How is Chocolate Milk Made?

The very mention of the words chocolate milk has the power to transport you back to your childhood drinking ice-cold milk with spoonfuls of delicious chocolate powder! In fact not only is it a wonderful throwback to more innocent times, it also contains calcium, protein and vitamin D. But how is chocolate milk produced? Read on to find out.

Engineering How It’s Made
26 September 2022

All the benefits of milk, plus chocolate. What’s not to like! Chocolate milk is one of the world’s most popular drinks for people of all ages.

Today, you can buy it in vegetarian and vegan varieties that use dairy-free and plant-based milk alternatives. So where does it come from and how was chocolate milk invented?

Chocolate Milk - A Short History

Sharing chocolate milk. Delicious! (Photo: Fuse via Getty Images)

Whilst milk has been available since the domestication of animals as far back as 7000 BC, the world had to wait patiently for 8,500 years for chocolate milk to appear!

As early as the fifteenth century, Jamaicans were boiling cacao with milk and cinnamon but it wasn’t until the late 1600s or early 1700s that chocolate milk came into being. Thanks, it is believed, to botanist and naturalist Sir Hans Sloane. He is credited with the invention of chocolate milk although it’s possible chocolate and milk were combined elsewhere – perhaps by the Aztec people or Spanish settlers in South America – but it seems these stories may be lost to history.

Whoever it was who first wondered how chocolate milk is made, we thank them profusely!
Sloane was given a hot drink of cacao and water by the locals. He found the taste rather unpleasant so he added milk and the basic recipe travelled back with him to England. By the 1820s, John Cadbury was selling powdered chocolate (which he made himself in a pestle and mortar) and he sold it as an antidote to the dangers of alcohol.

Just after World War II, food giant Nestlé gave the world Nesquik and we haven’t looked back!

Here, we’ll answer the question ‘how is chocolate milk made in a factory?’

Making Chocolate Milk 

Chocolate milk pour and splash (Photo: Jack Andersen via Getty Images)

The process of how chocolate milk is made starts with the core ingredient, milk. Normal cow’s milk is about 90% water. It’s also packed full of nutrients so it quenches your thirst and is good for you. So how is standard milk turned into its chocolate variety? Here are the key steps:

Milking The Cows

Today, the milking process is fully automated using vacuum machines which extract the raw milk from the cows and pumps it into large, refrigerated tanks where it’s cooled to around 4°C.

Separating The Milk

Separation is one of the most important steps in the process of making milk. The milk is separated into its component parts by spinning it at very high speeds. The cream, skimmed milk and whole milk have different densities so they’re easy to separate. The heavier milk and cream falls to the bottom and the skimmed milk rises to the top.

The milk is then passed through a clarifier, which removes any foreign objects in the liquid. Next it’s passed through a separator which removes the cream from the skimmed milk, controlling the fat content of the final product. Any remaining milk fat can be used for other dairy products such as cream or butter.


Pasteurisation kills off unwanted bacteria in the milk and the process involves pumping it through a pipe at 72°C for around 15 seconds. A sensor in the pipe ensures the temperature of the milk is precise. If it’s out, the milk may need to be reprocessed. This is one of the most important stages of making milk and goes a long way to answering the question ‘how is chocolate milk made in a factory?’


Homogenisation improves the shelf life of milk by making it more stable. This is because the homogenisation process breaks down the milk’s fat molecules and evenly distributes them throughout the liquid. This stops the milk from separating into cream and milk, which happens when milk is left to sit for a length of time.


Fortification is the process of adding vital nutrients such as calcium and vitamins to milk. It can also help to improve the shelf life of milk and make it more resistant to spoilage. There are a number of ways to fortify milk but the most common method is to add powdered vitamins and minerals to pasteurised and homogenised milk. Fortifying milk improves its nutritional value without altering its taste or texture. Now it is time to turn it from ordinary milk to chocolate milk!

How is the Milk turned Chocolatey?

Chocolate milk cartons on a production line (Photo: MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images )

It’s the crucial step, it makes all the difference, it’s momentous. It’s also relatively straightforward. You mix milk with chocolate syrup. Done.

Making the Chocolate Syrup

To make the syrup, the cocoa beans are roasted and then ground into a fine powder. Next, the chocolate powder is mixed with hot water to make what’s known as a liquor. The liquor is mixed with sugar to make the syrup. Finally, the chocolate syrup is mixed with the milk in huge vats alongside stabilisers like starch or cellulose carbohydrates to prolong the milk’s shelf life. The end result is wonderful chocolate milk!


Chocolate milk on shelves (Photo: Roberto Machado Noa via Getty Images)

The chocolate milk is packaged up into screw-top plastic bottles or heat-sealed cardboard containers and shipped out in refrigerated trucks to supermarket shelves up and down the country. And that’s the final step in the process of manufacturing chocolate milk, answering the questions of ‘how is chocolate milk made’ and ‘how was chocolate milk invented’.


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