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I am in the process of making a DIY Soylent meal replacement. I've tried Hershey's cocoa powder and it tastes awful.

Commercial manufacturers of flavored protein powders, shake powders, etc. make such tasty drinks. What substances and flavorings do they use?

For reference, my recipe was:

  • Oat flour
  • Flaxseed powder
  • Barley powder
  • Whey protein isolate
  • Acacia gum
  • Hershey's cocoa powder
  • Sugar

Subsequently I also tried adding nutmeg powder and cinnamon as suggested by some recipes on CompleteFoods. It didn't help.

I've read that the commercially available powders contain isomaltulose, maltodextrin, and xanthan gum. Do these have anything to do with how the drink tastes?

'Rich chocolate' does not have anything to do with richness. It's just a common phrase shake/powder sellers use for their whey protein/shakes.

How can I do this?

Edit: Got a hold of the ingredient list of the desired end result. Which ingredients make for the creaminess and richness, as if I were drinking a milk shake? Package Label

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    Cocoa powders are rather variable between manufacturers. It would not surprise me if Hershey's wasn't very good, going by their chocolate. When testing alternatives it's probably worth making a simpler drink to try, before going for the more complex final goal – Chris H Jun 14 at 12:47
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    Not really an answer, but a pinch of salt always helps, and could you add some kind of malted milk or syrup instead of sugar? – kitukwfyer Jun 14 at 17:11
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    Hershey are not a chocolate maker. They produce brown bars made of sugar and vegetable oil. Chocolate content, and indeed chocolate flavour, is minimal. The best answer for making something taste of chocolate is "not Hershey's". – Graham Jun 14 at 21:32
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    Re "isloate": Do you mean "isolate"? – Peter Mortensen Jun 15 at 10:45
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    Example of professional grade material: barry-callebaut.com/en/manufacturers/products/22/… – Jeffrey Jun 15 at 18:29
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Frankly, Hershey's cocoa powder is low quality. Buy a higher quality cocoa. One objective measure is the cocoa fat content.

This is from Harold McGee's Keys to Good Cooking, published by The Penguin Press, New York, 2010, p. 476:

Higher-fat cocoas make richer dishes. To compare the fat contents of different brands, check their nutrition labels.

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    It might be worthwhile to state explicitly that this is talking about cocoa fat content, aka cocoa butter. Fat from other vegetable oils will of course not contribute to the chocolate taste. – MSalters Jun 15 at 12:54
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For rich chocolate taste you need rich chocolate.

All cocoa powders intended to be mixed with milk to form a quick cocoa drink contain a lot of additives like sugar or milk powder in addition to the actual cocoa to make it a sweet drink and to keep it cheap. But all these additives take away the actual cocoa taste (which is actually intended because cocoa is bitter).

Instead you could use pure cocoa powder (pay attention to the quality) and add sugar to your own taste. But the richest chocolate taste can only be achieved by using real chocolate with a high cocoa content (at least 75%). Grate it very fine and mix the powder to your other ingredients.

A high quality drinking chokolate ist made the same way. Instead of mixing cocoa powder with milk, finely grated dark chocolate is used instead, which created a rich taste and creamy texture.

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  • Is cacao powder something to be looked into? I hear it is a less processed form of cocoa powder. – Saurabh Jun 14 at 15:37
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    @Saurabh 1) The cacao bean is fermented and roasted, then ground into cacao powder. 2) This powder can be processed to be soluble in cold milk or water and have sugar and other stuff added to become cocoa drink powder. 3) Alternatively the cacao powder gets ground extremely fine with some sugar, which produces heat, which melts the cacao butter. After tempering and cooling the liquid, it becomes solid chocolate. So as far as I understand "cacao powder" is the pure cocoa powder without any additives, but it still has a slightly bitter taste. Dark chocolate is better for your plan. – Elmy Jun 14 at 17:48
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    @Saurabh: Also see cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/35590/… – MSalters Jun 15 at 12:54
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    "cacao" powder is just cocoa powder with a different name to make it sound more expensive. In the EU at least "cocoa powder" is powdered cocoa solids, perhaps with an anti-caking agent. The stuff you put straight into hot milk and drink is called "drinking chocolate". – OrangeDog Jun 15 at 16:44
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Unless you are adding a substantial amount of fat (like using half & half or heavy cream), I would recommend using dutch-processed cocoa powder instead of regular cocoa powder.

