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This Week in Coffee: Farming-Processing Part 1

For the past few weeks we have been serving up some delicious pourover coffees from our current guest roaster, Mountain Air Roasting of Asheville, North Carolina. Today we are switching gears and serving up Mountain Air espresso with pourover options from George Howell Coffee.

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Mountain Air’s American Espresso is a Colombian coffee from the Huila region that tastes fruited, bright, and lively, and pairs beautifully with milk to become your favorite espresso drink. From George Howell we have an old favorite, Borboya from Ethiopia and a new option, Quispe Senk’a from Peru. Borboya is light and floral with notes of sweet lemon, lavender, and green tea. Quispe Senk’a is fruity and tropical with notes of pineapple, sangria, and passion fruit.

 

Also available and perfect for the summer like heat we have been experiencing, is our cold brew. Want easy access to cold brew at home or at the office? Reserve a cold brew growler today and pick it up tomorrow!

 

Focus on Farming: Washed Processing

 

After a bit of a hiatus, we are back with our Focus on Farming Coffee series! This winter’s posts included details on some of the various factors that effect the growth and taste of different coffee beans including a basic overview, soil effects, climate conditions, altitude, varietals, and harvest. Now, moving past the growing process, we are turning to the next step in coffee production: processessing.  There are a few different ways to “process” coffee, or remove the fruit of the coffee cherry from the coffee seed or bean, preparing the freshly harvested coffee for roasting. Today’s post is dedicated to the most common manner of processing: traditional washed processing.

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Photo courtesy of George Howell Coffee

Washed processing completely removes the cherry and pulp from the coffee seed through friction, fermentation, and a water wash. Fresh from the harvest, the coffee is first weighed and then fed through a depulping machine (pictured above) which uses blades and a water wash to remove the fruit, leaving a thin layer of mucilage coating of natural sugars and alcohols on the bean. This mucilage has a great impact on the flavor of the coffee and after depulping, must be fully removed from the coffee bean. This can be done through fermentation or mechanically.

Depending on several factors, including desired flavor, amount of mucilage, and climate conditions, fermentation can take as few as six hours or as long as four days. Turbulent water and naturally present bacteria break down the mucilage and can remove 100% of the sugars and alcohols. Mechanical demucilagers can strip most of the mucilage, but not all. This new technology can be carefully calibrated to remove a controlled amount of mucilage by applying friction with bristles. This method also uses a considerably smaller amount of water and produces less waste.

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Photo courtesy of George Howell Coffee

After washing and fermentation, coffee is spread out to dry. At this point in processing, the coffee is still surrounded by a protective parchment skin. When drying, the coffee bean shrinks, allowing for easy removal of the parchment in a final step of preperation: hulling. Once the parchment is removed from the dry bean, the green (or unroasted) coffee is ready to be packaged and shipped to roasters around the world.

For more information on washed processing, check out this page on the Stumptown Coffee website. This photo page from George Howell’s 2007 trip to Kenya also includes some great photos and descriptive captions of traditional washed processing.

 

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