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Chemistry for Everyone

The Science of Chocolate: Interactive Activities on
Phase Transitions, Emulsification, and Nucleation
Amy C. Rowat*
Department of Physics and School of Engineering & Applied Sciences, Harvard University, Cambridge,
Massachusetts 02138, United States
*rowat@seas.harvard.edu

Kathryn A. Hollar and Howard A. Stone†
School of Engineering & Applied Sciences, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138,
United States

Daniel Rosenberg
Faculty of Arts & Sciences Lecture Demonstrations, Harvard University, Cambridge,
Massachusetts 02138, United States

Current address: Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Princeton University,
Princeton, New Jersey 08544, United States

Here we describe a presentation we developed on the science To address the question of how to make good chocolate
of chocolate for the general public, including children ages 6 and up. and motivate our scientific themes, we begin by explaining the
Chocolate is a complex material, yet nonetheless demonstrates ingredients in a typical chocolate bar (Figure 2A). We identify
basic scientific concepts that we guide the participants to under- the major components listed on the label: cocoa beans or mass,
stand through a series of inquiries and simplified explanations. cocoa butter, and soy lecithin (an emulsifier) (Figure 2B-D).
We structure the 1-h presentation around three simple questions Each member of the audience is then prompted to taste a pure
related to observable properties of chocolate (Table 1). To cocoa bean: because to most participants the bean tastes sour,
answer these questions, we provide each audience member with bitter, and “disgusting”, this observation prompts the question of
a tasting packet (Figure 1) and guide them through a series of how these beans are transformed into a delicious chocolate bar.
taste experiments. This format is a highly effective way to engage The path to tasty chocolate begins with the cocoa tree that
people in science, as each person takes part in individual taste bears fruit in the form of giant cocoa pods (14, 15). These pods
experiments (1-4); indeed, audience feedback indicates that we contain white pulp in which the cocoa beans are embedded, and
accomplished our goal of generating enthusiasm and discussion are akin to familiar fruits such as peaches or plums with pits or
about science. Each child receives one of three different T-shirts, apples with bitter seeds. The pods are harvested, split open, and
identifying them each as one of the major chemical components the pulp becomes a food source for natural yeast and bacteria.
of chocolate.1 To explain scientific concepts, we use basic Over the course of several days, the pulp is digested; this
chemical experiments as well as interactive demonstrations with fermentation process is also essential to develop the flavor profile
children playing the parts of molecules. The material that we of chocolate, as chemical reactions initiated by the microbes help
describe can be adapted as a lecture for families and the general to make the beans taste less bitter. The beans are then picked out
public or in the classroom. Because chocolate is a popular subject of the pod and dried. The next step of roasting the beans is also
for science education (5), general science journals (6, 7), as well as important for developing the characteristic flavor of choco-
active scientific research (8-14), there is a wide variety of late (5). Thereafter, the beans are crushed into small pieces or
resources that can be used to complement and supplement the pressed to extract the cocoa butter fat from the cocoa solids. This
material we present here. process of extraction is similar to how olive oil is pressed from
olives, or juice is extracted from fruits like apples or oranges. In
The Origins of Chocolate this way, the two main ingredients of chocolate, cocoa solids and
cocoa butter, are generated.
