Deconstructing the Scent of Chocolate

Today, February 15, is one of my favorite unofficial holidays. As the day after all the Valentine drama, today is the day when stores massively mark down all chocolate that is heart-shaped or wrapped in pink paper. Perhaps surpassed only by November 1, today is the best day for affordable gluttony. (Or if one chooses to focus on the numerous reports about the myriad of benefits from chocolate, then today could be viewed as an opportunity to stock up on healthy essentials.)

One of the most enticing ways that chocolate shops draw in customers is with their amazing scent. How to even describe the scent of melting chocolate?

Peter Schieberle and the research team at the German Research Center for Food Chemistry have spent a lot of time trying answer precisely this question. As Schieberle explained during an interview with Scientific American, the scent is predominantly linked to the roasting and fermenting stages of making chocolate. Similar to with beer or coffee, the fermenting process excites molecules within the chocolate to become more volatile and aroma-producing.

And just how many types of molecules are involved in the 'scent' of chocolate? According to Schieberle, there are more than 600 molecules involved, and not all of them are pleasant smelling. For instance, when isolated, a few of the molecules match the scent of boiled cabbage. However, there are 25 types of molecules which dominate the 'chocolate scent' and create the irresitable scent that we know and love!