The Art and Science of Cocoa Powders: Knowing the variables so you can find the right solution


The cocoa powder comes from the cocoa beans. It is the solid element remaining once all the fatty substances have been extracted from it. Valrhona’s cocoa powder is “Dutch Processed”. What exactly do the Dutch have to do with chocolate you might ask? In this article we will detail what is the difference between Dutch processed cocoa powder and natural cocoa powder and how will each effect your bakes.


The hydrogen potential, noted pH, is a measure of the acidity or basicity of a solution. A solution of pH = 7 is said to be neutral; a solution of pH < 7 is said to be acidic; the more its pH decreases, the more acidic it is; and a solution of pH > 7 is said to be basic or alkaline; the more its pH increases, the more basic it is. Why are we doing this introduction on pH when we are talking about chocolate? Simply because the difference between natural cocoa powder and Dutch processed is in its pH!


The natural cocoa powder is the one that you will most likely find everywhere in the United-States. As it says, it is natural, meaning it keeps its natural pH acidity. Natural cocoa powder has thus a pH between 5 and 6. This acidity gives the natural cocoa powder notes of lemon and bitterness, although of course, the taste depends on the cocoa used and therefore the brand you choose.


The Dutch processed cocoa powder is not processed by Dutch only, it is simply alkalized. Meaning that a potassium carbonate solution is used to bring the powder to the neutral level of 7. The Dutch processed cocoa powder is thus less acid, darker and has more woody notes.


Cocoa powder image

Well it depends on which kind of recipe you are baking! Both are interchangeable if the recipe doesn’t include chemical liveners like baking powder and soda. But most cookies, cakes, muffins, relies on them. To make it very simple baking soda is alkaline while baking powder is acidic and your recipes are written in a way to find the right balance and allow your bake to rise. To make it crystal clear: Natural cocoa powder will require more baking soda than Dutch-processed cocoa powder for your batter to rise. Mixing an acid and a base is what creates the chemical reaction: the bubbles for your batter to rise. So, you can play with the balance Dutch-Processed / baking powder and Natural / baking soda if you want to make changes to your recipe!

As for the recipes that don’t require liveners, then it depends only on your taste!

The Dutch processed cocoa powder has a deeper "chocolate" flavor, a richer, warm red mahogany color and more complex flavors. The Dutch processed cocoa powder is the most widespread in Europe, and it is our favorite for its rich, balanced and pure taste. Moreover, it dissolves more easily in liquids. And if you love the famous Oreos biscuits: they are made with Dutch-processed cocoa powder!



Try our recipes featuring Dutch-processed Cocoa powder to experience the difference by yourself!