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From the Stone Creek Coffee Laboratory: Case Study Series - How does coffee bean processing affect flavor?
7/9/2014

By: Christian Ott

On Thursday, July 10th, Stone Creek Coffee will be launching it’s first ever Case Study Series called “How does coffee bean processing affect flavor?”

We sourced these coffees during our trip to Guatemala from a farm called San Sebastian. The farm sits at the base of the Acatenango Volcano in Antigua, Guatemala. The farm extends over 500 hectares, ranging from altitudes of 1200-2000m. Estuardo Falla Castillo, a fourth generation coffee farmer, and Edgar Cabrera Cozza oversee the farm.

  
                  (San Sebastian Farm)                                       (Red Bourbon at San Sebastian)

This coffee comes from a particular section of the farm known as Santa Domingo. Here, Estuardo and Edgar cultivated the Caturra Amarillo variety at 1500 meters above sea level in sandy loam soil. Picked between January and March, this coffee underwent three different processing styles.

Sustainability is integral to the values of San Sebastian. Macadamia trees line coffee fields, providing shade for the plants. Workers and children have access to a K-12 school located on the farm. Many picking families have worked on the farm for 30-50 years!

There are hundreds of variables that affect the flavor of your coffee –most of which occur before we roast it! Though highlighting one variable, such as processing, we are able to demonstrate how one variable can dramatically affect the flavor. When traveling to farms like San Sebastian, it’s inspiring to meet growers like Estuardo and Edgar, who make daily decisions about put in hard labor to start the process.

The three styles of processing in this box are washed, semi-washed, and natural.

Coffee grows inside of a fruit called a coffee cherry. The method of removing the fruit has a dramatic effect on the flavor of the coffee. There are three primary methods of processing, each producing a unique result.

Washed: A pulper removes the skin and most of the fruit (also called mucilage) from the beans. Coffee then soaks in washing tanks for 12-24 hours. This encourages controlled fermentation, developing flavor and removing excess mucilage. Once washed, the coffee dries via sunlight on patios for 15 days.

  
                                                                                     (Washing tanks at San Sebastian)

Semi-Washed: A pulper removes the skin around the cherry, but leaves part of the mucilage around the bean. The mucilage dries onto the parchment, soaking extra sugars into the bean. It dries via sunlight on patios for 12 days.

  
                                                                      (Semi-washed yellow caturra drying on patio; washed is to right)

Natural: The coffee cherry remains intact and dries onto the coffee bean. Coffee cherries dry on patios or drying beds for 18 days, absorbing the concentrated sugars and acids from the fruit. 

  
                                                                                       (Natural process drying on the patio)

This Case Study Box also represents our commitment to Farm to Cup model of buying coffee. We care where your coffee comes from. Sure, we could call a coffee importer, place an order, and get it next day. However, we want to go that extra step and actually know where our coffees come from. We hop on a plane, meet the farmer, see their farm, see their mill, understand their mission, and work directly to pick, processes, and sort the best coffee. We currently source about 70% of our coffee via this model, but our goal is to source it all this way. This is what we believe. It’s Farm to Cup in motion. Sip Slowly!

 

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