September 2015 Newsletter
Cupping is an ongoing fact of life for me, but I think this month
has set a record for the amount of coffee cupping I've done. My
first priority has been to find acceptable substitutes for the
maragogype beans, then to reformulate the blends that contain them.
Several customers have asked me if we'll have maragogypes in the
future. Right now the answer is that I just don't know, and neither
does anyone else in the Australian coffee industry.
My main green coffee merchant explained it best: "Climate change has
allowed Leaf Rust Disease to infect trees at higher altitudes, where
the mara's grow. Maragogypes are more susceptible to disease anyway,
so smaller farmers who only have a few trees are ripping them out
and replanting with resistant non-mara varietals. Larger farms with
dedicated plantings are using fungicides but this pushes prices way
up. Eventually they'll replant too, so in the near future mara's are
going to be both very scarce and very expensive, and almost
certainly out of reach of Aussie buyers."
So that's it then for the next year and maybe longer. I'm also
hearing hints of major disease problems in Cuba but I don't have any
definite advice on availability yet.
Anyway, enough doom and gloom, this month I wanted to talk about the
different coffee processing methods and the effects they have on
The majority of Arabica coffees, including most of those we sell,
are WET PROCESSED. Ripe coffee cherries are put through a pulper to
remove the tough skin, and the mucilage covered beans are then
submerged in water. The natural sugars in the mucilage and natural
yeasts and other micro-organisms then begin to ferment. After
sufficient fermentation, the mucilage separates from the parchment
covered beans, the beans are washed clean and dried in the parchment
to a moisture level of 11-13%.
In general, washed coffees have higher acidity, cleaner, more
defined flavours and lighter body.
Then come SEMI-WASHED or GILING BASAH coffees, virtually exclusive
to Indonesia. The pulped cherries are put into containers and
fermented with the fruit on for 12 - 24 hours, then washed to remove
the mucilage. The beans are then put through a machine to remove
parchment while still very moist (30-35%) and then sun dried. This
gives low acidity, earthy flavours and heavy body to the coffee.
PULPED NATURAL, HONEY or MIEL coffees go through the pulper to
remove the skins, but the coffee is then spread out to avoid
fermentation and allowed to dry with the mucilage on. The amount of
pulp can be varied, from "RED HONEY" (lots) to "WHITE HONEY" (only a
thin coating.) Pulped natural coffees have more intense flavours and
aromas, more sweetness, less acidity and more body.
DRY PROCESS coffees are simply the whole coffee cherry, skin, pulp
and all, dried in the sun. When the drying is complete the beans are
husked out. If the beans ferment during the process they can pick up
a variety of "off" flavours. Done right, dry process coffees are complex,
sweet, fruity and full bodied. As is this month's special,
Ethiopian Dry Process Yirgacheffe
Usually a wet processed coffee, this version has a floral aroma with
sweet fruit flavours and acid, finishing with deep chocolate tones.
The best description is probably chocolate coated strawberries.
Until next month