Cocoa Powder Taste Test: Trader Joe’s vs Pernigotti

I’ve been seeing pictures of chocolate cakes and brownies made with Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder. They look so decadent, and people have been commenting on how intense the chocolate flavor is. This inspired me to search for some high quality cocoa powder to use in my baking.

After poking around a bit on the Internet, I found a listing for Pernigotti Cocoa Powder on Amazon. Out of 25 customer reviews, 23 people gave it 5 stars, 1 gave it 4 stars, and 1 gave it 3 stars, and the comments were so convincing, that I decided to go for it. So I bought a 1 kg (2.2 lbs) bag for $21.50 on Amazon ($0.61 per oz).

I normally use Trader Joe’s cocoa powder, which sells for $1.99 for a 9 oz container ($0.22 per oz)

In the meantime, I also saw Valrhona cocoa powder for sale at Sur La Table; the price of a 250 g = 8.82 oz container is $12.00 ($1.36 per oz).

So I paid about half the price for the Pernigotti on Amazon as I would have paid for the Valrhona at Sur La Table, but I had to buy four times as much. On the other hand, the Pernigotti costs almost three times as much as the Trader Joe’s.

Was it worth it???


Visual Comparisons of Cocoa Powders

First I present a visual comparison of the two types of cocoa powder.

Here's a side-by-side view of the packages:


A close-up of the labeling indicates that the Pernigotti cocoa powder is from Novi Ligure, Italy, and it contains some vanilla:



The Trader Joe’s cocoa powder is from Columbia and is made with Tumaco cocoa beans (named after the region in Columbia that the beans come from):



Neither package indicates that they are Dutch-process, so I’m assuming neither is. From Wikipedia:

Dutch process chocolate, or Dutched chocolate, is chocolate that has been treated with an alkalizing agent to modify its color and give it a milder taste compared to "natural cocoa" extracted with the Broma process. It forms the basis for much of modern chocolate, and is used in ice cream, hot cocoa, and baking.

A side-by-side comparison of the cocoa powders shows that the Pernigotti (on the left) is a dark, reddish brown color, while the Trader Joe’s (on the right) is a chalky brown color.



Now for the Brownie Taste Test!

The first taste test (other taste tests to follow in subsequent blog entries) is a comparison of brownies made with Trader Joe’s vs. Pernigotti cocoa powder. The brownie recipe I used is from Martha Stewart, and it calls for

•  6 oz chocolate and

•  1/4 cup of cocoa powder

to make an 8” x 8” pan of brownies.

For the Pernigotti batch of brownies, I used 6 oz semisweet chocolate chips from Trader Joe’s and 1/4 cup of Pernigotti cocoa powder.

For the Trader Joe’s batch of brownies, I accidentally used too much chocolate -- 8 oz semisweet chocolate chips from Trader Joe’s instead of the 6 oz called for in the recipe -- and I used 1/4 cup of Trader Joe’s cocoa powder.



A side-by-side comparison of the brownies shows that the Pernigotti brownies (the square brownies on the right) look slightly darker and denser than the Trader Joe’s brownies (the rectangular brownies on the left):



Some Notes on the Taste Tests

1.  Tasters were given two sets of brownies, triangles and squares, but they were NOT told which brownie contained which brand of cocoa powder.  The tasters reported their taste test results for triangle brownies and square brownies.

2. Both brownies were definitely fudgy, rather than cakey.

3. I thought the taster’s preferences for chocolate type (dark or milk) might affect their preference for cocoa powder, so I included that bit of information in the table.

4. Several of the tasters detected cinnamon in the brownies. It’s funny, because I could swear I didn’t add any cinnamon to the batter, so as not to confuse the results. However, I tend to put cinnamon in everything, so it IS possible that, working on autopilot, I did add some cinnamon.

5. Since the brownies made with Trader Joe’s cocoa powder contained more chocolate (8 oz of semisweet chocolate, as compared with 6 oz in the brownies made with Pernigotti cocoa powder), all else equal, I would expect the Trader Joe’s brownies to be richer, fudgier, and/or chocolatier.


So How Did They Compare in Taste?

The results of the taste test for each taster are presented in the following table. The comparisons suggest:

•  There does not seem to be any relationship between

• A taster’s preference for milk vs. dark chocolate and

• The taster’s preference for brownies made with Trader Joe’s vs. Pernigotti cocoa powder

•  The tasters who commented on the chocolate flavor in the brownies all preferred the brownies made with Pernigotti cocoa powder over the brownies made with Trader Joe’s cocoa powder.

•  Overall, more tasters preferred the brownies made with Trader Joe’s cocoa powder over the brownies made with Pernigotti cocoa powder.