The Art of Tempering Chocolate

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Imagine yourself surrounded by the rich, velvety aroma of melting chocolate, as you dive into the captivating world of tempering. Tempering chocolate is an art, and in this article, we will guide you through the steps to achieve perfectly smooth, shiny, and snap-worthy chocolate creations. Whether you’re a novice chocolate enthusiast or a seasoned confectionary expert, get ready to unlock the secrets behind the elusive technique of tempering chocolate.

Introduction to Tempering Chocolate

Definition of tempering

Tempering is a process used in chocolate making to stabilize and align the cocoa butter crystals, ensuring that the chocolate has a smooth texture, a glossy appearance, and a pleasant melt-in-your-mouth feel. It involves carefully heating and cooling the chocolate to specific temperatures while constantly agitating it. This process greatly influences the overall quality and characteristics of the chocolate.

Importance of tempering

Tempering is crucial in chocolate making because it affects the final texture, appearance, taste, and shelf-life of the chocolate. Properly tempered chocolate will have a shiny surface, a clean snap when broken, and a velvety smooth texture. It also enhances the flavor and aroma of the chocolate, making it more enjoyable to eat. Without tempering, the chocolate may have a dull appearance, a grainy texture, and an unappetizing grayish streaked or bloomed appearance.

Purpose of tempering chocolate

The primary purpose of tempering is to achieve the desired crystalline structure in the cocoa butter within the chocolate. Cocoa butter is composed of several types of crystals, each with different melting and cooling properties. By properly tempering the chocolate, the stable and desirable Form V crystals are formed, which give the chocolate its ideal characteristics. This includes a glossy finish, good snap, smooth texture, and resistance to melting at room temperature. Tempered chocolate is also more resistant to heat and humidity, preventing the formation of chocolate bloom, which is the white or grayish coating that can develop on improperly tempered chocolate.

Understanding Chocolate Tempering

What is chocolate tempering?

Chocolate tempering is a precise method of heating and cooling chocolate to specific temperatures, ensuring that the cocoa butter crystals form the desired stable structure. The goal is to melt any existing crystals while simultaneously encouraging the formation of new Form V crystals. This process involves carefully controlling the temperature and agitating the chocolate to encourage proper crystal formation.

The science behind tempering

The process of tempering relies on the properties of cocoa butter, which is a fat composed of various fatty acids. During tempering, the chocolate is heated to disrupt the existing cocoa butter crystals. By gradually cooling the chocolate while agitating it, new and desirable Form V crystals are formed. These crystals are smaller and more regularly arranged, resulting in a smooth and stable structure. The controlled cooling of the chocolate prevents the formation of larger, less desirable crystals, leading to the desired texture, appearance, and characteristics of the tempered chocolate.

Types of chocolate suitable for tempering

Not all types of chocolate can be successfully tempered. Generally, dark chocolate, milk chocolate, and white chocolate can all be tempered. Dark chocolate with a higher cocoa content is the easiest to temper due to its higher proportion of cocoa butter. Milk chocolate, which contains added milk solids, and white chocolate, made from cocoa butter, sugar, and milk solids, require more precise tempering techniques due to their different composition. It is important to use high-quality chocolate with a good cocoa butter content for the best results in tempering.

Why Tempering is Necessary

Achieving glossy appearance

One of the main reasons for tempering chocolate is to obtain a beautiful, glossy appearance. Properly tempered chocolate will have a shiny and reflective surface, making it visually appealing. This glossy finish is achieved by ensuring the cocoa butter crystallizes in a way that reflects light uniformly, creating a smooth and reflective surface on the chocolate.

Creating smooth and velvety texture

Tempering is essential for achieving a smooth and velvety texture in chocolate. The process allows the cocoa butter to solidify in a way that gives the chocolate a creamy, melt-in-your-mouth feel. Without tempering, the chocolate can become grainy or have an uneven texture, detracting from the overall enjoyment of eating it.

Enhancing flavor and aroma

Tempering also plays a role in enhancing the flavor and aroma of chocolate. The controlled heating and cooling process encourages the volatile flavor compounds in the chocolate to develop fully, resulting in a more pronounced and well-rounded flavor profile. Proper tempering can bring out the best qualities of the chocolate, making it more delicious and satisfying.

