Untempered cacao, also known as untempered chocolate or cacao mass (sometimes referred to as ‘cacao paste’), refers to chocolate materials that has not undergone the tempering process. Unlike tempered chocolate, untempered cacao lacks the stability of properly formed fat crystals, resulting in distinct characteristics in its appearance and behavior.

Lets take a quick step back and make sure we all understand our different chocolate materials, as it can be confusing…

Cacao Mass: Cacao mass is the purest and most unadulterated form of chocolate, and our preferred production material here at Earthshine. It is made by grinding whole cacao beans into a paste. Nothing is added or removed in the process. The paste naturally contains both cacao solids (which provide the chocolate flavour) and cacao butter (the natural fat present in cacao beans), in an approximately 50/50 ratio. Cacao mass is used as a base ingredient in chocolate production, providing a deep, bitter and intense chocolate flavour.

Dark Chocolate: Dark chocolate is made by combining mostly cacao mass, less cacao butter, sugar, and sometimes a small amount of vanilla. The proportion of ingredients can vary, but dark chocolate generally contains a higher percentage of cacao solids (from the cacao mass), making it rich and slightly bitter in taste. It is often favoured by chocolate enthusiasts for its complex flavour profile.

Cacao Butter: Cacao butter is the fat extracted from cacao beans. The beans are ground into cacao mass, then the cacao butter is separated from the cacao solids with heat and pressure to obtain a smooth and creamy textured fat. After the fat has been squeezed out, the remaining ‘press cake’ of cacao solids is processed further to make cacao powder. Cacao butter is used in various culinary applications, such as baking and confectionery, as well as in cosmetics due to its moisturising properties. It has a mild chocolate aroma and adds richness to chocolate products. It is a saturated fat and very shelf stable. Usually added to dark chocolate to harden the chocolate further.

Cacao Powder: The most processed of all cacao products. Cacao powder is produced by pressing the cocoa solids of the cacao bean to remove the cocoa butter, as outlined above. The remaining solids (termed a ‘press cake’) are then ground into a fine powder. Cacao powder has a deep, chocolaty flavour and is commonly used in baking, smoothies, hot chocolate, and desserts. It may be labeled as “unsweetened cocoa powder” and can be found in both natural and Dutch-processed varieties.

In summary, cacao mass is the pure paste made from just grinding cacao beans, while dark chocolate combines cacao mass, cacao butter and sugar. Cacao butter is the extracted fat from cacao beans, providing a smooth and creamy texture. Cacao powder is made from the resulting ‘press cake’ after all the cacao butter has been pressed out, de fatted and milled to create a fine powder used in baking and desserts.

Back to the tempering process…

Tempering is the adjusting of the cacao butter/fat crystal structure that forms as the cacao sets/cools from being molten. Thus cacao mass, dark chocolate, and cacao butter can all be tempered, but cacao powder, as it does not contain fat, cannot be tempered (unless mixed with cacao butter).

Read our guide to home tempering of chocolates here

In its untempered state, cacao has a dull and matte appearance, lacking the desirable glossy shine that tempered chocolate exhibits. It can also have a softer and crumbly texture, making it more prone to melting quickly when handled or exposed to warmer temperatures. Untempered cacao may develop a whitish or greyish film on its surface called “bloom.” This occurs when the cocoa butter separates from the cocoa solids and rises to the surface, creating an unusual patterning texture and appearance. Once you understand this is just the cacao fats moving out to the surface, the beautiful patterns that may form can be appreciated!

Any cacao product that is untempered tends to be unstable, and will exhibit changes over time, blooming and going crumbly are the most common effects. However, it is sometimes possible that a cacao product that has not been put through a tempering process, may be in temper, purely by chance, depending on the heating and cooling cycles that it passed though while setting. Our 100% cacao mass products often show parts of the material, sometimes on the edge, that are tempered and looking dark and shiny, with the inner area is crumbly and untempered, this is by chance, and part of the products natural unprocessed beauty.

Untempered cacao undergoes the least processing and is certainly not an inferior material, it has its own unique possibilities and uses. Obviously you will use it to make your own chocolates, where you may then decide to temper it yourself, see our guide here. It can be used as a flavourful ingredient in recipes where the appearance and texture of the final product are not crucial, or where it is to be melted anyhow, such as in hot chocolate, brownies, or chocolate sauces. Its rich and intense chocolate flavour can be enjoyed, even without the characteristic snap and shine of a tempered chocolate bar.

Furthermore, untempered cacao can be re-tempered or further processed to achieve a more desirable texture and appearance. By reheating the untempered chocolate and following the tempering process outlined here, it is possible to stabilize the fat crystals and transform it into a smooth, shiny, and snappable chocolate. This provides an opportunity to salvage untempered chocolate or repurpose it into more visually appealing confections, such as molded chocolates, truffles, or chocolate-dipped treats.

In conclusion, untempered cacao has its limitations in terms of appearance and stability, but it can still be used in various culinary applications that prioritise taste over aesthetics. Or in hot cacao drink creations, where once mixed with hot water and melted, the tempering or untempered becomes irrelevant.  Additionally, it offers the possibility of being re-tempered or further processed to achieve the desired qualities of tempered chocolate, allowing for creative transformations and the opportunity to salvage and repurpose chocolate that was not initially tempered.

Above all, untempered or tempered, love and enjoy your Cacao!

Untempered cacao products in our Online Factory Shop (all also available in 150g packs):