Holly

Coffee Processing

Coffee Processing

Coffee farming is tough work, but working to grow coffee from seed to harvest is only part of the job.  Once the coffee is harvested, the real work starts:  Processing.

Processing coffee is the act of removing the layers of skin, pulp, mucilage, and parchment that surround a coffee bean – the raw ingredient that the farmer will sell.  How a grower chooses to process the coffee will have a profound impact on how that coffee tastes.  

Given PT’s and Bird Rock are currently offering coffees that have gone through several different processing techniques, we thought it might be a good time to go over what these techniques are and how they affect the flavor of the coffee.  While there are several ways to process coffee, with countless variations of each, I will stick with the main ones we usually carry plus a few interesting twists on traditional methods that we now have in stock from some of the talented growers that we work with.

Washed/Wet Processed

Washed Process Coffee  📷   Jeff Taylor

Most of the coffee we sell is “washed” or wet-processed.  For this process, the freshly-harvested coffee cherries are de-pulped, which removes the skin and most of the fruit around the bean.  The coffee then is placed in tanks where it is allowed to naturally ferment for 18-24 hours.  This fermentation works to remove mucilage which is a sugary, slimy substance that surrounds the bean.  

Once the grower determines that the coffee has had enough fermentation, the coffee is washed with fresh water which stops the fermentation process.  Then the coffee is dried on Kenyan (raised) beds or patios before resting for 60-90 days in warehouses.  Coffees that are washed tend to be floral and more citrusy.

At Bird Rock, our Guatemala La Joya is washed while at PT’s, the new Mama Cata Toña from Panama is another wonderful example of a wet-processed coffee.

Natural/Dry-Processed

Natural Process Coffee  📷   Jeff Taylor

The second most common process that we carry is natural or dry-processed.  For naturals, ripe cherries are laid out on a patio or on Kenyan beds, fruit intact, and the coffee is allowed to slowly dry.  Once dry, the fruit is stripped away from the bean.  Coffees that are dry-processed tend to be fruitier and can be very intense and berry-like.

Both PT’s and Bird Rock are offering a coffee from Ethiopia, Gedeo, which is a good example of a classic, naturally-processed coffee.  This particular coffee works wonderfully as Espresso, evidenced by Bird Rock’s roast winning a Gold Medal at this year’s Golden Bean Awards.  

There are differences in the cup between PT’s version and Bird Rock’s so this is a nice opportunity to experience the effects roasting on different machines can have on the same bean.  

Bird Rock uses a Loring Roaster while PT’s uses both a vintage Gothot roaster and newer Dietrich IRs.  These roasters, by the way, apply heat differently to the green coffee so even though the final roast degree of the bean is the same on each roaster, the acidity, body, and complexity are altered based on how the coffee roasts.

One variation on the Natural Process is called Wine-Processed.  With a Wine-Processed coffee, instead of harvesting the cherries at the peak of harvest, the cherries are allowed to over-ripen on the shrub, thus giving the cherries a higher concentration of sugar.

Again, both PT’s and Bird Rock are offering the same coffee, this time from from Duncan Estate which is Wine-processed and, coincidentally, just won a Silver at the Golden Bean Awards.

Honeyed

Honey Process Coffees at Loma La Gloria.  📷  Chuck Patton

Honeyed Coffee has grown in popularity over the last few years, especially in countries like Costa Rica and El Salvador.  For Honeyed coffee, the harvested cherries are de-pulped, then the coffee is immediately placed on beds for slow drying – bits of pulp/fruit actually dries on to the coffee.  Depending on how much pulp is left on the coffee, Honeyed can be classified as Yellow, Red, or Black.  Coffee processed in this way, tends to be fruity like a natural and a little creamier in mouthfeel than a washed coffee.  

PT’s Loma La Gloria Red Honeyed is a nice example of this style.

More Variations on a Theme:

In the coming weeks Bird Rock and PT’s will be rolling out several new coffees from the famed Finca Kilimanjaro in El Salvador.  Two of these coffees demonstrate unique approaches to the Washed Process.

