Sweet neutron science shines new light on dark chocolate’s tastiness


Samples of 70% dark chocolate gotten ready for research study with the USANS instrument at the Spallation Neutron Source. Credit: ORNL/Genevieve Martin

Tempering, the heating procedure that provides chocolate its attractive shine and velvety texture, is a vital part of crafting quality chocolate. However, at the molecular level, it gets a little challenging, and when done improperly, can render whole batches of chocolate gritty and unappetizing.


Searching for enhancements, scientists Fernanda Peyronel from the University of Guelph, Ontario, and David Pink from St. Francis Xavier University, Nova Scotia, utilized a mix of neutrons and x-ray scattering at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge (ORNL) and Argonne National Laboratories to much better comprehend how tempering impacts chocolate’s microstructure and, consequentially, how that relationship effects taste.

“We’re looking at how mouthfeel—which is how chocolate feels against the tongue as it melts in the mouth—affects taste, and how that links to tiny crystallites of chocolate in the chocolate bar,” stated ORNL instrument researcher Ken Littrell.

Littrell discussed that whether a chocolate is smooth and velvety depends on the length of time it’s been tempered, or, melted to a liquid and stirred. Tempering diminishes micron-size crystallites of chocolate, leading to a smoother mouthfeel. On the other hand, chocolate that hasn’t been tempered or was tempered improperly includes bigger chocolate crystallites, which feel rough and undesirable versus the tongue as chocolate melts in the mouth.

“The hope is that we’ll be able to quantify smoothness or grittiness scientifically, corresponding to what we see in the chocolate’s microstructure,” Littrell stated.

To develop whether gritty textures are basically yummy than smooth textures, the scientists provided chocolate samples to an inexperienced taste-testing group and inquired to rank the chocolates from finest to worst. Inevitably, the samples that had actually been tempered were ranked best since of their smooth, velvety texture, while the untempered chocolates were ranked worst and slammed for their unpleasant grit.

“With that information, we had good reason to justify our argument that gritty mouthfeels are generally undesirable compared with smooth mouthfeels, and that it was worth investigating which physical structures in chocolate are associated with each sensation,” stated Littrell.

To do that, the scientists made another set of samples from a bar of artisanal dark chocolate, which they analyzed with x-rays at Argonne National Lab’s Advanced Photon Source (APS). Then, to validate and extend their outcomes, they evaluated their samples with neutrons utilizing the Ultra-Small-Angle Neutron Spreading instrument at ORNL’s Spallation Neutron Source (SNS).

Neutrons are perfect for this experiment since they use scientists an exceptional view of matter at the micron scale, which is best for examining chocolate’s microstructure. And, since neutrons and x-rays match each other, neutrons are an important tool for confirming the outcomes gotten by means of x-ray scattering at Argonne.

“X-rays and neutrons simply see matter differently, so it’s never a bad idea to use both techniques in order to get a better look at your samples,” Littrell stated.

The scientists are evaluating the outcomes, however they want to utilize what they find out to enhance chocolate production procedures and make it simpler for business to produce bigger amounts of premium chocolate.

“Based on this information, companies may be able to tune their processes so that they can maintain the ideal conditions to make the best chocolate,” stated Littrell.


Video: What is white chocolate?


Offered by
Oak Ridge National Lab

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Sweet neutron science shines new light on dark chocolate’s tastiness (2019, May 21)
obtained 21 May 2019
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