A Moment of Science

The Secret of M&Ms

Have you ever wondered how candy companies get chocolate to evenly coat things like raisins and milk balls? Learn more on this Moment of Science.

Different colored M&Ms

Photo: roboppy (flickr)

M&Ms like these are made in a coating pan that sprays even coats of chocolate over the centers of the candy

Have you ever wondered how candy companies get chocolate to evenly coat things like raisins and milk balls?

Well, the centers of the candy are placed into what is called a coating pan, a machine that resembles a cement mixer. The coating pan rotates like a dryer and sprays melted chocolate over the candy centers that are tumbling around inside. It keeps rotating until the chocolate cools down and solidifies.

The idea behind the tumbling is that every part of every piece of candy is exposed to the same amount of chocolate spray. Then, during the cooling process, the tumbling prevents the candies from sticking together, and smoothes any rough edges so that the candies come out round. This process is repeated up to three times.

For sugar-coated candies, there are an additional two steps. After the chocolate has solidified, the same process is used to spray colorful sugar liquid over the candies. Finally, the candies get their gloss from a special type of vegetable oil that is solid at room temperature.

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