Part 2: El Salvador After a quick cupping at Servex with our friends at La Providencia and Finca Guatelon on my last day in Guatemala, I jumped on a bus to El Salvador. Upon my arrival I was warmly received by Lucia and Roberto of Las Mercedes and a generous pour of Blue Label! After… 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.
Part 1 In February of this year, Bird Rock Coffee Roasters and PT’s Coffee Roasting Company joined forces. As a result of this new partnership, both companies will see expanded coffee offerings by this summer. We hope customers of both companies will enjoy what we have in store for this year and for many years… Continue Reading
Happy National and International Coffee Day! As you gaze into your mug of dark and lovely wake-the-heck-up this morning, slowly shifting through the haze of sleepiness into the land of the awake and productive, take a moment with me to contemplate the incredible amount of work it took to get from rich soil in a… Continue Reading
Set it and forget it. Subscribe to your favorite coffees once and we will deliver them to you automatically every 1-4 weeks. Never run out of your favorite coffees again. Simply select the coffee you want to receive in the store, click Subscribe, and choose how often you want it shipped to you. We will process… Continue Reading
Whoa. 23 years ago today, PT’s Coffee opened our first cafe in Topeka, Kansas and we’ve been growing and innovating ever since. Happy birthday to us! From all of us on the PT’s Coffee Team, thanks for your support.
This year we entered the Compak Golden Bean Roasters competition with a great line up of coffees. This event has been running successfully for nearly a decade in Australia and has been one of the key elements in the growth of the Australian coffee industry by way of rewarding the coffee roasters, the vital person in… Continue Reading
Each year we have the pleasure of bringing some of the highest caliber specialty coffees through our roasting facility. We believe in the connection between the quality of any one coffee and the producers and farmers who work long hours to actualize it. Just like your favorite type of produce, quality is tied to seasonality… Continue Reading
PT’s Coffee Phil woke up this morning and saw his shadow, so that means six more weeks of winter. Brrrr! Fear not, we’ll help you get through with 22% off of our Signature PT’s Team Scarf and select Direct Trade coffees! PT’s Team Scarf Modeled after the scarves of our favorite footie teams (Go Sporting KC!), this jacquard… Continue Reading
Announcing Our Collaboration Coffee Bars with Christopher Elbow Chocolates! The brainchild of Christopher Elbow Chocolates and PT’s Coffee, this collection of chocolate bars have been meticulously crafted to compliment the flavors of single origin coffee and varietal chocolate, creating a perfectly delicious pairing. Christopher Elbow Chocolates has teamed up with PT’s Coffee Roasting Co. to create a collection of… Continue Reading