How Many Cocoa Beans Are in a Chocolate Bar?

A couple of weeks ago we put on a demonstration of bean to bar chocolate making at Bernhardt Winery as part of their first annual Strawberry, Chocolate, and Wine Festival.

A smashing success by the way.

The whole event I mean.

Not just our fabulous demonstration.

Chocolate Making Demonstration

When folks start asking questions you know you’ve got their attention.

What is fermentation?  Why are cocoa beans fermented?  Can you grow a cacao tree in Houston?  Is dark chocolate healthy? What kind of sugar do you use? Why did you start making chocolate? What does the percentage of dark mean? How do you remove the shell?  How long do you roast?

When will you stop talking and give me something to taste?

And then, a beautiful little girl asked “how many cocoa beans does it take to make a chocolate bar?”

Love kids.  They innocently put you right on the spot.

I honestly hadn’t thought of figuring that out before.  I knew how many pounds of beans translate into a pound of dark chocolate.  I knew that different origins have different yields.  I knew that I am always paying attention to how much weight is lost in sorting, roasting and processing.  I knew how many bars I can get out of a pound of finished chocolate.

I had never taken the time to break it down by how many beans go into a bar of chocolate.  How silly of me.  How can I claim to be a bean to bar chocolate maker without knowing how many cocoa beans it takes to make a chocolate bar.   The expert hung out to dry by an eight year old. This lovely child peppered me with an obvious question that apparently needed a child to make it obvious for me.

It was beautiful!

I posted the answer on Vine (a dangerously new found addiction of mine) this morning.

FYI…just learned today you can pause the video loop by clicking on it.

So the answer is 12 1/4 cocoa beans per chocolate bar.  Why is that you ask.

Let’s use our San Jose 70% dark chocolate bar made with cocoa beans from Bolivia as the sample.

The Bolivia cocoa bean is slightly smaller than average, and there are approx 140 cocoa beans in a pound.

Through sorting, moisture loss during roasting, removing the shell, and losing some cocoa  nib during winnowing about 30% of the total original weight of raw beans is lost.  For every pound of Bolivia cocoa beans I start with, we produce about 0.7 pounds of cocoa nibs for making chocolate.  Since this is a 70% dark chocolate recipe, we are adding 30% sugar.  In essence, a pound of raw cocoa beans will make a pound of chocolate.

Our bars are 2 ounces.  Since we get 8 bars from a pound of chocolate and there are 140 cocoa beans in a pound, quick math shows us that 140/8 = 17.5.  There you have it.  In every San Jose 70% dark chocolate bar we make we started with 17 1/2 cocoa beans.  Since we lose 30% in weight from roasting, cracking, and winnowing the number of cocoa beans actually in the chocolate bar is 12 1/4.

Lets take it one step further with a common bitter sweet chocolate, say 55% cocoa.  Big chocolate makers have more efficient means for winnowing cacao, so lets assume they experience a 20% loss in initial weight.  Since big chocolate has lots of other ingredients we can’t accurately get at the exact numbers.  For the sake of this chat we’ll just assume cocoa beans and sugar are the ingredients.

1 pound of cocoa beans yields 0.8 lbs of nibs.  55% cocoa means you need 0.55 lbs of nibs.  Add back .45 lbs sugar and you have 1 pound of chocolate.  In order to make the .55lbs of nibs needed for the recipe the maker only needs .6875 lbs of  raw cocoa beans.  80% of .6875 = .55 or .6875 x .2 = .1375.  .6875 – .1375 = .55 got it?

140 beans x .6875 = 96.25 divided by 8 = 12.03 beans per chocolate bar.
You can see how big chocolate likes to cut their product with sugar and other stuffs.  It cuts the cost of making chocolate around 30%.

You see what this little girl has done to me.   Kids ask the darnedest things God Bless em.

8 Responses to “How Many Cocoa Beans Are in a Chocolate Bar?

  • Todd Jackson
    3 weeks ago

    Technically, wouldn’t the answer still be 17 1/2 cocoa beans? If you started with 12 1/2, the 30% loss wouldn’t leave you enough beans. And assuming that that 30% loss is per bean, not that 30% of the beans are completely destroyed, then 70% of each of those 17 1/2 beans are still in the bar.

    Your example for 55% is correct, and would show 17.5 if you calculate it for your 70% chocolate and 30% loss. 140 beans per pound. 30% weight loss means 140 post-process beans per .7lb. Add .3lb sugar and you are still at 140 post-process beans per pound of 70% chocolate, so 17.5 beans per 2oz bar.

    Again, unless the winnowing process completely destroys 30% of the beans, instead of just shaving an average 30% off of each individual bean.

  • Thank you. Very interesting and helpful as I am doing a paper for a class on Chocolate the culture and politics of food.

  • Pierre Nagha
    3 months ago

    Good learning for myself

  • Bob Williams
    4 months ago

    See how sensible the metric system is ? Pounds ounces hogsheads firkins and the rest are crazy !1 Kilo + 1000 grammes .1 litre weighs 1 kilo ,easy peasy !

  • How many chocolate bars are produced from one cocoa pod??

    -Bob

    • There’s a lot of variables in play: percentage of cacao in the bar, size of bar, and variety of cacao. In general, one cocoa pod can provide enough cacao for about one 70% dark chocolate bar.

  • Hi, nice article. I really like it!

    • Phil Maybee
      4 years ago

      stopped to visit yesterday and buy some bars to take to Europe – was looking up the website to share – love the question and the answer. Phil

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