Craft the Perfect Cup

Master the Art of Making Hot Chocolate

Two empty NACHTMANN Ethno hot beverage mugs in front of a portafilter machine and a coffee grinder. On the machine more Ethno coffee mugs are heeating up. To the right a coffee tamper.<br/>

Hot chocolate is arguably the ultimate comfort drink. To craft the perfect cup, it helps to understand the components that make up hot chocolate, including the chocolate base, the mixer, and any optional twists, and experiment to find what works best for you. Here, we cover the ingredients to use and approaches we recommend you take to enjoy the perfect hot chocolate every time.

The NACHTMANN Noblesse tea mug with hot tea in it and rock candy. On the wooden table, there are more sticks with brown rock candy, a jar with lavender flowers, a second filled crystal tea mug and a shining tea light.<br/>

Building your hot chocolate

Hot chocolate is relatively simple to make, requiring only a few ingredients. Altering these ingredients can make your hot chocolate sweeter, more bitter, creamier, fruitier, and so on. Here's what you'd need:

  1. Chocolate base. This most commonly comes in the form of cocoa powder, but it can also be a chocolate block or shavings that you melt. Unsurprisingly, the chocolate you choose has a profound impact on the outcome of your drink. Dark chocolate lends itself to a more refined hot chocolate due to its intense cocoa notes, whereas milk or white chocolate creates a sweeter, creamier profile.
  2. Mixer. The choice of mixer, whether water, milk, cream, or alternative milk options like almond or oat milk, affects the texture and creaminess of the hot chocolate. You may prefer the richness of whole milk, the nutty undertones of almond milk, or the thinning effect of using more water.
  3. Sweetener and other flavor enhancements. While chocolate provides sweetness, you can also add additional sweeteners like sugar, honey, or maple syrup to tailor your hot chocolate's overall sweetness to your preferences. Typically, when making homemade hot chocolate in a saucepan, sugar is used with the cocoa powder, while you can also add a pinch of salt to enhance the chocolate flavors of the drink. You can also alter your hot chocolate's character with additions such as vanilla extract, cinnamon, nutmeg, or a splash of liqueur, giving it greater depth and complexity.
  4. Toppings. These are great ways to add extra visual appeal and indulgence to your hot chocolate. Whipped cream, marshmallows, chocolate shavings, or a sprinkle of cocoa powder are some classic toppings worth considering.

When making hot chocolate, dry ingredients (cocoa powder, sugar, salt, etc) are the first to go in the saucepan. The mixer is then added and heated to a simmer, stirring regularly to create a smooth, creamy consistency. Any additional liquid ingredients, such as vanilla extract or liquor, are then added and mixed in, with toppings going on last to complete the beverage.


Dos and don'ts of making hot chocolate

  • Do use quality chocolate with a high cocoa butter content. The type and quality of chocolate used significantly impacts the flavor and richness of hot chocolate. Quality chocolate with a high cocoa butter content creates that smooth, melt-in-your-mouth texture that any good hot chocolate should possess. While cheaper chocolates with a lower cocoa butter content will still melt and make for an edible drink, the result is more likely to have a gritty texture, making for a suboptimal experience.
  • Don't allow your mix to burn. If you leave your cocoa powder or chocolate on the hob for too long or turn the temperature on too high, it will burn, creating a gritty, smelly mess in your saucepan. To avoid this, keep your pan on low-medium heat, stir your chocolate regularly, and promptly add water, milk, or cream to the pan before your chocolate or dry mix can burn.
  • Do be mindful of your balance of flavors. Adding extra ingredients such as cinnamon or liqueur can be a great way to upgrade your hot chocolate and tailor it to your preferences. However, adding large quantities of these ingredients will result in your overpowering the chocolate. Instead, add just a hint of these ingredients to complement the chocolate flavors, allowing your hot chocolate to shine.
  • Don't neglect your toppings. Since you only need cocoa powder, sweetener, and milk to make hot chocolate, it can be easy to miss out adding toppings at the end. However, this is the part that transforms a tasty beverage into a captivating, indulgent experience. So remember to add that whipped cream and those marshmallows and take your hot chocolate to the next level.
  • Do stir your mixture thoroughly. A lack of stirring can result in chocolate being left in the pan or your hot chocolate ending up lumpy. Stirring properly, ideally using a whisk, will allow you to enjoy a smooth, chocolatey beverage just as it should be.
Two empty NACHTMANN Ethno hot beverage mugs in front of a portafilter machine and a coffee grinder. On the machine more Ethno coffee mugs are heeating up. To the right a coffee tamper.<br/>

Different styles of hot chocolate you can make

Now you understand the concepts of making hot chocolate, here are a few approaches you might want to try out:

  • For a rich hot chocolate that packs a punch, opt for a high-quality dark chocolate with a cocoa content of 70% or higher. Sweeten with a touch of sugar or honey, and add a splash of vanilla extract for depth of flavor. Top with a dollop of freshly whipped cream and a dusting of cocoa powder.
  • For a creamy, sweet creation (the kind that your kids will love), opt for milk chocolate and use whole milk or a mixture of milk and cream as your mixer. While you can further sweeten your dry mix with sugar, consider using maple syrup or honey if you'd prefer to test the sweetness of your mixture first. This type of hot chocolate is also the perfect kind to go all out on with your toppings. Marshmallows, chocolate syrup - the works!
  • If you enjoy spices and aromatics, you can infuse your hot chocolate with cinnamon, nutmeg, or cardamom. Add these ingredients to your dry mixture, so they have plenty of time to impart their flavors. When your drink is ready, garnish it with a cinnamon stick for stirring and a sprinkle of freshly grated nutmeg for a hot chocolate that goes a little against the grain.
  • If you want your hot chocolate to double up as a nightcap, you can add a splash of liqueur, like Irish cream, Kahlúa/Tia Maria, or Grand Marnier. Choose your preferred chocolate base and mixer, then stir in a shot of liqueur before serving. Top with whipped cream because there's no need to be too mature.

Bear all of the above in mind next time you go to enjoy a homemade hot chocolate and enjoy your sweet creation like never before.


Hot Beverage Glasses