You may have heard reference to Dutching with respect to cacao powder. Dutching is a process that makes cacao powder more water soluble, reduces the acidity and darkens cacao powder. Once it has gone through this process it is more commonly known as cocoa powder.
Cacao powder is the bi-product of the production of cacao butter (oil). First the cacao beans are fermented and dried. Most mass market cocoa powder is produced by first roasting the beans at high temperatures. This process is done at a 45°C for 40 min with raw cacao to enable the removal of the skin. The beans are then cracked into nibs and the skin is removed, then ground into a paste. Then the cacao paste is pressed with hydraulic presses to extract the cacao butter (oil). Once separated the cacao butter (oil) will harden and the cacao solids that are very compressed “cakes” then get blended into a fine powder. So cacao powder is the core of a chocolate’s flavour, without any extra fat, sugar, or milk to get in the way.
If you’re making natural cacao powder, that’s the end of the line. Chocolate is naturally acidic, and natural cacao powder typically has a pH between 5 and 6 (for context, water is 7, right in the middle). That acidity bears out in natural cacao’s flavour, which gives the cocoa a sharp, almost citrus fruit finish.
Dutch process cocoa powder (also sometimes called “alkalized,” “European style,” or “Dutched”) is washed with a potassium carbonate solution that neutralizes cocoa’s acidity to a pH of 7. Although all cocoa powders can vary in colour from light reddish brown to a richer dark brown, the Dutch process gives the powder a noticeably darker hue.
Dutch process cocoa has a smoother, more mellow flavour that’s often associated with earthy, woodsy notes. There are also heavily Dutched “black” cocoa powders that bring the cocoa powder to an alkaline level of 8.
Dutched cocoa mixes better with water, is darker brown and is less bitter. Raw cacao is closer to the natural state of the cacao bean, has endured less processes and hence is understood to have more nutrients and benefits than heavily processed Dutched cocoa. Remember, Dutched cocoa is almost always roasted as well.