We have just released two new coffees. We had to confirm a few process details with the farmer directly before getting the web site details ready and sending the info off to get our info cards printed. This is because we made an assumption that was wrong.
Our second washed Yirgacheffe of the season comes from the Worka Wuri wetmill located near Gedeb town, not far from Yirgacheffe. The mill sits at the remarkable altitude of 2,140masl and processes cherries from around 650 local smallholder farmers. As well as its altitude, Worka Wuri is notable for it's impeccable cherry selection and general attention to detail which reflects in the cup.
This lot was produced using a classic fully washed process, whereby carefully selected ripe cherries are pulped, fermented for 36-48 hours, washed and graded in washing channels and then dried in the sun on raised African beds for 12 - 15 days. This process brings out the very best of Ethiopian coffee's bright and floral character and this is a stunning example with notes of tinned peaches, blood orange and bergamot.
Our latest Costa Rican bombshell is Cordillera de Fuego from the Alujeula region and another great example of using specifically designed and controlled anaerobic fermentation to achieve some extraordinary flavour characteristics.
It took 6 years to master this twist on an anaerobic fermentation process which began with considering some fundamental principles: the coffee cherry is a fruit and the mucilage is the juice. The flavour of the fruits is concentrated in the juice and not the seeds. The mucilage will have differing levels of sugars according to the ripeness of the cherry, its variety, the time of year and the nutrients available in the soil, and therefore the mucilage across a ‘lot’ of coffee will have several flavours.
Their particular process uses a mucilage 'gel' donor. Intriguing eh ! This is how it works.
Cherries are harvested at 26 Brix and then placed inside stainless steels fermentation tanks. An additional selection is made for the coffees that will be the donors of the mucilage and these also have to be very ripe with a Brix reading close to 26. The mucilage donor cherries are pulped and the parchment is then passed through the demucilagination machine, tightly packed to create a mucilage ‘gel’.
This gel is then added into the fermentation tanks with the amount of gel enough to cover the entire mass of parchment, and mixed thoroughly to ensure homogeneity. Then the fermentation begins and is monitored and controlled by the temperature and pH (different yeasts and bacteria have their own favoured temperature range for active metabolism). Typically the process lasts between 18 and 23 hours.
One of the successful elements of any fermentation is to stop it once all the sugars of the mucilage have been consumed, but before alcohol is produced. During the fermentation the release of CO2 produced in the sealed tanks exerts a very high pressure and facilitates the flavour pre-cursors of the fermentation as well as the more volatile flavour components of the actual juice to be forced into the seeds themselves.
The result is quite something. Sweet, syrupy and boozy. Blackcurrant, cherry liqueur, candied orange and cinnamon. Yup - it's a whole mouthful of flavour.
These two little pocket books contain a wealth of useful information that together give you almost all you need to know about the journey of coffee from seed to cup to how you perceive flavours and how you can train yourself to be a better taster.
Written by two of the industries leading professionals and information resources. Freda Yuan's Sip 'n' Slurp and Mar North's Coffee: A Modern Field Guide. We have applied an automatic 10% discount if you order both.
Making an ASS out of U and ME
In our haste to release the new and super funky Costa Rican Cordillera de Fuego I made an assumption. It was wrong. What it led to was a direct communication via WhatsApp with the producer themselves for clarification and correction.
In the normal course of green coffee buying we (and I'd imagine most small specialty roasters) would rely solely on the information we're fed from the importers who bring the coffee into the country. In this case the importer had compressed a lengthy 5 page description written by a non-native english speaker into a single page 'summary'. There were some ambiguous statements and when I was putting the web store and info cards details together something just didn't sit right. The sacks have 'Anaerobic Natural' printed in them, but the one page importer summary stated that the cherries were picked then pulped immediately and then put in the pressurised fermentation tanks in an anaerobic (anoxic) environment. ie. not in the skin aka natural, but pulped.
So 'assuming' I had been supplied with correct information, I went ahead and changed the process description to my interpretation . ie pressurised pulped anaerobic. But something niggled at me and I searched online for the producer and eventually found their WhatsApp address. I introduced myself and asked for a little clarification with some very specific unambiguous questions. After a few to and fro's and polite virtual handshakes I received the answers in English along with a thank you for purchasing their coffee. The modern era of green coffee buying is one in which a small roaster in a remote part of a small island can communicate directly with a small producer in a very different part of the world. That's quite special.