Does Cocoa butter expire seems to be the question whenever we hear the name ‘cocoa butter’ but what comes to mind is the sweet taste of various deserts, ice creams and the sweet fragrance of our body lotions. We all remember the amazing experience we may have gotten from eating that Chocolate ice-cream or putting on that sweet smelling lotion while going out to a party.
What Is Cocoa Butter?
As the name implies, it is a butter obtained from the cocoa plant (Theobroma cocoa). We all know cocoa bean as the basis of all forms of chocolate which we have been consuming since our childhood. For cocoa butter to be made, the cocoa bean selected has to undergo a chemical process called fermentation.
Farmers in the country side, harvest their cocoa beans, get them wind dried and then send them into a furnace. After the cocoa bean has been properly roasted, their external coverings are gently peeled away. After peeling, the light creamy component found inside the covering emerges with its glorious chocolate aroma. They are called the cocoa nibs.
The nibs gotten are then squashed and grinded into a paste. Over 50% of the paste produced from contains the Cocoa butter used for your lotions and chocolate creams. The butter is easily pressed out of the cocoa mass and collected into containers to be used by humans for various purposes. Nutrition and pharmaceutical companies sometimes, add several deodorising components to the raw cocoa butter obtained by this procedure to ward off any strong or unpleasant smell. Cocoa butter is pale yellow to dark yellow, and remains solid at room temperature. It has to be melted before use in the industry and at homes. It has a mild chocolate taste and oozes out the usual chocolate flavour. This is why it is the basic component of chocolate in the United States.
What Is Cocoa Butter Used For?
Cocoa butter has been synthesized and used by humans for many hundreds and even thousands of years. The Aztec empire was known users of the cocoa oil and it’s derivatives for medicinal purposes. Thousands of years ago, the Mayans used Cocoa and it’s derivatives as currencies. This was possible because of the fact that the butter component remains solid at room temperature. Cocoa butter has equally been used for household and community nutrition for many decades. The butter has been used for basic cake baking, additives in specialty diets and even as ingredients for many Pharmaceuticals.
Cocoa butter is known to be very rich in fatty acids which are a key component in keeping the skin moisturized, especially in extremely dry climatic conditions. From being smeared directly on the skin for impact protection to being used for traditional skin healing treatments, the butter has been known to be a basic skin protection ointment for a long time.
Besides its use in ancient times for primitive medicine and basic body care, cocoa butter has found tremendous use in the following areas of modern human existence:
- Food Recipe: Cocoa butter is the basic ingredients in a host of chocolate used in different food preparations. Cocoa butter is added to Milk chocolate, white chocolate and even dark chocolate. The oily cocoa substance is known to be rich in natural compounds called phytochemicals that help in improvements of blood flow to the skin and joints, muscle movements and general body functioning. The great smell of the butter also contributes to its extensive use as parts of recipes for beverages and deserts. Many food companies use cocoa butter in place of traditional oil components for various manufacturing procedures.
- Skins care: Cocoa butter finds great usage in skin care and treatment. Thebutter is solid at resting temperature, hence is mixed with other components of skin care lotion to provide effective protection of the skin against UV light. The Phytochemicals in cocoa butter helps in scar and wrinkles removal, anti-ageing and even to treat skin conditions like dermatitis, eczema and pregnancy induced rashes. Many lotions, lip balms, soaps and direct application skin care products use cocoa butter as their major active ingredient.
- Vegan diets: Cocoa butter is a diary free plant based fat. Because of its great smell, powerful oily taste and chocolate aroma, it has been used as substitute components in many vegan recipes. It is used at home for vegan chocolate, as substitute for margarine in vegan chocolate Fondue and Vegan cream cheese frosting. Recent advancement in production of plant-based meat alternatives has seen Cocoa butter as a frontrunner ingredient with high performance as a key functional ingredient for 3D printing of these meat substitutes.
- Medicinal use: Because of the high phytochemical presence in cocoa, the butter has been used extensively by pharmaceutical companies in manufacturer of remedies for various ageing and general health conditions. Flavanols which are rich phytochemicals found in cocoa butter has been proven to cause some blood pressure lowering effects for patients under observed conditions. Although there are no theobromine based prescription drugs, cocoa butter is known to naturally contain some little amount of Theobromine that produce similar effects to that of naturally occurring Caffeine to the human body.
So having known all of these things about cocoa butter then comes the Big question:
Does Cocoa Butter expire?
Cocoa butter is a very stable fat with lots off antioxidants. This means that unlike most food ingredients that go bad after a few days of less than ideal temperature, cocoa butter does not go bad within a short period of time. However, the answer to the big question is YES! Cocoa butter does get spoilt after a very long time. While some sources say that it can last for between 1.5 to two years without getting rancid, others propose that cocoa butter can go for five years without significant change in properties. Whichever the case may be, it is important to note that the method of storage and the form of the butter being considered plays an important role in determining the duration of viability.
So how do I know if cocoa butter has expired?
Unfortunately, there are no physical signs to show that cocoa butter is getting spoilt. The only way to know if it is getting bad is by tasting it. While the change of taste is not rapid, the creamy chocolate taste begins to giveaway if it is improperly stored for several months. At this point, that sweet taste that drives children to want to have chocolate bars in their back pack all the time begins to dwindle. A more Rancid, dull chocolate aroma takes over. The blunting of taste may take several years but soon enough, if it is not properly stored, the whole sweet chocolate taste disappears and you are left with one very bland bar of expired chocolate butter.
The texture of the butter can also be observed to determine viability. Cocoa butter should be solid at room temperature, and melt smoothly when heat is applied. Any presence of lumps and hard residues after heating should pass off as a warning sign of spoilage.
Expired or Rancid cocoa butter is not proven to cause any serious health damage. However, as with every spoilt food ingredients, it leaves us with a very ‘distasteful’ memory that may not go away anytime soon. Some have even developed a deep disdain for chocolate after tasting a badly rancid bar at some point in their life. There may also be some other minor Effects like mild sickness and stomach aches if one of the other additives (such as milk and flavor) has expired as well.
The bottom line here is that well preserved cocoa butter can stay for very many years without going bad, producing a bad odour and/or a rancid taste.
If storage is the key, how do I store cocoa butter?
Storage of cocoa butter is hugely dependent on how quickly you plan to use it. There are several different methods specifically designed for short term, medium and long term storage.
- Short term storage: For short term storage of cocoa butter (for use between a month and two), your cocoa butter can be stored the same way you preserve your beans; in a cool dry place. However, since butter always pick up the smell of its direct environment; one has to be careful not to place it close to any substance that gives off a strong smell. Also keep your butter away from direct sunlight or any form of heat to avoid melting and subsequently getting Rancid
- Mid-term storage: for storage for a few months, you can keep your cocoa butter in a dry spot inside a container in the fridge. However, you have to take special precautions to avoid it coming in contact with other flavoured products. Also ensure to keep your butter away from watery substances.
- Long term storage: for industrial and Pharmaceuticals uses, cocoa butter is often stored for several years. This is achieved by storing it in a special temperature controlled room or special refrigerator. When this is done, the temperature of your butter is kept the same at all time and season of the year. While in storage, ensure that the temperature does not go above 75 degrees or below human body temperature. This is necessary to keep your butter in a solid state, hence preventing it from getting rancid.
Cocoa butter is an amazing fatty product that can stay viable for a very long time. However, to avoid unwanted taste and eventual spoilage, one has to store the butter properly. This is achieved by storing under the right environmental condition depending on how long one desires to store their butter.