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What is Conching?

Mary McMahon
By
Updated May 16, 2024
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Conching is an important step in the process used to turn cacao beans into chocolate. Without this step, the resulting chocolate will be gritty, lacking the smooth, even texture that people associate with it. After conching, the chocolate can be tempered and then poured into molds to make bars, truffles, and a variety of other products. Most people do not conch their chocolate at home, unless they are making it from scratch, as the process is laborious and time consuming.

Before the development of conching, chocolate was rarely sold in bar form, because the bars were gritty, with sharp particles of material that made the product taste rather unpleasant. Instead, people drank their chocolate; for a time, it was a very exclusive drink enjoyed only by royalty and the upper classes. In the late 1800s, a chocolate producer developed the conching technique, which involves grinding the chocolate for hours on end, polishing the particles to create a smooth end product. The process is named for the containers that were originally used, which resembled shells; concha means “shell” in Spanish.

Today, conching is performed in huge industrial machines that can run for up to 96 hours, and sometimes even longer. The length of time required varies, depending on the origin of the chocolate being conched, and any ingredients conched with it. The chocolate is kept warm and liquid through the friction created by the machine, which grinds the chocolate against a hard surface using rollers.

It is possible to construct a conche at home. People who enjoy mixing and creating their own chocolate may also use special attachments for food processors and blenders for conching. For home cooks, the process can be a challenge, because it generates a great deal of heat. Most home appliances cannot withstand the conching process, which requires them to run for hours or days at a low speed.

Industrial manufacturers of chocolate often show off their conches during factory tours, because these machines are incredibly large and quite impressive to see. Conching is designed to process huge batches of chocolate, and many companies have rows and rows of conches to accommodate the demand for their chocolate. The room smells intensely of chocolate, as you might imagine, and it's also quite warm and noisy, thanks to the running machines that pulverize the chocolate to the desired texture.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon1000137 — On Jun 05, 2018

@bagley79, Hershey does not give out free samples. Instead, they have a large store that acts as a museum and retail store. Also, from what I saw, all of their machines are covered. In a few words, you don't see the giant granite wheels.

By anon935764 — On Feb 26, 2014

I have made use of a small handy home chocolate conching machine and made many bathes of chocolate. The same machine is also using for grinding cocoa nibs to extract cocoa butter.

By andee — On May 26, 2012

I have been to a chocolate factory where I have seen the conches grinding the cocoa beans into smooth chocolate. The amount of chocolate they can make in one day is pretty impressive.

This is quite an interesting thing to see whether you like chocolate or not. I can't imagine trying to do this at home. I don't think the time or expense would be worth it.

There are a lot of things I like to do myself at home, but chocolate is one of those things I have never considered.

There are so many different varieties to choose from and it isn't very expensive, so I will let the chocolate companies keep on doing the necessary conching.

I'll continue to take the finished product and make sweet treats with it. I use chocolate a lot in baking. I also think the best dark chocolate is when you eat it with some fresh fruit. There is something about the taste of chocolate and strawberries that can't be beat.

By sunshined — On May 25, 2012

I have also heard that there are antioxidants in chocolate that can be good for you. If eating dark chocolate is the only way to get these health benefits, I guess I'm not getting any.

I just don't care for the taste of dark chocolate and love a milk chocolate candy bar with some almonds in it. Maybe the nuts have a little bit of nutritional value!

Receiving health benefits isn't a reason I eat chocolate. I just love the taste of it and when I am having a stressful day, chocolate has a wonderful way of making me feel better.

I know some people enjoy eating sugar free chocolate, but I figure if you are going to enjoy some chocolate, you might as well have the real thing.

By SarahSon — On May 25, 2012

@bagley79 - I think most of the health benefits of chocolate do come from eating the dark chocolate. The milk chocolate probably has too much sugar added to make it very healthy.

I never used to like dark chocolate, but have slowly acquired a taste for it. Now that I am used to it, that seems to be what I prefer. The milk chocolate almost seems too sweet to me.

I think the higher percentage of cocoa you can get in your dark chocolate the better it is for you. I like eating a dark chocolate bar that has about 80% cocoa and a little bit of fruit such as raspberries, orange or cherries mixed in with it.

A bite of this after a meal is the perfect solution to satisfy my sweet tooth.

By bagley79 — On May 24, 2012

Being a big chocolate lover, I find this conching process to be very interesting. I knew that the wealthy used to drink their chocolate, but never realized how difficult it was to make the smooth, delicious chocolate I am used to.

I have always wanted to visit Hershey, Pennsylvania and take a tour of their factory. With as much chocolate as they produce, I imagine they would have several conches operating at the same time.

I would love to walk into a warm room that smelled like chocolate. I bet they give free samples too.

I don't know much about the nutritional value of chocolate, but have heard from several sources that there are some benefits to eating dark chocolate. That sounds like a good enough reason for me to have a little bit of chocolate every day.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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