Have you ever wondered what the difference between hot cocoa vs hot chocolate is? Or if there really is a difference at all? Well for the most part, these two terms are used interchangeably – especially in the U.S. But believe it or not, there are some subtle differences between the two.
This is where we can really break down the physical differences between hot cocoa vs hot chocolate. Hot cocoa is basically hot milk, unsweetened cocoa powder, and sugar with the possible additions of flavorings, extracts, or spices such as vanilla or cinnamon to add to the flavor profile of the drink. Whereas Hot Chocolate is simply made by mixing melted chocolate and hot milk. Depending on the sweetness of the chocolate, sugar may also be added. Another ingredient aspect to keep in mind between these two drinks, is that solid chocolate contains a higher percentage of cocoa butter than cocoa powders.
As you can probably imagine due to its higher content of cocoa butter (i.e. fat), hot chocolate has a much thicker, denser creamier texture than hot cocoa. In some cases, especially in France, hot chocolate (or rather chocolat chaud) can almost be compared to a thin chocolate sauce.
Hot chocolate is usually not as sweet as its hot cocoa counterpart as the focus is less on sugar and more on the chocolate aspect of the drink.
As hot chocolate is made by using actual chocolate as opposed to cocoa powder, there are many different levels of richness. To achieve richness depends on what type of chocolate you use. Chocolates have a range of 20% to 99% of chocolate solids which contribute to the intensity and bitterness of the chocolate. The higher the percentage, the more intense the chocolate flavor is as well as the bitterness. The higher the percentage, the less sugar as well, which is why hot chocolate is usually not as sweet as hot cocoa. In terms of hot cocoa however, there are only two commonly used cocoa powders – Natural Cocoa and Dutch-Processed. These also contribute to the flavor profile of their respective drinks. Natural cocoa tends to create a drink that is darker in color and more bitter and acidic but has a more intense chocolate profile. Whereas, Dutch processed cocoa, which is processed with an alkali, has a milder, less acidic taste and a brighter reddish hue.
No matter where you are on the spectrum of hot chocolate vs hot cocoa, I think we can all agree that on a cold winter’s night there’s really nothing like snuggling up with any form of chocolate, mixed with a hot cup of milk.