Why Does Cocoa Powder Taste Bitter | 5+ Health Benefits

Cocoa powder
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Alkaloids and antioxidants are naturally occurring chemical substances found in cocoa powder (flavonoids).

Both have an intensely bitter flavor, which explains why natural cocoa powder has such a strong bitter flavor.

To find out more about the bitter history of cocoa powder, and how to eliminate the bitter flavor of cocoa powder from your recipes, keep reading this article.

Why Does Cocoa Powder Taste Bitter

Despite being used in countless sweets, cakes, and beverages, natural cocoa powder has an extremely acidic and bitter flavor.

Cocoa powder

This is due to the presence of bitter flavonoids and alkaloids in cocoa solids, which are used to make cocoa powder.

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But what exactly are alkaloids and flavonoids?

Alkaloids are fundamental organic substances that occur naturally in cocoa beans.

Theobromine and caffeine are the two most potent alkaloids found in cocoa powder.

This explains why pure cocoa powder has a distinct and occasionally unpleasant flavor, as both of these chemicals have a fairly bitter flavor.

In contrast, flavonoids are very powerful antioxidants.

They, too, are an ingredient present in cocoa beans and have a bitter flavor.

These flavonoids, including catechin, epicatechin, and procyanidins, are responsible for the numerous health advantages of cocoa powder.

They can help you age more slowly and are healthy for your heart, brain, and blood flow.

So true, cocoa powder has a bitter taste by itself, but it also has a ton of health advantages.

And if you combine it with other ingredients in the right proportion, it will give your baked goods the richest, tastiest chocolate flavor!

Do All Types of Cocoa Powders Have a Bitter Taste?

There are only two main varieties of cocoa powder. The natural type is one, and Dutch-processed is the other.

types of cocoa powder

Because of the naturally occurring components and ingredients stated above, all-natural cocoa powders, regardless of brand, will be bitter.

Because of this, Dutch-processed cocoa powder was developed.

The bitterness of the two types of cocoa powder can vary substantially depending on how much the beans have been processed, with Dutch-processed cocoa powder being the less bitter of the two.

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Why Does Dutch-Processed Cocoa Powder Have a Less Bitter Taste?

The process of washing cocoa beans in an alkaline solution to neutralize their acidic components and raise pH levels is known as “Dutching” cocoa powder.

Dutch processed cocoa powder

The pH range of natural cocoa powder is typically between 5.30 and 5.80, making it quite acidic.

On the other hand, Dutch-processed cocoa powder typically has three different pH and alkalization levels:

  • The light level of treatment has about 6.50 to7.2PH 
  • The medium level has 7.21 to 7.6PH

  • While the heavy level has 7.6PH and higher.

The bitterness of cocoa powder decreases as pH and alkalization rise.

Additionally, compared to natural cocoa powder, which is light brown, the dutch-processed powder is available in a variety of colors, including red, dark brown, and black. For these reasons, it has become a preferred option for many bakers.

However, be cautious when selecting cocoa powder! In addition to being less bitter, Dutch powder also has a softer (and occasionally weaker) chocolate flavor.

Also, while this kind of cocoa powder may work well for some recipes, it is not appropriate for all baked goods!

Therefore, sticking to natural cocoa can be a smart option if you intend to make a cake or dessert with a rich and potent chocolate flavor.

How to Reduce the Bitterness of Cocoa Powder 

There are numerous methods for eliminating the bitter flavor of natural cocoa powder. If you’re successful, your recipe will include a very nutritious substance that also happens to taste like chocolate.

Cocoa powder

However, if you insist on using natural cocoa, try these tips to lessen its bitterness:

1. Sugar can be used to balance cocoa powder.

2. Your recipe should include baking soda.

3. Use milk in your cooking 

4. Mix your butter and cocoa powder (the fat in the butter will replace the removed cocoa butter and return the cocoa bean to its original state) in a bowl.

5. To enhance the chocolate flavor of the cocoa powder, add a pinch of salt (this works well for hot chocolate).

Is bitter cocoa powder suitable for baking?

Many baking recipes call for natural, bitter cocoa, which is your best option if you want a truly authentic chocolate flavor.

Consider that you want to bake some extremely flavorful chocolate cookies, chocolate brownies, or a chocolate cake.

Baking with cocoa powder

Natural cocoa powder usually beats Dutch-processed in recipes like these since it gives your creations a much stronger chocolate flavor.

Of course, you’ll need to balance out the acidity of the chocolate with other components to get rid of its harsh bitter flavor!

The 5 health benefits of cocoa powder 

According to recent studies, the cocoa powder does include significant chemicals that are good for your health.

Here are 5 advantages of cocoa powder for your health and diet.

1. It is rich in Polyphenols That Provide Several Health Benefits 

They have been linked to numerous health benefits, including reduced inflammation, better blood flow, and improved cholesterol and blood sugar levels.

Processing and heating cocoa can cause it to lose its beneficial properties. Not all products containing cocoa will provide the same health benefits.

2. By raising nitric oxide levels, it may lower high blood pressure 

The flavanols in cocoa are thought to improve nitric oxide levels in the blood, which can enhance the function of your blood vessels and reduce blood pressure.

Nitric oxide

3. Could Reduce Your Chance of a Heart Attack or Stroke 

Flavanol-rich cocoa improves the level of nitric oxide in your blood, which relaxes and dilates your arteries and blood vessels. These properties have been linked to a lower risk of heart attack, heart failure, and stroke.

Two Swedish studies found that chocolate intake is associated with a lower rate of heart failure at doses of 0.7–1.1 ounces (19–30 grams) of chocolate per day.

4. May Reduce Depression Symptoms and enhance Mood 

By lowering stress levels and enhancing tranquility, satisfaction, and general psychological well-being, cocoa may have some beneficial benefits on mood and depressive symptoms.

Enhanced mood

5. May Help with Weight Control in a Variety of Surprising Ways

Cocoa, even in the form of chocolate, may help control your weight. A population study found that people who consumed chocolate more frequently had a lower BMI than those who ate it less often.

Weight control

Other studies have found that chocolate consumption increases weight. Overall, it appears that cocoa and cocoa-rich products may help achieve maintain or maintain weight.


In conclusion, Cacao bean alkaloids and polyphenols typically have a bitter taste. Cacao seeds, for example, are bitter to prevent frugivores and herbivores from eating them. But along with these unpleasant elements, there are some healthy ones, including antioxidants.