Coffee prices

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

THE QUEST FOR GREAT COFFEE

This article was republished with the permission of Dan Dean, Staff Writer for Observer & Eccentric Newspapers. Jeff Taylor’s journey to find exceptional coffee has taken him across the globe and along the way he has met some exceptional people, none more so than his wife, Maritza. “I met Maritza at a coffee competition in Ecuador… Continue Reading

MARCH ARRIVALS & NEW BOLIVIA DIRECT TRADE PARTNER

We are happy to announce our newest Direct Trade partnership with Juan Yurja in Bolivia.  When we were first introduced to this farm in 2011, it was an interesting coincedence. There was a micro-lot that had been originally prepared for the Bolivia Cup of Excellence, and the competition had been cancelled last year.  We were in… Continue Reading

PEABERRY MICRO-LOTS ARE NOW AVAILABLE

Our two most recent Direct Trade arrivals feature the Peaberry of a Caturra Variety, grown around 2000 meters .  The first roast date for these micro-lots will be on Monday, March 5th. Colombia Finca Villa Loyola Caturra Peaberry has a very complex and full bodied profile. Peaberries have a more concentrated flavor, making this coffee… Continue Reading

2011 HIGHLIGHTS AND YEAR IN REVIEW

As the year comes to a close, we want to look back at the highlights that made 2011 great!  2011 brought much success in our sourcing efforts, and we were able to get our hands on many Award Winning coffees. Whether it be the Best of Panama, Cup of Excellence, or even something from the… Continue Reading

THANKSGIVING SHIPPING UPDATE & NEW LOGO WARES

The holidays are rapidly approaching, and we have a few shipping updates to pass on to you for sharing great coffee with your family and friends. Thanksgiving is a time to feast, enjoy the gift of family and give thanks for all that we are grateful for. We are thankful for the time and effort… Continue Reading

FEDEX SHIPPING OPTIONS ARE NOW AVAILABLE

Shipping costs have been on the rise recently due to an increase in gas prices and inflation in our economy.  FedEx has been a competitive outlet for us, and we want to extend their shipping options to you. FedEx 2-Day and FedEx Overnight Rates are very competitive.  The FedEx Ground option has an added benefit for Residential Customers. … Continue Reading

NEW CROP GEISHA PRE-ORDERS ARE NOW AVAILABLE

We are very excited to offer the two best coffees from Panama in 2011.  In fact these two coffees were vying for the top spot in the SCAP Best of Panama competition.  It was a close finish in the competition, and they were only separated by a 1/2 point.  Jeff and Maritza Taylor were both… Continue Reading

MEMORIAL DAY SHIPPING & GUATEMALA FINCA EL VALLE

Memorial Day marks the beginning of Summer Vacation for many students across the country, and is a timeless tradition for honoring our loved ones, and the fallen soldiers who gave their lives to protect our freedom.  To pay tribute to our loved ones, we will be extending a free shipping promotion through the holiday weekend.… Continue Reading

FINAL ROAST – HACIENDA LA ESMERALDA – MARIO SAN JOSE

With all of the excitement surrounding the 2011 Hacienda La Esmeralda coffee auction, we felt that it is time to announce the final roast of our 2010 Mario San Jose auction lot.  After tasting each lot, we knew that there were two coffees that we had to have: Mario Carnaval and Mario San Jose. Both… Continue Reading