Temperature is arguably the most important factor when considering the shelf life of chocolate in a refrigerated display case. Not only can chocolate appear less than fresh if kept too cold or too warm, but if chocolate is exposed to excessive heat or sunlight, it can quickly degrade.
Ideally, chocolate should be stored between a range of 57 to 64º F, according to Valrhona, one of the world’s leading producers of high end chocolate. It can withstand temperatures that are slightly warmer or cooler, but consistency is key.
Let’s take a deeper dive into how different types of chocolate should be stored to maintain appearance, flavor, and aroma.
Keeping your chocolate at an optimal humidity level, less than 55 percent, is essential to keeping your chocolate looking fresh. Too much moisture can cause sugar to rise to the surface, creating white marks on the chocolate. This is called “sugar bloom.” Avoid chocolate discoloration by maintaining proper humidity levels.
FLAVOR AND AROMA
While sugar bloom doesn’t have an effect on flavor, other conditions do. Your display cases for chocolate should be dedicated to chocolate and only chocolate. Cocoa butter in the chocolate will begin to smell like the items around it and create an off-putting flavor.
Chocolate should only smell and taste like chocolate, so ensure you aren’t sharing a display case with other items such as cheese, fruit, or other specialty foods. Because milk chocolate and white chocolate have a higher concentration of cocoa butter, they are particularly sensitive to taking on smells and flavors of other food items.
In addition to ensuring your display case is dedicated to chocolate, it also needs to be air tight. Oxygen will oxidize chocolate, creating additional off flavors. Sunlight and artificial light can also be a problem for storing chocolate as it can cause unwanted flavors to develop.
While you can do your best to control the temperature, humidity, oxygen, and lighting, it is important to remember that chocolate will not last forever. Pay particular attention to expiration dates. Valrhona recommends referring to the production date mentioned on the packaging, in addition to the expiration date.
STORAGE AND SERVING
It’s important to keep chocolate between 57 to 64º F, but temperature isn’t the only important factor. Storing chocolate in the appropriate relative humidities as dictated by each chocolate’s formula is also critical. Proper chocolate showcases should be equipped with a humidity controller to enhance the condition and appearance of product, thus increasing the potential for impulse purchases.
Additionally, chocolates should be brought to room temperature two hours before they are enjoyed, as cold temperatures can mute delicate flavors.
Which chocolate display case is right for my foodservice operation?
There are a variety of chocolate and confection display cases that can fit just about any design, space, or stylistic request. Take a look at our Display Case Designer Book, and discover a full range of high-end, Italian-made chocolate display cases that could work for your chocolate shop or foodservice operation.