Cocoa powder is a key ingredient in many chocolate-based foods and beverages consumed by millions of people worldwide. The production of cocoa powder and associated end products is a complex process that includes everything from pre-cleaning, pressing, and alkalisation of cocoa nibs to micronising, lecithinising, and instant agglomeration of cocoa powder. The Hosokawa Group, a world leader in powder processing technology, provides comprehensive know-how and cutting-edge solutions to help customers every step of the way.
Starting with the nibs
Pre-cleaning of cocoa nibs. This is possible with Hosokawa Alpine’s ZigZag classifier. Following that, batches of cacao nibs or ‘broken nibs’ are sterilised and homogenised in preparation for further processing. The Conical Paddle Mixer (CPM) from Hosokawa Micron is a high-quality and efficient atmospheric vertical paddle mixer that is widely used for sterilisation and homogenisation in the traditionally no-nonsense, cost-conscious cocoa industry.
Following that, the cacao nibs are alkalised to give them a better colour and milder taste in accordance with the end product specifications. Hosokawa Micron designed the robust Conical Paddle Dryer (CPD) for this process to achieve gentle yet accurate mixing even under the harsh conditions of an alkalisation process. This is made possible by the low friction of the single-shaft paddle rotor, in conjunction with a well-thought-out vessel design, which results in a consistent temperature and composition profile from top to bottom.
Cocoa press cake
Following alkalisation, the nibs are roasted and wet-milled into cocoa liquor, which is a suspension of cocoa particles in cocoa butter. The cocoa butter is then pressed, separating it into two basic components: liquid cocoa butter and cocoa press cake, which serves as the foundation for cocoa powder. Before micronising the resulting solid discs of cocoa press cake, they must first be pre-broken. Hosokawa Micron has developed a low-maintenance Prebreaker for coarse size reduction of cocoa press cake prior to fine-micronising and subsequent processing.
Once the cocoa press cake has been pre-broken, the resulting cocoa powder can be modified into a variety of finished qualities for use in end products. The particle size of cocoa powder, for example, affects the ‘mouthfeel’ of chocolate-based confectionery products. In other words, the perceived quality of the product is greatly influenced by this. The Hosokawa Alpine Classifier Mill (ACM) has been optimised for the specific needs of the cocoa powder market and can micronize the pre-broken cocoa cake into ultra-fine particles of 99.5% 75 microns or finer for optimal mouthfeel.
Batch mixing is a common process step in the manufacture of a wide range of cocoa-based foods and beverages. The Nauta® conical screw mixer from Hosokawa Micron is well-known in the cocoa processing industry as a robust and versatile mixing solution for low-intensity mixing. It is ideal for homogenising cocoa powders with a wide range of product properties.
Lecithinisation is an important step in the production of finished products such as cocoa-based drinks and pastes. (Fatty) cocoa powder particles are coated with lecithin in this process to increase their solubility in aqueous solutions. The Vitomix ribbon screw mixer from Hosokawa Micron can be used to batch lecithinize cocoa powder. The two conical mixing screws create a fluidised bed in the upper part of the mixer cone, ideal for adding liquids.
The Flexomix combines the particles with sugar and dairy components in a high-impact continuous agglomeration process to produce homogeneous porous agglomerates that are instantly soluble due to their narrow particle size distribution.
The Flexomix is a vertical high-speed mixer with a compact design that includes an external roller massage system for self-cleaning. Various process parameters, such as rotor speed, number and angle of paddles, and/or liquid percentage, can be changed to optimise the agglomeration process. This allows the user to tailor the process to the quality required for each application, ranging from consumer goods (low density) to vending machine goods (high density).
Powders, particles and solids are processed to GMP and ISO 9001:2015 standards for wide-ranging manufacturing industries, from pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals, fine chemicals, additive manufacturing and advanced materials, to food and beverages, cosmetics and personal care. To learn more about our contract manufacturing services, please click here.
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