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Confection makers who want to develop products containing 100% chocolate and no sugar for health-conscious consumers can reduce bitterness and optimize flavor acceptance by roasting cocoa beans longer and at higher temperatures.

That’s the conclusion of a team of researchers who conducted a new study in Penn State’s Sensory Evaluation Center in the Department of Food Science. The study involved 27 100%-chocolate preparations made from cocoa beans roasted at various intensities and 145 people who came to the center on five consecutive days, evaluating five different samples each day.

The research confirmed that bitterness and astringency are negatively correlated to consumer liking, and demonstrated that those qualities in chocolate can be reduced through optimizing roasting, according to the  research team.

More and more people these days are eating darker chocolates with less sugar and more cacao because Dark chocolate is particularly high in flavonoids, particularly a subtype called flavan-3-ols and their oligomers, which are all considered functional ingredients due to their associated health effects.

However, unsweetened chocolate is too bitter for most people to enjoy, so researchers experimented with roasting treatments to modify the flavor — investigating more than basic tastes such as sour and bitter — making it more acceptable for consumers.

A grant from the Professional Manufacturing Confectioners Association and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture supported this work.

The Department of Food Science will offer an innovative bean-to-bar short course for both craft and industrial chocolate manufacturers June 20-23. Attendees will engage both their minds and hands to gain detailed knowledge of chocolate processing. For more information or to register, visit the website or call 877-778-2937.