We motivate the questions framing our presentation with the
challenge of how to make a good chocolate bar. The consump- Questions about Chocolate
tion of chocolate dates back to ancient Aztec and Mayan
civilizations. Since the industrial revolution, many people have We address specific questions about the physical properties of
tackled the problem of how to produce good chocolate. As a chocolate by guiding the audience through a series of three
result, many famous chocolatiers have pioneered processes additional taste experiments (Figure 1, Table 1). Taste exper-
critical to manufacturing a successful chocolate bar including iments require that each audience member is engaged in making
Cadbury, Hershey, Lindt, and Nestle. All of these chocolatiers observations about chocolate: What does it look like: glossy or
asked the same question inspiring this lesson: how to make the dull? What does it feel like: smooth or soft or crumbly? What does
perfect chocolate bar? it taste like: bitter or sweet? Details about the demonstrations,

_ _ _
r 2010 American Chemical Society and Division of Chemical Education, Inc. pubs.acs.org/jchemeduc Vol. 88 No. 1 January 2011 Journal of Chemical Education 29
10.1021/ed100503p Published on Web 10/27/2010

the untempered lower temperature than sheen and snaps when Table 1. cocoa butter. (D) Amphiphilic molecule or emulsifier is represented as lecithin. For the purposes of the lecture. a component of cocoa that is largely hydrophilic. sugar. Because chocolate is a _ _ _ 30 Journal of Chemical Education Vol.Chemistry for Everyone Hydrophobic. cocoa butter. 88 No. an amphiphilic compound that is Dark chocolate versus milk European-style chocolate untempered chocolate naturally found in the cocoa bean and is also added when producing versus Mexican-style Taste Experiment chocolate. (iv) a piece of One chocolate feels rough or chocolate that has been “untempered” and a tempered control sample. (C) Cocoa mass is represented as a serotonin molecule. hydrophilic. Why does chocolate snap when you break it and Why does chocolate feel Motivating Question instruct each person to simultaneously place the milk chocolate Why does chocolate on the left side of their tongue and the dark chocolate on the not in my hand? right side and observe which chocolate melts first. and soy lecithin differ? (emulsifier). chocolate Why Does Chocolate Melt in Your Mouth and Not in Your Hand? We begin by sampling small pieces of dark and milk chocolate. To explain why different types of chocolate melt at different temperatures. chocolate looks spotty or bumpy compared to the broken. We usually melt in my mouth. such as solid and liquid. Main Questions and Related Scientific Themes Milk chocolate melts at a Tempered chocolate has moldy.org/jchemeduc r 2010 American Chemical Society and Division of Chemical Education. we focus on the cocoa beans. one smooth and the other grainy. and crumbles dark chocolate Result other How do the appearance and Which chocolate melts first in How do the chocolates feel texture of the chocolates different in your mouth? Specific Question Figure 2. each of which melts at a different temperature. (ii) a piece of dark and milk chocolate. (iii) two pieces of chocolate with different texture. Tasting experiment packet and contents: (A) The envelope distributed to each audience member. cocoa butter melts at depends on material around your body Melting temperature size. phase transitions. each of which are represented by the following icons on the children's” T-shirts and throughout the lecture: (B) Cocoa butter is repre- sented as a triglyceride molecule. We use a show have sheen? of hands to record the results of this “experiment”. amphiphilic Answer temperature feel smooth Figure 1. (B) The envelope contains small plastic bags for each of the following taste experiments: (i) a raw cocoa bean. Main Scientific Themes Phases of matter. Major ingredients in chocolate. a component of cocoa butter that is largely hydrophobic. and soy lecithin. 1 January 2011 pubs. (A) Label of a chocolate bar illustrates the major ingredients in chocolate: cacao bean (or cocoa your mouth? mass). crystallization. lipid Phase transitions.acs. we introduce the concept of phases: materials exist in different states. chocolate chips Tempered versus experiments. emulsification composition nucleation Cocoa butter molecules need Texture depends on particles also help make chocolate molecules or emulsifiers to pack in the right way composition and on the shape of fat molecules. . and simulations are provided in the supporting information. making it smooth? clear that the milk chocolate melts first. Inc.

