The Practice of Conching

Apr 18, 2014 by

This article was written by Phin Upham

Conching got its start in Berne in 1879, beginning with the chocolate maker Rodolphe Lindt. Lindt had formal training in the art of confections, and poured his savings into two fire-damaged factory buildings and roasting machinery he purchased from a bankrupt mill. His first attempts were failures because his roasters could not sufficiently dry the cocoa for roasting, and when he ground the moist nibs he produced very coarse chocolate.

If he put that chocolate into molds, he ended up with a white coating that many of his potential customers found unappealing. And so Lindt hired his brother August to help him determine what the problem was. The brothers discovered that there was too much water in the chocolate Lindt was trying to make. So August advised Rodolphe to heat his roller and let the chocolate mix for a longer period of time.

The brothers found an old water-powered grinder, and embedded an iron trough in it. With the curved edges, chocolate wouldn’t splash out as it was added. Each stroke of the roller broke the chocolate into smaller bits, injecting air into the mix.

The entire fixture looked like a conche shell, so the process became known as conching. The process aerated the chocolate and took the edge off of the bitter flavor of chocolate. Chocolate no longer needed to be pressed into molds, after a conching it could simply be poured into them. The new form of chocolate was also more palatable, even melting on the tongue as it was consumed.

About the Author: Phin Upham is an investor at a family office/hedgefund, where he focuses on special situation illiquid investing. Before this position, Phin Upham was working at Morgan Stanley in the Media & Technology group. You may contact Phin on his Twitter page.

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