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Homes & Gardens
Homes & Gardens
Laura Honey

A chocolatier's advice on how to make the perfect mocha

How to make a mocha coffee - a mocha coffee on a countertop with coffee beans and sugar around it.

There's a lot of mocha love in the air at the moment. Whether you like yours over ice, extra strong, or with a square of chocolate on the side, mochas are a delicious way to enjoy your caffeine pick-me-up. They're simple, but there's a big difference in knowing how to make a mocha and knowing how to make a mocha with tips from chocolatiers and baristas.

As a barista and self-confessed chocoholic, I've had more than my fair share of mochas. I've tried syrups, powders, solid chocolate, fresh coffee, and instant coffee takes on making a mocha. Each method is an easy way to make coffee taste better, but some are better than others.

I asked chocolatiers and other baristas for their mocha-making tips and tricks. Essentially, when you start getting cheffy, you'll want to use one of the best espresso machines or moka pots to brew fresh coffee, and some premium chocolate or cocoa powder. These are often bigger investments, so you'll want to make sure you're well-informed. Here's everything you need to know.

What is a mocha?

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Mochas, also known as mochaccinos, combine espresso, steamed milk, and chocolate to create an indulgent drink that I refer to as a 'cocoa charmer'. If you don't like coffee, a mocha is one of the best places for you to start.

Cocoa or chocolate can taste bitter on its own. However, if you choose the right blend for your coffee, it can perfectly complement the notes of your coffee, adding flavor and sweetness. 

I recently did a coffee testing session with the founder of Artisan Coffee Co, Ashley Palmer Watts. Ashley worked with chocolatiers to create chocolate specific to each different type of coffee that he brews. He told me, 'Even people who don't think they can taste different notes in coffee can find chocolate really helpful. They're a 'tasting catalyst' if you like. Chocolate will amplify the flavors of your favorite bean. Once you've paired these two together, you won't go back'. 

I have to say, his The Big Shot Chocolate disks were incredible. I've since melted them into my coffees to make a mocha and they're the perfect pairing. Ashley is right about this – and so many other things.

The balance of flavors, combined with a caffeine and sugar boost, can be everything you need to put a spring in your step. There are plenty of low sugar options too, so you can enjoy a caffeine boost without the sugar.

How do I make a mocha?

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There are lots of different ways and I’ll explain them all, but if you want to make the best mocha on the market, you have two options.

Option number one is technically perfect and it's my favorite by a mine. I used to follow this recipe when I was a barista and my (decaf version) became a customer's pregnancy craving so much that her partner ended up buying a coffee machine to make these himself.

You need to start with the best quality coffee and chocolate you can find. Good quality coffee isn't hard to come by. If you buy organic, whole beans, well-suited to your flavor preferences, you shouldn't have a problem. Polly Woodruff, Head of Product at Divine Chocolate says that it's easy to spot top-quality chocolate. She says 'The secret is to look for a glossy, silky sheen, a clean snap, and smooth and creamy mouthfeel. Real cocoa butter should melt quickly in your mouth.'

(Image credit: Getty Images)

To start, warm up your stainless steel milk jug by filling it with hot water and then emptying it. Then, I place a handful (0.7 oz) of good-quality dark chocolate into the warm jug. I use Divine's 70% bars (at Walmart) because they are organic, certified by the Soil Association, and all of their chocolate tastes incredible.

Once your chocolate is in the jug, pour over one cup of milk and use a good quality milk frother or steam wand to froth your milk. If you’re doing this by hand, you need to make sure that your milk is moving in a vortex. The warm milk will melt the chocolate at the bottom of the jug until you have a frothy, glossy, hot chocolate.

Place this on the side and pull an espresso shot from your espresso machine – I would recommend Breville's Bambino Plus (see our review) – or your moka pot, like this one from Amazon . Pour your milk over the espresso and you will have possibly the richest mocha you’ll ever taste.

(Image credit: GettyImages)

If you don’t want your mocha to be a borderline dessert, you will need follow my alternative mocha recipe. This requires cocoa or hot chocolate powder in the place of melted chocolate. Again, I use Divine's cocoa powder, at Walmart for the same reasons as the chocolate. Mix three teaspoons with milk, so that it forms a paste. Then, add one cup of milk and use a milk frother or steam wand to froth your cocoa and milk mix into a hot chocolate.

Use your espresso machine to pull an espresso shot or your moka pot to make an espresso. Cup the crema off the top of your espresso before adding the hot chocolate. Although the crema indicates that you’ve made a good coffee, it tastes ashy and bitter. 

Tips and tricks for making a mocha

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Lots of baristas and chefs will put their own spin on mochas. There are some obvious variations, such as the type of chocolate or cocoa powder that you use. I’ve tried mint chocolate (very good), salted chocolate (even better), and orange chocolate (my personal favorite).

When it’s hot outside and you still want a caffeine fix, I would recommend making some coffee or hot chocolate ice cubes. If you add these to your brew you can make an iced mocha. It’s like drinking an ice cream. I think my obsession with these is bordering on a problem. I've recently started making cold brew coffee at home and using cold brew concentrate. This is smoother and sweeter. The first time I made this combination, I drank five in one day (and didn't sleep).

You can also get garnishing. If you have whipped cream and chocolate or caramel sauces, drizzling these over can make for a tasty treat. 

If you’re looking for a more filling and nutritious option, you could use your hot chocolate powder as a variation on the coffee smoothie trend. I really enjoyed this as a post-workout drink. When I added some cocoa powder, it was even better. 


Are mochas healthy?

That’s a broad question and the answer depends on your personal health. Generally, mochas have more sugar in them, so if you are watching your health, replacing your daily Americano with a mocha won’t do you much good. However, as a treat, or using low-sugar alternatives, mochas can be a delicious variation on your caffeine kick

What chocolate should I use in a mocha?

The store or café mochas that you’re used to will contain milk chocolate. It’s sweeter and more palatable. You can combine it with almost any coffee type and it will balance out acidity levels. I would recommend dark chocolate with an Ethiopian bean. This will be really rich and slightly bitter, but it won’t mask the flavors of your coffee beyond recognition 

Can I use solid chocolate in my mocha?

It’s how I make my signature mocha, so absolutely. I would recommend melting solid chocolate into warm milk and then adding it to your espresso.

Can mochas be dairy free or vegan?

If you use a plant based milk and dairy free chocolate (which dark chocolate often is), yes, they can be vegan and very very delicious.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

There's another word for nirvana, moksha. The fact that this transcendental state of happiness sounds like mocha is no coincidence. This is an incredible drink. If you try one in a café, it will probably taste too sweet. However, if you make it at home, you can adjust your flavors for a mind-blowing mocha experience.

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