Preventing chocolate bloom

Chocolate bloom is the white or grayish discoloration and streaking that can occur on improperly tempered chocolate. It is caused by the migration of fat or sugar crystals to the surface of the chocolate, resulting in an unappetizing appearance. Proper tempering helps prevent chocolate bloom by ensuring the formation of stable cocoa butter crystals, which effectively lock in the fat and sugar within the chocolate, keeping it smooth and uniform in appearance.

Essential Tools and Equipment


A reliable thermometer is an essential tool for tempering chocolate. It allows you to accurately monitor the temperature, ensuring that you stay within the specific range required for tempering. There are various types of thermometers available, including digital instant-read thermometers, infrared thermometers, and immersion thermometers. Choose a thermometer that is suitable for your tempering method and provides accurate temperature readings.

Double boiler or microwave

A double boiler or microwave is needed for melting the chocolate during the tempering process. If using a double boiler, a heatproof bowl is placed over a pot of simmering water, allowing the chocolate to gently melt. Alternatively, the microwave method can be used, where the chocolate is heated in short bursts, stirring in between to ensure even melting. Both methods have their advantages, so choose the one that suits your preferences and equipment availability.

Chocolate scrapers

Chocolate scrapers, also known as bench scrapers or dough scrapers, are useful for manipulating and spreading melted chocolate on a flat surface during the tempering process. They allow you to scrape, spread, and smooth the chocolate, ensuring even cooling and crystal formation. Look for scrapers with a flat, flexible blade that can easily manipulate the chocolate without scratching the surface.

Pastry brush

A pastry brush is handy for brushing away any excess chocolate or cocoa butter from molds or surfaces. It can also be used to spread a thin and even layer of chocolate for certain applications, such as coating truffles or creating chocolate decorations. Opt for a soft-bristled pastry brush that can easily remove any excess chocolate.


A spatula, preferably one made of heatproof silicone or rubber, is essential for mixing and stirring the melted chocolate during the tempering process. It allows you to gently fold and agitate the chocolate to promote crystal formation, ensuring a smooth and well-tempered final product. Choose a spatula with a long handle for easy maneuvering in the bowl or vessel you are using.

Different Tempering Methods

Tabling Method

The tabling method, also known as the traditional or classical method, is a manual tempering technique that involves pouring melted chocolate onto a cool surface and then continuously spreading and agitating it with scrapers until it cools to the desired temperature. This method requires skill, precision, and constant monitoring of the chocolate’s temperature to achieve proper tempering. While it may be more time-consuming and labor-intensive, it allows for better control and produces consistently tempered chocolate.

Seeding Method

The seeding method is a popular and relatively foolproof tempering technique. It involves melting a portion of the chocolate and then gradually adding unmelted chocolate, also known as seed chocolate, to the melted chocolate. The addition of the seed chocolate helps to cool the mixture and encourages the formation of the desired cocoa butter crystals. This method is widely used in professional kitchens and is suitable for both small and large batches of chocolate.

Microwave Method

The microwave method is a quick and convenient way to temper chocolate, especially for small quantities. It involves melting the chocolate in short bursts in the microwave, stirring in between each burst to ensure even heating and melting. This method is best suited for tempered chocolate that will be used immediately, as its liquid state does not persist for as long as with other methods. It is important to use a microwave-safe bowl and to monitor the chocolate closely to prevent overheating and burning.

Grate and Melt Method

The grate and melt method is a handy technique for tempering small amounts of chocolate. It involves finely grating the chocolate and then melting it using a double boiler or microwave. The small and uniform chocolate shavings melt more quickly and evenly, making it easier to achieve proper tempering. This method is particularly useful when tempering small quantities for garnishes or decorations.

Melt and Cool Method

The melt and cool method is a simplified tempering technique suitable for home cooks and beginners. It involves melting the chocolate at a temperature slightly above its melting point and then allowing it to cool naturally until it reaches the desired working temperature. While this method may produce satisfactory results for some applications, it is less precise and may not consistently achieve the optimal crystalline structure of tempered chocolate.

