Achieving Graininess in Cocoa Butter - Not as Easy as You Might Think

Above is a picture of success. Achieving this perfectly grainy texture with cocoa butter has taken me a much longer time than I expected. 

In my own defense, I haven't been working exclusively on this one thing (otherwise even I would be scoffing at the time span), but it has been on the to-do list for – wait for it – 4 years.

I know what you're thinking. 

Why Would Anyone Want to Make Grainy Cocoa Butter?

That's an excellent question, because no one wants grainy butter. Everyone wants grain-free, myself included.

To date, I have never met a person who wanted to apply a grainy balm to their skin.

I may have heard some say they 'don't mind a few grains', but that's not the same as wanting or liking grainy skincare products, is it?

We've discussed grainy shea butter on the blog many times, but not cocoa butter.

Until today.

The Unwanted Graininess

This whole exercise came about because this happened - quite by chance - in 2016.

"Shea" (famous for being able to create this kind of graininess) would be my first thought if I saw a picture like this and if someone else had taken it. But I happen to know there is no shea in this mixture, because I made this mixture and I took the picture. 

You're looking at mix of cocoa butter and oils.

I do believe this surpasses anything I have ever been able to achieve in the way of shea butter graininess.

Back to 2016. 

I wanted to understand how to avoid grains in cocoa butter, so I decided to recreate this grainy texture. 

One would think after all these years, I would know better than to delude myself with 'this shouldn't take very long', but no.

The Cocoa Butter Quest

And after sporadic periods of experimentation and researching fatty acid melting points and other fascinating things about cocoa butter, I found some guidance from the food industry.

It stands to reason the entire chocolate industry would have useful input. And it did. Learning how to temper chocolate was an excellent start.

All you have to do to make a mess of things with cocoa butter is to temper it all wrong. But first you have to learn how to temper it right. And as cocoa butter is not quite identical to chocolate (chocolate is composed of cocoa solids, sugar, and sometimes milk powder), it takes a bit of experimentation.

What Can We Use This For?

It's incredibly interesting to know why something goes wrong when it goes wrong, don't you think? Hence, this 'little' 4 year exercise.

Do Tell

Have you ever experienced grainy cocoa butter? What were you making and were you able to fix it?

Do you work with essential oils and want to make your own bath products? This book might be just the thing for you! 

Stay in the loop!


Laurie said…
Very intriguing! I love the way your mind works. Is the story going to continue? interested to see how it all turns out!
Benjamin said…
Hi Lisa ! very interesting, I think I have achieved the same result. The grain where huge ! I have never seen anything like it. Only difference is, I am not sure how to NOT make them happen. Any clue you are willing to share ?
Lise Bioverde said…
Very interesting! I really appreciate the way you analyze and present a subject. It always leaves me on a cliff hanger and it encourages me a lot to go back and see what happens next. And by the way, I love your books! :-)
LisaLise said…
@Laurie - Thank you! The story is indeed going to continue. My research on this is in part for a publication I am working on.

@Benjamin - HI Benjamin. Oh wonderful! It's actually hard to get it that wrong and has to do with temperature and cooling along with which ingredients the cocoa butter is paired up with.

@Lise Bioverde - Thank you so much for your kind words (and for buying my books). I love the cliff hanger comparison, because it's exactly how I feel when I start researching something. The worst part is when that cliffhanger goes on for ages! :)
Johanna said…
Oh, cool! Reason why something happens is fascinating topic. I'm kind prone to diy essp balm disasters :D but, really, this was interesting post! Chocolate industry and tempering - great idea. After some digging I think I'm kind of starting to understand why my cocoabutter balms have behaved like that (and what I can do.) Looking forward for your next part.
LisaLise said…
Thank you Johanna! Meantime, happy tempering :D
Benjamin said…
Hi Lisa,

In a body butter where cocoa butter is at 10-20% and shea butter another 20%, I did not find that a tempering process similar to chocolate industry gave a noticeable difference in texture, which kinda makes sense since the cocoa butter is quite diluted here compared to chocolate, so cristallisation would not happen the same way. It seems so far that only quick cooling with cold water bath with constant stirring gives best results.
Is there anything more I may be missing ? would you suggest I keep on researching that topic ?
Have a good day formulating !
LisaLise said…
HI Benjamin - Thanks so much for sharing! You are right about it not being quite comparable to tempering chocolate made for consumption, but looking to the tempering method used in the chocolate industry is a real good place to find tests and lots of information. They've struggled with the blooming issue for a very long time.

Although I have had success with a few different cooling processes, cooling as you describe generally gives good results. It sounds like you are on the right track to be sure :D