Our 2015 trip to El Salvador was bound to be unique, different and better in many ways than any of the other 20+ trips I’ve made through Central America. On this particular trip there would be tears shed and piercing screams. Men would be on their knees making indistinguishable sounds. Women would stop in their… Continue Reading
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.
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.
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.
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.
Well here it is, you guys – the third installment of the PT’s Challenge. For those of you unfamiliar with the challenge, check out the original blog post by clicking here. Let’s get down to business and explore this week’s featured coffee, brew method, and the winning recipe! Featured Coffee: Sidama Guji Our Sidama Guji started its… Continue Reading
PT’s Coffee Roasting Co. is honored and delighted to announce that we are hosting specialty coffee producer Armando Benavides of Finca Santa Maria, a Direct Trade partner from Colombia. Benavides will be at our two retail cafés on Monday, April 6th, where he will discuss Colombian coffee production and the pursuit of his dream-turned-reality: growing… Continue Reading
One by one, the names of eight fierce competitors filled the vacant spots on the PT’s Challenge bracket. Competitors spent time getting to know the featured coffee and brew method. The outcome of this hard work: one kick-ass cup of coffee and a new champion. Let’s get down to the nitty gritty: this week’s… Continue Reading
We have a winner! The first PT’s Challenge went down this week at our roasting facility and we’re proud to announce Lara Prahm as champion. Featured Coffee: Palo Alto. Our featured coffee this week comes from Finca El Socorro in Guatemala. Owner Juan Diego de la Cerda goes above and beyond to consistently produce high quality… Continue Reading
Of the many things in life worthy of great love, coffee is near the top of the list. You love coffee. We love coffee. For many who don’t work in the coffee industry, it can be hard to find the time to explore all the different coffees and brew methods. Here’s the thing – you shouldn’t… Continue Reading
It’s been said that if you give a mouse a cookie, it’s bound to ask for milk. Well, if you give the team at PT’s cookies, we’re going to ask for something stronger than that. To celebrate the return of the Girl Scout cookie, our team has put together some excellent coffee pairings to accompany… Continue Reading
If I went West, I think I would go to Kansas. – Abraham Lincoln It’s Kansas Day and we’d like to take a moment to wish it a happy 154th birthday! We here at PT’s Coffee are pretty proud of our home state and it shows in the names of our blends. Flying Monkey Espresso An ode to one of the greatest… Continue Reading
January-February 2014 As always, the weather in Guatemala in January and February was especially invigorating. This year in particular, it provided an extra welcome relief from an exceptionally cold and snowy winter here in the Midwest. The prospect of trading my office for the outdoors is a much appreciated benefit, but make no mistake, our… Continue Reading