Step-by-Step Tempering Process

Preparation and mise en place

Before starting the tempering process, gather all the necessary tools and ingredients. Ensure that the work surface and utensils are clean and dry, as any moisture can affect the tempering process. Chop or break the chocolate into small, uniform pieces to facilitate melting and tempering later on. It is important to work in a cool room, away from direct sunlight and excessive heat, as high temperatures can interfere with the crystallization process.

Melting the chocolate

Choose a suitable method for melting the chocolate, whether it is in a double boiler or the microwave. If using a double boiler, fill the bottom pan with a small amount of water and bring it to a gentle simmer. Place the heatproof bowl with the chopped chocolate on top, ensuring it does not touch the water. Stir occasionally as the chocolate melts, monitoring the temperature with the thermometer until it reaches the desired melting point. If using the microwave method, place the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and melt it in short bursts, stirring in between, until it is smooth and fully melted.

Cooling the chocolate

Once the chocolate is fully melted, it needs to be cooled to the working temperature for tempering. The desired working temperature varies depending on the type of chocolate being tempered. Dark chocolate typically requires cooling to around 88-91°F (31-33°C), milk chocolate to around 86-88°F (30-31°C), and white chocolate to around 82-84°F (28-29°C). Stir the chocolate continuously as it cools, using a spatula or scraper to promote cooling and even crystal formation. Check the temperature frequently to ensure it does not drop below or exceed the desired working temperature.

Reheating and working with tempered chocolate

Once the chocolate has reached the correct working temperature, it is ready for use. If the temperature drops below the desired range during the tempering process, it may be necessary to gently reheat it to bring it back to the working temperature. Use a heatproof bowl and either a double boiler or short bursts in the microwave to reheat the chocolate, being careful not to overheat it. Once the chocolate is back in the ideal temperature range, it can be poured, dipped, molded, or spread, as required for your specific application.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Overheating the chocolate

One of the most common mistakes in tempering chocolate is overheating it. High temperatures can cause the chocolate to burn, resulting in a bitter taste and a grainy texture. It is important to monitor the temperature closely and remove the chocolate from heat or microwave as soon as it is fully melted, avoiding excessive heat exposure.

Failure to use a thermometer

Not using a thermometer or relying solely on visual cues can lead to inaccurate tempering and inconsistent results. The temperature ranges for different types of chocolate are critical for achieving the desired crystal formation. Invest in a reliable thermometer and use it to monitor and guide the tempering process.

Inadequate cooling time

The cooling phase of tempering is crucial for allowing the cocoa butter crystals to form properly. Rushing this step by transferring the melted chocolate to a cool surface too quickly or by not giving it enough time to cool can result in uneven crystallization and improperly tempered chocolate. Be patient and allow the chocolate to cool gradually within the recommended temperature range.

Introducing moisture to the chocolate

Moisture is the enemy of properly tempered chocolate, as it can cause the chocolate to seize or become lumpy. Make sure all utensils and equipment are completely dry before melting and tempering the chocolate. Avoid introducing liquid ingredients or condensation into the chocolate, as this can also cause undesirable results.

Using improperly tempered chocolate

Reusing chocolate that has already been tempered or mixing tempered chocolate with untempered chocolate can compromise the overall quality and tempering of the final product. When working with tempered chocolate, it is important to keep it separate from any untempered chocolate to ensure proper crystallization and consistency in the finished chocolate.

Troubleshooting Tempering Issues

Chocolate not setting correctly

If the tempered chocolate does not set properly, it may be due to insufficient cooling or improper crystallization. Check that the chocolate is thoroughly cooled within the recommended temperature range during the cooling phase. Also, ensure that the chocolate is agitated and stirred adequately during cooling to promote the formation of the desired cocoa butter crystals.

Chocolate turning grainy

Grainy chocolate can occur when the cocoa butter crystals have not formed properly during tempering. This may be caused by overheating during melting or inadequate cooling and agitation during the tempering process. To avoid grainy chocolate, ensure accurate temperature control and consistent stirring throughout the tempering process.

Chocolate showing streaks

Streaks or marbling in the tempered chocolate can be the result of inadequate mixing or improper cooling. Ensure that the chocolate is thoroughly mixed during cooling to evenly distribute the cocoa butter crystals. Agitate the chocolate regularly and ensure that it is cooled within the recommended temperature range to prevent streaking.