We then show crystal formation with the computer simula- tion and also nucleation of ice and salt crystals with live demonstrations. We then show how water and oil mix simply by adding melting at T < Troom. With this computer simulation fresh size of particles present in the chocolate determines the texture of in everyone's minds. Hydrophobic.acs. Next we focus on texture. 88 No. and (iii) as a gas at one of the chocolates feels “rough”. hydroelectricity -Phobic Fear Arachnophobic. types of fats typically melt at higher temperatures (T > Troom). amphitheater -Philic Love Philadelphia. The audience observes freely past each other. this explains why chocolate is typically solid in your hand. For example. pubs. We illustrate the concept of how tem. Inc. as indicated by a giant thermometer projected on the particles whose size can vary. liquid. we introduce the concept of materi- room temperature. water exists in different forms: solid. In By shaking a flask containing water and oil and observing contrast. olive oil consists largely of molecules (unsaturated fatty the immediate phase separation (Demo 4B).org/jchemeduc Vol. Guide to Hydrophilic. children in a solid state vibrate while standing on fixed grid In addition to particle size. characteristic of a liquid. cocoa particles coexist in a chocolate bar To understand how chocolate melts. whereas the hydrophobic cocoa butter fat molecules are molecules. and then act out “molecular movements”. hydroponic. philanthropy. The children who are “saturated” fats stand up straight and gather close Figure 3. chocolate is a solid. Why Does Chocolate Feel Smooth in Your Mouth? perature can affect molecular motion using a computer simula. We also melt ice in a how the “unsaturated fats” melt at a lower temperature than the hot pan to show the transition from solid to liquid to vapor. fire hydrant. such as olive oil. To understand what happens as a material melts. have them stand on marked locations on a regular results in a variety of sugar types ranging from rock candy to table lattice. these interact with water.2 The cocoa beans are also ground into ture is raised. claustrophobic Amphi. a detergent (an amphiphilic molecule) that likes both water and _ _ _ r 2010 American Chemical Society and Division of Chemical Education. sugar to powdered sugar. we demonstrate that. and finally important for chocolate's texture. Water Hydrofoil. screen. close to body temperature. because hand when cooled. However. and we ask them to pay special attention to fixed position on a grid. and thus cannot stand as close to each other. we invite a group of children to the front of chocolate. they cannot pack as closely strate that hydrophobic and hydrophilic materials do not mix together and exist in a liquid phase at lower temperatures. atoms move wildly about within their makes chocolate feel smooth in your mouth? One guess is that the confined space (Figure 3A). (B) Emulsifica. This demonstration evidenced by the melting of ice into liquid and subsequent evap. But a simple demonstration shows fat in chocolate. sugar is milled to different sizes. temperature is measured to be 80-90 °F. and water (Demo 4A). As above. Both Amphibian. the “unsaturated” fats adopt a kinked shape by bending does chocolate melt in your mouth? We use a computer simulation to at the waist. Audience members compare the tion: (i) at a low temperature. ined the chocolate label. which demonstrates how molecular architecture tion: why does chocolate feel smooth? We show how an amphiphilic affects the material's melting transition temperature. the cocoa butter fat in chocolate has a melting transition crystal formation: why does chocolate have sheen and snap when you temperature of around 97 °F. the chemical composition is also points. atoms move how the chocolate feels on their tongue. which is a concept familiar to anyone who has lard. (A) Phase transitions: why together. we demonstrate how the different molecular structures of saturated and unsaturated fats result in different melting temperatures (Demo 3). “saturated fats”. cocoa butter. at break it? We explain how molecules can pack together in different ways temperatures below 97 °F. Chemistry for Everyone Table 2. not in your hand. However. at 97 °F or complex material. cocoa butter is a solid (Demo 2). The majority of fats in butter has straight chains composed mainly of carbon and hydrogen and do not readily (saturated fatty acids) and can thus pack closely together. (C) Nucleation and ingly. and transition temperature illustrates why chocolate typically melts vapor (Demo 1). chocophile Using children from the audience. we explain that materials consist of molecules that are built up from individual atoms. Thus. As illustrate the behavior of molecules as the temperature increases and the the temperature is increased. As the tempera. of how the molecular composition determines the melting oration to vapor. 1 January 2011 Journal of Chemical Education 31 . we clearly demon- acids) that have a kink in them. (ii) at higher temperatures. then walk around past each other as a liquid. we begin with a demonstration of water. and Amphiphilic Greek Word Root Meaning Common words Hydro. atoms are in a solid or crystalline taste of two chocolates with different textures (European-style ordered state and make only small vibratory movements about a versus Mexican-style). This fat is similar to butter or other that cocoa powder does not disperse in oil. butter. “bumpy”. in your mouth. well. Interest- molecule like detergent can help water and oil to mix. Thus. or “grainy”. The cocoa mass in chocolate is hydro- temperature by introducing the molecular structures of fat philic. while olive oil is a liquid at made chocolate milk. Main scientific themes in chocolate. which the room. We explain als that are hydrophobic (dislikes water) versus hydrophilic why some fats are liquid while others are solid at the same (likes water) (Table 2). As introduced when we exam- turn into a gas and flee back to their seats. What even higher temperatures. but can be suspended in common fats found in the kitchen. we consider the major together with the cocoa butter. cocoa butter exists in a liquid phase. we instruct the children to act out phase transitions from solid to liquid to gas or vapor.

