Tempering Chocolate (Crystallization)

The process of tempering chocolate (also known as crystallization) is the alignment of stable cocoa butter crystals (Beta V) in melted chocolate, allowing those crystals to form, grow and set.

Why temper?
Cocoa butter is a complex fat that is polymorphic, which means that the cocoa butter within chocolate can take on many forms. It can rearrange itself in different ways – called phases – that affect the look, shine, texture, snap, setting time, and mouthfeel of the chocolate. The phases also result in unique melting points of the chocolate. Depending on how the chocolate is manipulated (temperature being a major factor), the cocoa butter crystals can rearrange themselves in different phases.

Why Beta V? To make a good chocolate bar, Phase (Beta) V is ideal. Referring to the table below, with chocolate in Phase V, it will come apart and melt only at that phase (34C). On average, your internal temperature of your body is around 37°C, the temperature of your hand is around 29°C, and room temperature is around 23°C – this means that the will remain solid in most storage conditions, but melt when consumed. In other words: melts in your mouth, not in your hands! And it just so happens that phase it the chocolate phase that everyone know and loves with the following other unique properties:

  • shine/gloss finish
  • proper texture/good snap
  • specific melting point (mouthfeel)
  • resistance to blooming
  • good contraction for moulding
Crystalline PhaseMelting TemperatureProperties
I17°C (63°F)soft, crumbly, melts easily, noticeable blooming
II21°C (70°F) soft, crumbly, melts easily, noticeable blooming
III26°C (78°F) firm, poor snap, melts easily
IV28°C (82°F) firm, good snap, melts easily
V34°C (94°F) glossy, firm, great snap, melting point near body temperature
VI36°C (97°F) hard, melts too slowly in your mouth, noticeable (visible) blooming

How to temper chocolate?
The tempering/crystallization of chocolate involves heating the chocolate mass to roughly 45-50°C (113 – 122°F) in which all chocolate crystal forms are melted. It is then introduced to the ideal seed crystals (V, or Beta) and allowed to set cool and set. The exact temperatures needed in this process will vary depending on the type of chocolate (milk, white, dark, ruby) you are using, see manufacture’s labels for specific temperatures.

In the tempering process, there are a few variables that need to be considered:
1) temperature – for the ideal cocoa butter structure, it needs to be a specific temperature
2) time – required for the cocoa butter crystals to form, grow and set
3) agitation – ensure even distribution of stable cocoa butter within the mass

Ways to temper chocolate
There are a few ways to temper chocolate. One method isn’t more or less correct than another, as long as you get the process right. However there are definitely pros and cons to each method. In the end, the “right” approach will depend on your space, equipment, and as well as personal preference. Here are the four ways that you can temper chocolate (without a machine).

1) Tempering through seeding
2) Tempering through marbling (temperature curve)
3) Tempering with the microwave method
4) Tempering with seed crystals held at a specific temperature

FAQ

What happens if I heat it under 45°C-50°C / 113 – 122°F ? With a lower temperature, sometimes not all of the crystals will be melted, and will affect viscosity and crystallization.

What happens if I heat over 45°C -50°C / 113 – 122°F? Excess heat can cause the sugar/proteins to change affecting overall taste and mouthfeel.

How do I check to see if my chocolate is tempered? The sample should set in approximately 5 minutes (depending on ambient temperature of the room).

What’s a good ambient temperature for chocolate work? 18°C – 20°C/64°F – 68°F

What’s the best temperature to place the moulds once they have been cast with chocolate? 10°C – 15°C/ 50°F – 59°F or in the refrigerator until the chocolate sets.

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