Cacao Butter

Cacao butter is obtained as a by-product in the manufacture of cocoa, and is consumed in large quantities in the manufacture of chocolate. When, during World War II, the use of sugar for chocolate-making was restricted and little chocolate was produced, the cacao butter formerly used in this industry was freed for other purposes. Thus there was plenty of cacao butter available at a time when other fats were scarce. Cacao butter has a pleasant, bland taste resembling cocoa. The cocoa flavour is very persistent, as many experimenters found to their regret in their efforts to produce a tasteless cacao butter which could be used as margarine or for general purposes in cooking. The scarcity of edible fats during the war forced the confectioners to try cacao butter, which in normal times is too expensive for them to use, and as a result a very large amount was employed in making biscuits and confectionery.

Cacao butter runs hot from the presses as an amber-coloured oil, and after nitration, sets to a pale golden yellow wax-like fat. The butter, which the pharmacist sells, is sometimes white and odourless, having been bleached and deodorized. The butter as produced is always pale yellow in colour, with a semi-crystalline or granular fracture and an agreeable taste and odour resembling cocoa or chocolate.

Cacao butter has such remarkable keeping properties (which would appear to depend on the aromatic substances which it contains), that a myth has arisen that it will keep for ever. The fable finds many believers even in scientific circles; thus W.H. Johnson, in the Imperial Institute Handbook on Cocoa, states that: “When pure, it has the peculiar property of not becoming rancid, however long it may be kept.” Whilst this overstates the case, we find that under suitable conditions cacao butter will remain fresh and good for several years. Cacao butter has rather a low melting point (90° F.), so that whilst it is a hard, almost brittle, solid at ordinary temperatures, it melts readily when in contact with the human body (blood heat 98° F). This property, together with its remarkable stability, makes it useful for ointments, pomades, suppositories, pessaries and other pharmaceutical preparations; it also explains why actors have found it convenient for the removal of grease paint. The recognition of the value of cacao butter for cosmetic purposes dates from very early days; thus in Colmenero de Ledesma’s Curious Treatise on the Nature and Quality of Chocolate (printed at the Green Dragon, 1685), we read: “That they draw from the cacao a great quantity of butter, which they use to make their faces shine, which I have seen practised in the Indies by the Spanish women born there.” This, evidently, was one way of shining in society.

Cacao butter has been put to many other uses, thus it has been employed in the preparation of perfumes, but the great bulk of the cacao butter produced is used up by the chocolate maker. For making chocolate it is ideal, and the demand for it for this purpose is so great that substitutes have been found and offered for sale. Until recently these fats, coconut stearine and others, could be ignored by the reputable chocolate makers as the confection produced by their use was inferior to true chocolate both in taste and in keeping properties. In recent times the oils and fats of tropical nuts and fruits have been thoroughly investigated in the eager search for new fats, and new substitutes, such as illipé butter, have been introduced, the properties of which closely resemble those of cacao butter.

For the information of chemists we may state that the analytical figures for genuine cacao butter, as obtained in the cocoa factory, are as follow:


Specific Gravity (at 99˚C to water at 15.5˚ C) .858 to .865

Melting Point 32˚C to 34˚C

Titer (fatty acids) 49˚C to 50˚C

Iodine Absorbed 34% to 38%

Refraction (Butyro-Refractometer) at 40˚C 45.6˚ to 46.5˚

Saponification Value 192 to 198

Valenta 94˚C to 96˚C

Reichert Meissel Value 1.0

Polenske Value 0.5

Kirschner 0.5

Shrewsbury and Knapp Value 14 to 15

Unsaponifiable matter 0.3% to 0.8%

Mineral matter 0.02% to 0.05%

Acidity (as oleic acid) 0.6% to 2.0%