At Cocoa Runners, we’re big fans of savouring chocolate. It’s one of the best things about Craft Chocolate: it’s designed to be savoured a few small pieces at a time. This means we often have half a dozen bars on the go at any one time, enjoying them in turns depending on our mood, the weather, what we’ve just eaten, etc.
But this raises the question: how should you store your chocolate?
This is especially pertinent now when temperatures are so high and many people assume the only safe place is the fridge. But wait! Not so fast. The fridge is one of the worst places you can store your chocolate. Why? Well bear with us, as it’s time for a quick chemistry lesson…
Cocoa butter is the naturally occurring fat in cocoa beans. It can take six crystal forms, of which Form V is the ideal for a bar of chocolate. Bars in Form V have a glossy finish, melt easily, and break with a clean snap. To get the cocoa butter crystals to Form V, chocolate needs to be tempered, which is the tricky process of slowly cooling the melted, liquid chocolate into a stable solid. This is done through precise temperature changes (which differ by chocolate type) in conditions of low humidity until the chocolate can be poured into moulds.
Why is this important? Well, cocoa butter crystals will remain in Form V if stored at room temperature. And that’s the key to chocolate melting in your mouth and releasing all its great flavours.
Chocolate bars that go through significant temperature changes in storage will “re-temper”, which means that the crystal structure of the cocoa butter changes to Form VI.
This is known as “blooming”. The bar produces an off-white, dull substance that can be rubbed off. The white stuff is just cocoa butter, which is harmless, edible, and makes for a great moisturiser (the cosmetics industry puts cocoa butter in all sorts of cosmetic products).
But though edible, bloomed bars won’t melt in your mouth, so their flavour profiles are diminished.
How do we avoid re-tempering? The best way is to avoid significant temperature changes. This means avoiding surfaces in direct sunlight (which might get hot during the day) and the fridge (which cold-shocks the chocolate into changing its crystal structure).
How to Store Chocolate
As with storing wine, there are three key principles to bear in mind:
- Seek out stable, cool temperatures
- Use airtight containers
- Avoid lots of sunlight, treat like mushrooms (i.e. put in dark, shady places)
So find somewhere in your house or flat that is a cool, dark place that will stay consistently around 15-20 degrees Celsius. A cupboard or pantry usually works best. Exposure to light can also damage bars, so bear that in mind as well.
Chocolate is also amazing at picking up flavours from the stuff around it. This is one of the great things about cocoa that produces so much variety within craft chocolate, but it can cause problems when storing chocolate bars in cupboards (alongside spices and herbs, for example). Try to keep them in an airtight container to avoid these unwanted inclusions.
And speaking of inclusions, the chocolate enthusiast might want to think twice about which bars are stored together – the last thing you want is for a delicately flavoured Peruvian dark to be affected by a bar with intense flavour inclusions.
That’s why we created our Craft Chocolate Storage Pouches. These small pouches are specifically designed to store a bar or two at a time, can be fully sealed airtight, and are big enough to fit even our most generous bars. They can be used again and again, and they include a space on the side for you to keep track of previous bars – you might not want to store a creamy white chocolate bar in a pouch that was previously home to a smoked Papuan bar, for example!
So with all that in mind, here’s a handy three-step guide for keeping your chocolate fresh:
- Place the opened chocolate bar in an airtight pouch, which will prevent damage from light, air, and other aromas.
- Put the pouch inside a plastic box, as a second layer of protection.
- Place the box in a cool cupboard or pantry, where the temperature stays relatively consistent through the days and months.
But it’s so hot!
As we’ve said, storing bars in the fridge will cause them to re-temper and lose their ideal crystal structure. That’s why we tell our British customers to never store their bars in the fridge. It’s just not necessary.
But we know some of our customers live in hotter climates, without AC, where finding a cool, dark place seems like an impossible task. In this case, the fridge can be a last resort. Your bars won’t be as enjoyable, but a re-tempered bar is better than a chocolate puddle, right?!
For those of you in this situation, there are a couple of things you can do to moderate the damage:
- First, avoid very cold fridges, if possible. A wine fridge would be better than a food fridge, for example.
- Second, wrap the bars well and place in an airtight container. The fridge is full of moisture and all sorts of weird aromas, both of which can affect your bars.
- And third, when you take the bars out of the fridge, leave them to get to room temperature before opening and unwrapping them. The more gradual the temperature change, the less severe the bloom will be.
And that’s all there is to it! Do send us pictures of your ingenious chocolate storage solutions, and email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any further questions.