Wikipedia A conche is a surface scraping mixer and agitator that evenly distributes cocoa
butter within chocolate and may act as a "polisher" of the particles. It also promotes flavor development through frictional heat, release of volatiles and acids, [and oxidation. ]
When ingredients are mixed in this way, sometimes for up to 78 hours, chocolate can be produced with a mild, rich taste. Lower quality chocolate is conched for as little as 6 hours. Since the process is so important to the final texture and flavor of chocolate,
manufacturers keep the details of their conching process proprietary.
Chocolate Alchemy [says] The characteristic taste, smell and texture (and by this, I mean general mouthfeel, not particle size) of chocolate are developed at this stage.
The process of reducing the particle sizes of both cocoa solids and sugar crystals in finished chocolate. The goal is somewhere in the range of 15-25 microns. Your tongue loses its ability to determine texture and grittiness at around 30 microns.
Conching refers to the hours to smoothen cocoa beans and sugar. Wikipedia leads us to the impression: 78 hours of conching, yields high quality, and six hours to lower quality chocolate. A deception by omission, as no indication of how many pounds were used in the batches. Wikipedia hides behind "manufactures keep the details of their conching process propriety" to end your questions.
Conching is a fancy word for crushing, or shear: a flattening of a three-dimensional body, to achieve smoothness. What's happening scientifically is called oxidation, or redox: a continuous breaking up of cocoa particles, exposing the innards to air, releasing it's aroma molecules in exchange for moisture molecules. The more surface area of the cocoa exposed to the air, the more decay occurs. The health related benefits get destroyed at the conching stage.
Trade-off: smooth and sweet vs. textured and healthy. Ideally we want to retain maximum aroma and taste, while reducing cocoa particle size, but not at the expense of the unique taste, origin and medicinal effects of the chocolate.
What Wikipedia omitted was the batch size. We researched who made the first conch machine. Unfortunately the specifications did not indicate the batch size. However, we found an article in The New Yorker, about a visit to the chocolate factory in Hershey, Pa. an interview with Bill Wagner, who for 45 years was in charge of conching. He lays some chocolate on the tip of his tongue and presses it upward. The statement that sends 90,000 pounds on its way to be eaten is always the same. Wagner’s buds blossom, and he says, “That’s Hershey’s.”
The batch size of 90,000 pounds in 78 hours does not leave much time for each pound.
Comparing 78 hours, and 6 hours in the conching process without disclosing the batch size is deception at its finest. Purposely, to discourage people from starting a chocolate business, as it did for us more than ten years ago. When we learned about the 35 to 78 hours devoted per batch, we just gave up on the idea to start a bean to bar chocolate business. An impossibility for a Mom & Pop business.