high enough.

On the Farm

Have you ever been on a cacao farm where the farmer does his own fermentation and drying?

Fermentation of the pulp surrounding cacao seeds can easily reach temperatures of 122F to 125F. However, the beans are in an aqueous environment which has been shown to reduce the denaturing of enzymes due to heat. It is possible to do a full fermentation where the temp does not go above 118F, but the pile needs to be very closely monitored with thermometers. I don't know anyone who does this in practice.

Anyone who has been on a cacao farm also knows that the temperature of a drying pad can easily reach 140F during the heat of the day. Beans lying in the sun for hours at a time are heated through to temps that easily exceed 125F - for hours and days at a time. It is possible to dry the beans at much lower temperatures? Of course, but it requires more time and more energy to do so and there is always the risk of the beans molding, mildewing, or rotting - which is why high heat is used in the first place.

No raw foodist or raw chocolate company - that I am aware of - has ever done a comparative study of the nutritional profile of seeds straight from the pod, seeds after each stage of fermentation, beans after drying, and then the beans after roasting. There is no baseline research to prove the claims. It is all apocryphal. There is no hard data, only assumptions.

That Said ...

There is a lot to say for a raw-ish diet that consists of a high proportion of foods that are minimally processed. Many raw foodists are also vegetarian or vegan, and most prefer to purchase organic foods. All these things are hallmarks of a good diet - if not taken to extremes (e.g., fruitarian).

The point is, unless you can point to research to back up the claim of 118F or lower, and are willing to obsessively supervise all steps in the production chain from the farm to tempering (has anyone measured the instantaneous sheer temperature under the grinding stone of a CocoaTown ECGC65? It could easily be over 118F), then you have to give up the notion of a definition of raw that is tied to the maximum temperature of 118F. Believe it or not, setting the bar (for cocoa and chocolate) at 125F is a lot more sane. There are a number of techniques that can be used to develop Maillard reaction browning and flavor development at this low temperature; you just can't get caramelization flavors which are the result of pyrolysis at much higher temperatures.

In my opinion, a more process-oriented definition for "raw" chocolate needs to be developed, not adherence to a single temperature that has never been proven to apply.

clay - http://www.thechocolatelife.com/clay/
RW Carlson
03/14/12 03:37:00PM
5 posts

Yes, you can make bars without roasting the beans. You just don't get a lot of the flavors (most?). Tempering depends on having enough cacao butter, and if it's a raw liquor, it has plenty of butter. Mixing raw chocolate with regular chocolate would be interesting because you could cut down on some of the bitterness of the chocolate, although I imagine that the acidity (organic acids) would increase a bit. Don't know about how healthy it would be though.

One comment about Clay's discussion above, I have measured the temperature of beans drying in the sun (in Costa Rica) and have found that the temperature of the surface of the beans (not the ambient temperature) often get above 120 degrees F, and sometimes get as high as 130. Does that mean that, after drying, they are already roasted? Are they mildly roasted? The beans in the farms here usually take at least a week to dry, preferably a little longer. If it happens to be a sunny week, that means that the beans are exposed to temperatures of 120 degrees F for 7 days.

03/14/12 08:20:21PM
754 posts

No one's suggesting it's not possible to physically make a product with raw agricultural materials; only that it's a terrible, terrible idea from a food safety perspective. One that once it's officially looked at through a regulatory lens, will be quickly legislated into illegality. Having been part of the preliminary discussions that have already occurred w/in the FDA, I can tell you that it's on the radar, but not prioritized.

Bottom line - just don't do it. It's foolish. If you choose to expose yourself to the risk, do so knowing what that risk is; under no circumstance should you offer it for sale to the consuming public who has an expectation of food safety, and has exhibited very little willingness to educate themselves.

RW Carlson
03/14/12 11:13:51PM
5 posts

Actually I'm not sure what the originator of this thread was asking or suggesting. Usually when people ask me about raw chocolate they are not concerned about the potential microbiological health hazard, but rather are interested in the possible health benefits one might get from eating a less processed food item.

Jeff Nelson
03/14/12 11:38:50PM
8 posts

I don't understand, they are more concerned with probably fictitious health benefits then they are about eating poison?

brian horsley
03/15/12 12:08:01AM
48 posts

i buy raw beans at the farm, do all the post harvest processing, and i've made chocolate in a small factory, although i'm mostly a bean guy. i really doubt that any product that tastes like chocolate goes all the way through the process without going well over the raw limit wherever temp they put that limit.

Brad Churchill
03/15/12 12:06:58PM
527 posts

RW... Your statementjust abovetypifies how stupid people can be. "I don't care if it will kill me. I want to know if it's healthier!"

My reply: "Hey retard! Being dead IS NOT HEALTHY!"

Usually when people ask me (and I get asked at least once a week), my answer is simple: "Would you go to the same country and drink the water right out of the pump?". They answer "Absolutely not!", and I reply "Then why the hell would you pick something up off the ground of the same country and eat it without cooking it first?"



03/15/12 09:18:03PM
15 posts

Thank you everyone for these responses. I apologize that this has been hashed out so many times in this forum. It seems to be a touchy subject. I asked this question, because I am new to making chocolate, and wanting to understand better claims of how chocolate is processed. I am wanting to sift through the truth vs. marketing ploys. I am getting the picture. Thank you!

Brad Churchill
03/15/12 11:22:12PM
527 posts


I think it's great that you are seeking out the truth. The considerable deception in the chocolate world is the reason I got into the business in the first place.

Far too many people blindly believe what they read in the media, then take it and preach it as gospel.

Never stop asking questions!




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