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Rodolphe Lindt - Inventor and Innovator

Chocolate maker par excellence, chocolate innovator, and progressive inventor. Learn more about Rodolphe Lindt's fascinating history with the global food-favorite: Chocolate.

A Chocolate Makers Background

Rodolphe Lindt (née Rudolf Lindt, July 16, 1855 – February 20, 1909) was a Swiss chocolate maker and successful inventor and innovator.
Lindt was born in Berne, Switzerland, to pharmacist/politician Johann Rudolf Lindt and Armalia Eugenia Salchli. From 1873 to 1875 he completed his apprenticeship in Lausanne with the Amédée Kohler & fils chocolate company. In 1879, he founded his own chocolate factory in the Mattequartier on the Aare in Berne.

Rodolphe Lindt Invents the Conching Machine

Rodolphe Lindt was probably the most famous chocolate-maker of his day. In 1879 he developed a technique by which he could manufacture chocolate which was superior to all others of that period in aroma and melting characteristics. The conching machine, Rodolphe Lindt's most celebrated invention, is a lengthwise stirring device which gives chocolate a finer consistency and lets undesired aromas (such as bitterness) evaporate. Using the “conche” Lindt had invented, he produced chocolate with the exquisite delicate flavour and melt-on-your-tongue quality we know and love to this day.

Melting Chocolate (Chocolat Fondant)

How did Lindt invent the melting chocolate (aka. chocolat fondant) recipe? One possibility is that, following the advise given by his brother August, he let the conche stir the chocolate mass uninterruptedly for a long time period. Or according to legend, on a Friday evening Lindt was frustrated with his lack of progress in producing higher quality chocolate. He left his factory and forgot to turn of his conching machines. When he arrived back in the factory on Monday morning, he found a smooth, velvety, shiny chocolate mass waiting for him in his conches. The longer stirring time had resulted not only in a smoother consistency, but also in a vast improvement regarding the taste of chocolate, as the bitterness had been able to work itself out of the chocolate mass.

What Actually Happens in the Conche?

Conching is a key factor in determining the quality of the chocolate. It is one of the most important steps in the chocolate manufacturing process as it is possible to influence the texture, melting properties, and taste characteristics of the end product. Here too, the aim is to create the best possible taste and aroma profile. Although the previous grinding stage in the rolling mills ensures the particles are evenly distributed in the chocolate, these tiny particles can still form clumps. Intense shear forces in the conche help to break down these clumps again. At the same time, the chocolate mass heats up, allowing the unwanted volatiles and bitter acids to escape.

This releases the fat bound in the pores and significantly improves the flow properties of the chocolate. In addition, most of the water is removed, allowing the correct moisture balance to be achieved. This is important for producing a fine melting texture. Last but not least, the chocolate mixture, which assumes a powdery texture after being passed over the rough and fine rollers, is converted into a liquid chocolate mass in the conche, with liquid components such as cocoa butter also being added to the mix. After conching, the chocolate mass is ready to be made into chocolate tablets, hollow figures, and pralines.

The Chocolat Sprüngli AG Acquires Lindt

In 1899 Rodolphe Lindt sold his factory, the secret of conching, and his unique recipe to create chocolat fondant to Johann Rudolf Sprüngli-Schifferli, owner of the Chocolat Sprüngli AG. Sprüngli paid 1.5 million Gold Francs (equivalent to approximately CHF 100 million today) for this revolutionary invention and the marketing rights to the Lindt name.