In Search of Beta Crystals (PART I)

No, this blog post is not recounting the plot of a Star Trek episode. It is the latest in our series of posts meant to educate you (and ourselves!) about the fabulous intricacies of chocolate making. Today, we will explore the process of “tempering” chocolate.

What is tempering? Simple, it is a process of melting and “unmelting” (these are very scientific terms) chocolate to create that “chocolate bar” look and feel. Despite the obnoxiously cold weather in much of the United States, we’re sure you have all experienced the tragedy of melting chocolate. But did you notice that when the bar melted and then “unmelted” it did not look and feel like a chocolate bar anymore? It did not have that nice chocolate bar shine or that nice chocolate bar texture- the kind that snaps when you break it. That is because when your chocolate melted, it lost its temper! (You might have lost your temper too, but that is neither here nor there).

But wait, if tempering is just a process of melting and unmelting chocolate, how come the chocolate you left in the glove compartment of your car all summer didn’t temper itself when the weather cooled back down? This is where the amazing science of chocolate comes into play.

Chocolate can harden into six different types of crystals (as if chocolate could get any cooler right?). The tempering process is designed to promote the formation of one type of crystal in particular –Form V (the Beta).

To accomplish this miraculous feat, chocolate makers carefully raise and lower the temperature of chocolate...

Join us next week as the search for the elusive Beta Crystal continues with the next part of our chocolate tempering lesson.