surface that appears “moldy”. taste. thereby helping to maintain a stable choco- chocolate look white? late. the resulting crystalline form affects the material's mechanical properties. We begin by engaging the audience. Chocolatiers control the size and type of crystals that materials. Why Does Chocolate Look Glossy and Snap When You science. color. as they are asked to become a scientist. the desirable type of crystals melt and resolidify into forms that yield chocolate that no longer has sheen.org/jchemeduc r 2010 American Chemical Society and Division of Chemical Education. commonly added to chocolate is soy lecithin (Figures 2A. To innovations for manufacturing Grades 5-8 Teachers Table 3. Solidification occurs upon a decrease in temperature. To describe crystal formation. 3B). Mapping Lecture Components to National Science Education Standards some chocolate look white? Present science as a human understand the surface appearance and mechanical properties of chocolate. matter: solid. chocolate bars. and gas. An “emulsifier” that is some chocolate soft? Why does some chocolate's texture and appearance. With this approach. we compare chocolate that has been properly versus poorly stored. Break It? Finally. appearance. Many people are familiar with emul- structure of fat molecules determines melting The question “Why does chocolate melt in my mouth Discuss the properties of objects and Discuss the properties and changes Discuss the structure and properties of matter. 88 No. which illustrate the formation of solid crystals from a liquid. . E: Science and G: History and Standard Technology We also encourage audience participation throughout the pre- Nature of B: Physical Science Science sentation at 8-10 min intervals. Storage at the wrong temperature. Clumps of ordered. Chemistry for Everyone oil (Table 2). forms when chocolate cools and solidifies (5. while chocolatiers have advanced to knowledge of hydrophobic or hydrophilic Technologies are developed and applied to temperature as well as the different states of about the appearance. break it. a some chocolate look white? Present science as a human fixed number of coins can be arranged in different patterns to fit processed in a factory. this pacing is critical for keep- ing young children engaged in the presentation. The way the cocoa butter molecules pack together is thus critical for the final texture. This approach is a highly effective Scientific Inquiry A: Understanding way to foster conceptual learning and scientific reasoning (1. questions about their observations: Why is point of different fats as well as chocolate. 14). Grades 9-12 Teachers that promotes mixing of cocoa solids and cocoa butter: these for manufacturing chocolate. and has a desirable texture. glossy. in chocolate and formulate questions can exist in liquid or solid state. whereas the other forms yield poor quality chocolate. We explain that molecules in crystalline structures can pack together materials. amphiphilic molecules coat the hydrophilic cocoa solids with a hydrophobic layer. An excellent analogy is how you pack chocolate and formulate questions materials. Inc. and Ask students to make observations about the material properties of endeavor. Similarly. we explain and illustrate the chemical concepts of hydrophobic. and to follow the explanations. 1 January 2011 pubs. color. Only two of these crystal forms result in chocolate that is smooth. asking questions such as What is your favorite chocolate? Where do cocoa beans grow? What did you _ _ _ 32 Journal of Chemical Education Vol. Importantly. repeating structures are small crystals in a solid phase. liquid. into the same area. and texture of cacao beans and different chocolates. typically results in chocolate with a Introduce technological design and about their observations: Why is texture of chocolate. fat molecules can crystallize into six different solid state. the chocolate we eat is in slightly different ways. endeavor. ask