ETHIOPIA-style [Bird Rock]: With normal washed-process coffee, no water is added until after the coffee has fermented.  The water is used to clean the coffee and to stop the fermentation process.  At Kilimanjaro, they have been using water at different stages of the process to better manipulate the final cup character.  For the “Ethiopian-style,” once the coffee is de-pulped and placed in tanks, the coffee is covered in water for 48 hours so the coffee is actually fermenting underwater.  During this time, the water is drained and fresh water is added every 12 hours.  Once the coffee is washed and fermentation stopped, the coffee is placed back in tanks and covered with water again for 24 hours before drying.  

BURUNDI-style [Bird Rock]: This approach requires a 24-hour DRY fermentation, meaning that the de-pulped coffee is placed in tanks without being submerged in water, just like the regular washed-processed.  However, for their Burundi-style, the coffee is washed every 12 hours…which just means they add a little bit of fresh water and turn with a wooden paddle.  While the initial 24-hour fermentation time is average for most washed coffee, here the coffee is washed midway through the process and THEN the coffee undergoes continued fermentation underwater.  

This is a wonderful time of year to enjoy coffee and to be in the coffee business.   We usually see our best coffee coming in during the summer and fall and this year is no exception.  The variety of different processing techniques we are offering right now can make for a wonderful educational experience as well.

Earlier Articles

A NEW LOOK FOR OUR BLENDS!

As of Monday, July 19th you will see some new names added to our blend offerings, while some will seem to disappear. No worries though, fundamentally these coffees aren’t changing…just getting a fresh look and feel. The coffees you have come to know and love will still be available, but here’s a run down of… Continue Reading

USBC CHAMP TAKES THE WORLD!

We at PT’s want to offer our hearty congratulations to the new World Barista Champion, Mike Phillips from Intelligentsia in Chicago! Mike is the first American to ever win the event and we are proud of him! The other finalists were Raul Rodas of Guatemala in 2nd place, Scottie Callaghan of Australia in 3rd place,… Continue Reading

THE FUTURE OF ROBIN- FROM RETAIL TO WHOLESALE

Given the announcement yesterday of our change in leadership at PT’s Barrington Village, some of you are probably wondering what’s going on with the previous manager, Robin Seitz. No worries- only good things! Robin has accepted the role of Account Manager for our US accounts west of Kansas City. Starting June 1, 2010, he will… Continue Reading

NOW HIRED! PT’S BARRINGTON VILLAGE GETS SOME NEW LEADERSHIP.

As of June 1, 2010 there will be a new management regime at PT’s original location, Barrington Village. As the location has grown throughout its 17 years in operation, so has the role of management so we decided that it was time to take a little bit different approach… Three people in three distinct positions.… Continue Reading

RIGHT BACK ATCHA!

On Friday, April 9th we at PT’s hosted a day of education for the Washburn Rural High School’s culinary classes. Starting at 8am we had 3 groups of students come through to tour our roasting facility and see what it is that we do exactly. All together there were about 150 students that got an… Continue Reading

GOING LOCAL AND GOING GREEN ISN’T ALWAYS EASY…

But PT’s Coffee is committed to doing it right. Beginning April 1st, 2010, PT’s Coffee will only roast coffee grown in Kansas! Kansas’ relatively low elevation (mean elevation is 2,000 feet) and temperature swings will limit the annual production to just over 1 pound, but we understand that doing things right requires sacrifices. Our new… Continue Reading

Use PT’s coffee in your Keurig!

For those who are not already familiar with Keurig, it is the latest in single cup brewing technology for home use.  It delivers a cup of coffee in less than a minute, using pods called “K-cups” that hold a pre-dosed amount of ground coffee. While they have selections from a handful of roasters on their… Continue Reading

Palate Development-Tips for the Career Barista

                    In order to become a good barista one has to dedicate a lot of time to refining their movements and paying attention to all of the little things that go into a great shot of espresso. But, to truly go beyond that, to become a great… Continue Reading

PT's Barista gets the top technical score at the SCAA's 2009 United States Barista Championship.

Last weekend in Portland, Oregon baristas from around the country gathered to battle for the title of United States Barista Champion. Among them were PT’s own Robin Seitz and Chris Weber. Chris had to start in the preliminary round, which consisted of 51 baristas vying for one of 15 spots. He had a great run… Continue Reading