Regular cocoa powder is highly acidic and generally requires lots of fat and lots of sugar to make it palatable. Dutch-processed cocoa powder has been treated with an alkali to neutralize the acidity and tame the sharpness quite a bit. It usually won't require near the amount of fat to taste good. If you look at most protein powders or shake mixes that are chocolate-flavored, you'll likely see that they include dutch-processed cocoa rather than regular cocoa powder (it'll usually say something like "cocoa processed with alkali").

Maltodextrin is primarily used as a bulking agent for "high intensity" sweeteners like Sucralose and/or acesulfame potassium. It may have a slight sweetness but it wouldn't alter the taste in a perceptible way. Xanthan gum is usually used in tiny amounts to help thicken the mixture and should have little effect on overall taste.

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I don't think your title question is answerable, because I'm not sure what you mean by "rich", however, I'll tell you what I know about the question at the end of your post. Isomaltulose is a natural disaccharide. Google suggests it tastes similar to sucrose with half the sweetness. So, it probably adds sweetness to the powder. Maltodextrine is a starch based polysaccharide, it can range from slightly sweet to flavorless. Some have a perceptable flavor, but I doubt you to know it is there if a flavor like chocolate was present. It is usually added to powders as a bulking agent. Xanthan gum is also a polysaccharide, most often used as a thickening agent. Xanthan probably adds no flavor. So, other than adding some sweetness, these ingredients are probably serving other functions like, reducing clumping, bulking, and thickening (xanthan) and keeping the mix in suspension when liquid is added.

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    I suspect thickening will add to a perception of richness, up to a point at least (I recently threw away a ready-made chocolate protein shake that had a consistency too close to mucus). Anything that imitates creaminess would be better, which to some extent whey powder achieves. A little vanilla might help in this case too, but that's more about building the flavour than richness as I see it. Anyway +1 before my comment turns into an extra answer – Chris H Jun 14 at 12:44
  • What is the difference between bulking and thickening? – Saurabh Jun 14 at 15:36
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    @Saurabh Thickening refers to viscosity. Bulking refers to the amount of product. – moscafj Jun 14 at 17:04
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You can try mechanically "powdering" (grating or finding some other way to turn into powdered form) real chocolate (not compound chocolate) and mixing it in, if you really need it in powdered form.

You can also use compound chocolate if you want to use something more affordable, depending on whether or not compound chocolate tastes richer to you or not.

On using cocoa/cacao powder vs actual chocolate:

Real chocolate is made by combining roasted cacao/cocoa beans with other ingredients (normally sugar) and grinding them together to make a moldable paste (the real chocolate we know). If you mix 70 parts cacao based substances, plus 30 parts sugar (and other substances), then you get 70% chocolate. Or if you just grind 100% cacao, then you get 100% chocolate.

On the other hand cocoa powder is made by taking the cacao bean, and extracting its vegetable fat from it (called cocoa butter). The pulp left behind (normally in powdered form) is basically cocoa powder, which can be used for cooking and baking. Dutch processed cocoa powder on the other hand takes the pulp and processes it further (through the dutch process). Either way, cacao powder is basically cacao with its fat content removed.

On real chocolate vs compound chocolate:

While real chocolate is made of ground cacao beans, compound chocolate is made by combining cacao powder with some form of vegetable oil, palm oil, etc. Compound chocolate is what you normally see used by more affordable "chocolate" candies.

One of the main benefits of using compound chocolate however is that it doesn't melt as easily as real chocolate. Real chocolate can start getting real soft and melt on temperatures above 27 C. If you have powdered real chocolate in your mix, and it gets heated above that temperature, then you can just imagine the chocolate melting and clumping with the powder together.

On what kind of chocolate to use

If you're fine with the chocolate manufacturer's ingredients (which includes sugar and other chemicals) then you can look for n% chocolate bars (80%, 70% etc). If you just want 100% chocolate, then try to look for 100% chocolate bars, then just add some powdered sugar if desired (or other sweetener), to your mix.

As to chocolate taste, cacao beans from different geographical regions and different estates taste differently from each other (like wine). The way the cacao is fermented and roasted also affects the taste. In my case, the cacao I use from 2 different places produces 2 fairly distinct tasting chocolate bars.

In your case, I suggest looking for a manufacturer that produces the "right" chocolate taste for your purposes.

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