their own questions. Such a mixture is called an emulsion and the Nucleation and crystallization helps to explain material properties of chocolate and formulate Present science as a human endeavor. make observations about the appearance. and with a crumbly texture. chocolate some chocolate soft? Why does observe the shape. we consider the formation of solid materials from liquids. and feel of their chocolate samples.acs. as molecules move more slowly and form ordered clusters as they cool (Computer Simulation. Suggestions for Engaging the Audience We find that the taste experiments are highly effective for engaging each individual audience member. When chocolate is stored improperly. history of science. we perform two demonstrations (Demo 5A. In chocolate. for example. chocolate. form a stable emulsion of oil and vinegar. students observe that about their observations: Why is chocolate can exist in liquid or some chocolate soft? Why does Ask students to make observations balls or holiday decorations in a box: round objects can pack into about the material properties of Introduce natural and synthetic Grades K-4 Teachers the same box in slightly different ways (Figure 3C). form by gently heating and cooling the chocolate while it Men and women scientists have contributed Taste experiments and visual observations solidifies in a process called “tempering”. Ask students to make observations about the sifiers in salad dressings such as egg or mustard that are added to shape. This process promotes process cocoa beans and produce the formation of seed crystals of the right type and homogeneous size and results in chocolate that looks glossy and snaps when you Lecture Activity chocolate-making technology.B). and texture of chocolate. and shelf life of but not in my hand?” motivates an understanding of how the properties of chocolate change with chocolate. 15). and making the chocolate feel smooth in your mouth. texture. students a hot car or in a pocket. Figure 3C). history of Introduce technological design and innovations detergent is an emulsifier. hydrophilic. and crumbles when broken. of properties in matter. and amphiphilic.

. J. inspiring discussions of science among families and of generating Technol. Lindt) is ∼20 μm. 2nd Research and Science Engineering Center (MRSEC). R. R. Dissemination of Details about the demonstrations.. Ebert-May.. Physics Today. J. Royal Society of School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS). Beckett. Albuquerque. 4. H. Phys. A. ing chocolate in the context of familiar local culture and history. June 2006. Stewart. PowerPoint slides and templates for labels and T-shirts are To inspire discussions of science within families. MRS Bulletin. 1361–1364. by the National Science Foundation under the grants Another effective way to engage the audience is by present. B 2004. science in everyday life. Taza Chocolate. December1995. MA.. Proc. Beichner. J. J. Eur. or simply sheets of paper taped knowledge and expertise. 3. as well as chocolate. E. James Baker. demonstrations where children act out physical responses dis. Therefore. Felder. Gage. Vieira. 5. These activities can be adapted as a 1-h lesson Wood. We use T-shirts to identify the children as molecules in 1700s in nearby Dorchester. and DMR-0611616.. R. In addition. We are also grateful to have children from the audience act out the role of individual Ellen Hodges for her help with scanning electron microscopy. Educ. Eng. Whereas the typical particle size in European chocolate ceramic vessels of the ancient Pueblo peoples (8). 674–681. 1131–1135. 3. K. played by molecules. English Journal. 1988. Res. E. University Press of Florida: Gainesville.. sciences that meet the National Science Education Standards. Gentile. DMR-0820484. Our interactive presentation on the science of chocolate Fletcher.3 2. 47. Mayama. Pop. Fletcher. yielding a larger particle size. Soft Matter 2009... Educ. 82-83. Brewer. Afoakwa. 