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Why do we temper chocolate and what exactly is it?!

Tempering chocolate can be a scary phrase when you start working with chocolate. There are horror stories of lumpy chocolate that doesn’t set and everyone’s worst nightmare, getting water in your chocolate!

But what is going on when tempering chocolate? The answer is very scientific so let’s dive in!

Tempering chocolate, or precrystallisation, is a process of bringing chocolate to its ideal crystalline form. When tempering chocolate you’re actually tempering the cocoa butter that’s in the chocolate.

Chocolate has 6 different forms that it can set in, depending on the temperature. At various different temperatures, cocoa butter crystals will form and set in various ways, think of it like building blocks or lego!

The ideal form for chocolate is form 5. In this structure, the cocoa butter crystals are aligned in, what we consider, the best way. The chocolate will be shiny, have a ‘snap, have a smooth texture and not melt in your hand immediately. 

To start the tempering process you need to melt chocolate so that all the existing cocoa butter crystals are broken down and can then be re-set in an ideal way, form 5.

There are a few different ways to temper chocolate either by hand or with machines. You can check out how we temper chocolate with the ‘silk’ method here!

There are 3 important factors in tempering chocolate - temperature, time and motion.

You’ll need the correct temperature points to successfully temper chocolate. Enough time for the crystals to form and multiply. And motion so that everything is distributed correctly and evenly.

Conventional tempering methods heat, cool and then reheat chocolate to form the correct crystal structure. And once the chocolate is in temper it’s ready to work with!


But what about the other forms of cocoa butter crystal?

These are the other ways cocoa butter crystals can form and what the chocolate will be like.

Form 1 (17.3c) and 2 (22.3c) produce a very soft and crumbly chocolate and are produced by rapidly cooling chocolate in a freezer.

Form 3 (25.5c) and form 4 (27.3c) creates a firm chocolate that doesn’t have a good ‘snap’ and also has fat bloom. This occurs when set at room temperature. 

Form 5 (33.8c) is what we want! Chocolate has all the qualities we desire. Shine, snap etc

Form 6 (36.3c) only occurs in tempered chocolate that has been rested for at least 4 months and not stored in ideal conditions. The chocolate will show signs of blooming.