Chocolate developing a dull appearance

If the tempered chocolate loses its glossy shine and develops a dull appearance, it may be due to inadequate tempering or exposure to excessive heat or moisture. Ensure that the chocolate is tempered correctly, following the recommended temperature ranges and cooling times. Avoid exposing the chocolate to high temperatures or direct heat sources, as this can cause it to lose its shine.

Chocolate blooming

Chocolate bloom is the whitish or grayish coating that can appear on improperly tempered chocolate. It occurs when the fat or sugar molecules migrate to the surface and crystallize, resulting in a dull and unappetizing appearance. Proper tempering helps prevent chocolate bloom by promoting the formation of stable cocoa butter crystals. If chocolate bloom does occur, it is usually safe to consume, but it may have an altered texture and taste.

Tips for Successful Tempering

Use high-quality chocolate

Invest in high-quality chocolate with a good cocoa butter content for the best results in tempering. Finer chocolates with higher cocoa percentages are generally easier to temper and produce superior results. The quality of the chocolate greatly influences the overall flavor, texture, and appearance of the tempered chocolate.

Ensure all equipment is dry

Moisture can interfere with the tempering process and lead to undesirable results. Before starting the tempering process, ensure that all utensils, bowls, and equipment are completely dry. Even a small amount of moisture can cause the chocolate to seize or become lumpy.

Gradually melt chocolate

When melting chocolate, whether in a double boiler or microwave, do it gradually and in small increments. Avoid applying high heat or prolonged exposure to heat, as this can burn or scorch the chocolate. Melt the chocolate slowly and gently, stirring frequently for even heating and melting.

Maintain proper temperatures

Accurate temperature control is crucial for successful tempering. Use a reliable thermometer to monitor the temperature during melting, cooling, and reheating stages. Stay within the recommended temperature ranges for your specific type of chocolate to ensure proper crystal formation and tempering.

Work efficiently and swiftly

Once the chocolate is tempered and at the desired working temperature, work swiftly and efficiently. Tempered chocolate begins to set relatively quickly, so it is important to complete your desired applications before it cools and hardens. If necessary, gently reheat the chocolate to maintain its optimal working temperature.

Applications of Tempered Chocolate

Dipping fruits and nuts

Tempered chocolate is perfect for dipping fruits such as strawberries, bananas, or cherries. The smooth and glossy texture of the tempered chocolate provides a luscious coating that enhances the flavor of the fruits while adding a touch of elegance.

Making molded chocolates

Molded chocolates are a creative way to showcase tempered chocolate. The process involves pouring tempered chocolate into molds and allowing it to cool and set. Various shapes and designs can be achieved by using different molds, allowing for a wide range of creative possibilities.

Creating chocolate decorations

Tempered chocolate can be used to make intricate and beautiful decorations for cakes, desserts, and pastries. From delicate chocolate curls and shards to intricate molded shapes, the possibilities for chocolate decorations are endless. The tempered chocolate provides stability and ensures that the decorations maintain their form and shine.

Coating truffles or ganache

Truffles and ganache are often coated with tempered chocolate for a smooth and luxurious outer layer. The process involves dipping the filled truffles or ganache centers into tempered chocolate, creating a thin shell that adds both visual appeal and a delightful contrast of textures.

Preparing chocolate desserts and pastries

Tempered chocolate is a staple ingredient in a wide range of desserts and pastries. From chocolate mousse and lava cakes to brownies and cupcakes, adding tempered chocolate can elevate the flavors and textures of these treats. Whether incorporated into the batter, used as a coating, or drizzled as a finishing touch, tempered chocolate adds depth and richness to many delicious creations.

In conclusion, tempering chocolate is a fundamental skill in the world of chocolate making. Its importance lies in achieving a smooth texture, glossy appearance, enhanced flavor, and preventing chocolate bloom. By understanding the science behind tempering, using the right tools and equipment, and following proper tempering methods, you can successfully create beautifully tempered chocolate for various applications. With practice and attention to detail, you will master the art of tempering, unlocking a world of chocolatey delights. Happy tempering!