88 No.. M. middle. the Center for Nanoscale Systems (CNS). S. S. W.. Mexican Adaptation to Classroom and National Science Education chocolate contains sugar crystals as well as cinnamon that Standards may also contribute to its texture. we engage each individual in tasting experiments whereby they 8. Technol. Acknowledgment 12. Driessen. D. 78. 1 January 2011 Journal of Chemical Education 33 . the Micro- ed. L. J. O. we call for Research and Education in Materials between the University of individual volunteers to help with tabletop demonstrations and New Mexico and the Harvard MRSEC. plan or used in a modular fashion in the classroom. M. yet also interesting for older children and adults. D. who provides invaluable cost alternatives include stickers. 85. 15450– 15453. A. make their own observations and ask questions. 25-29. E.acs.. Taza Chocolate. 2nd ed. D.. 2009.. Allred. molecules. the Nanoscale Science and Engi- neering Center (NSEC). Silverman. Food. 856–859. and Unilever for their generous interactive demonstrations (Figure 2). J.. 13. C. K. experiments.. Natl. PHY-0646094. P. B. We also collaborate with local chocolate as they perform interactive demonstrations. R. 2008.S. Christian Holtze. A. Chem. Sci. R. D. 304. we describe how Notes one of the first successful chocolate mills in the United States was co-established by Harvard graduate. Chem. and high school classrooms to teach important concepts in scientific inquiry and the physical 1. or amphiphilic molecule during our Fiorentino. Each child wears a T-shirt and plays the role of a as well as Naveen Sinha. Educ. O. Jones. van Mechelen. R. bial Sciences Initiative (MSI). as DeHaan. incite curiosity about the natural world. of Arts and Sciences (FAS).g. M. presented in Table 3. the Faculty Chemistry: Cambridge. Paterson. D. R. 601–607. Roberts. 18.. Peschar.. T. we strive to make the material accessible to children in kindergarten. P. J. Soft Matter 2008. and we use 2110–2113. 521–522. At a lecture held in to clothing.. pubs. J. A. A.. The images and colors of contributions. We gratefully acknowledge the support of the Harvard 14. Acad.. Fowler. J.. J. 2004.org. W. The Science of Chocolate. V. hydrophobic.acs. 7. Chemistry for Everyone notice about the chocolate you just ate? Furthermore. The NSEC. M. Mexican chocolate is not milled as finely. Trends Food Sc. MRSEC. chocolate. O. M. we discuss the discovery of theobromine in 2. of a familiar material. Roberts. that everyone knows and loves. E. Rousseau. We present scientific concepts in the context 6. Fryer. 52-55. Schenk. J. excitement and curiosity to continue asking questions about 11.. 106.. and PREM are funded the T-shirts are coordinated with the presentation slides. H. _ _ _ r 2010 American Chemical Society and Division of Chemical Education. Crown. FL. employs many techniques known to be effective for science I. in the mid. For example. Lower chocolate company. Ebert-May. M. S. Bioscience 1997.org/jchemeduc Vol. Tannenbaum.. the Materials 15.. 2007. Comment cards that attendees complete at 2007. Tilghman. the chocolate lecture was also supported by the Partnership for This material is available via the Internet at http://pubs. 1706–1712.. De Ridder. Conclusion 4. P. 2008. 227. Hurst. G. Windhab.. J. J. NM. B. S. we believe the material Literature Cited can be used in elementary. Inc.. 290–298. as well as the staff at the Harvard Science Center. (e.. Alex hydrophilic. Jeremy Agresti. as well as freely available upon request. 1215–1223. Smith. in a lecture at Harvard University. P. Lauffer. The Chocolate Tree: A Natural History of Cacao.. Bruns. 9.A. R. Chang.. education (1-4). Science 2004. Handelsman. A.. Fowler. and simulations. the Provost's Office. the end of the lecture indicate that we accomplish our goals of 10. Afoakwa. Pinschower. Paterson. A. Amey. W. Young. 2008. M. U. 81.. 1.. December 2000. 5. M. the School of Engineering and Applied Supporting Information Available Sciences (SEAS). Chem. 108. L.