"Labour of the Fruits" Coffee Set 1 of 3 - Fruit Maceration
As we cross from COVID 2022 to the hopefully no COVID 2023, we are releasing 3 coffee boxes (each with 3 coffees of 100 gm) specifically to showcase the new trends in coffee processing as well as to bring out some ideas we have about coffee.
November 2022, we will have 3 fruit maceration coffees, all from Colombia, Quindío department, and all by Jairo Arcila, the father of the founders of Cofinet. They are:
Jairo Arcila - Natural Pink Bourbon Mandarin (Santa Monica)
Jairo Arcila - Honey Pink Bourbon Passion Fruit and Wine Yeast (Finca Villarazo)
Jairo Arcila - Honey Pink Bourbon Strawberry and Wine Yeast (Finca Villarazo)
Specific information about the 3 coffees can be found in the links above. What we want to cover in this blog is how these methods have evolved at Cofinet, their comparisons, and what we think this exotic process has done to the coffee beans. We will cover specific brewing recommendations via videos on our social media.
Quindío department of Colombia is a bedrock of coffee experimentation and innovation. It's fate has been intertwined with coffee, and it is part of the Coffee Axis of Colombia, also known as Coffee Triangle, registered as Coffee Cultural Landscape UNESCO World Heritage Site. Quindío is located at the Central Range of the Colombian Andes, which is the highest of its 3 branches. It has elevation of 1,500 m, overlooked by the peaks of Andes mountains in the east and very high volcanoes at above 4,700 m, contributing nitrogen-rich volcanic soils to the cultivation region. It has a tropical climate, with stable temperature between 17°C and 29°C throughout the year, with fog forming at night and dawn. The 12°C diurnal range is ideal for coffee cultivation, ensuring a slow development in sugars and acids, producing coffees which are sweet and complex. Rainfall is ample and distributed throughout the year, with total rainfall similar to Singapore at 2,100 mm. Such ideal terroir is no wonder it has been the major coffee growing region in Colombia.
Firstly, all 3 coffees are Pink Bourbon variety. Also called Orange Bourbon, it is a natural mutation between the Red and Yellow Bourbon discovered in Colombia. But first the Bourbon, which the World Coffee Research Organization says it is “one of the most culturally and genetically important… varieties in the world”. It grows well at high altitude and was distributed to Americas and Africa via French missionaries in the 19th century. The variety interacted with the local ecosystems, mutating naturally into new varieties with names that reflect this history, e.g. French Mission in Kenya. Being susceptible to diseases, it requires more maintenance during cultivation, leading to lower yield albeit a higher quality one. It is loved for its full body, sweetness, buttery and syrupy texture. Inheriting the traits of the original variety, Pink Bourbon has improved productivity, resistance to pests and diseases, and flavour. Even in ideal growing conditions, Pink Bourbon is challenging to cultivate. In addition to meticulous plant maintenance, farmers must isolate their crops to encourage successful cross-pollination and the ongoing production of pink fruit.
Producer Jairo Arcila has been growing coffee in Quindío for over 40 years. He bought his first coffee farm, Finca La Esmeralda in 1987. His coffee business was doing so well he managed to purchase more farms in succeeding years, of which Finca Villarazo was first, followed by Santa Monica. At the turn of the millennium, he decided to divest to manage the risk of a single crop, and starting planting avocado, banana, plantain, and oranges. Finca Villarazo remained a coffee farm but Santa Monica became an avocado farm. In 2014, encouraged by the high price of Geisha from neighbouring Panama since 2007, Jairo become one of two producers to plant the Geisha. It did extremely well and he was motivated to grow other less common varieties like Pink Bourbon and Tabi at Finca Villarazo. At Santa Monica, it was once again back to coffee growing and there is a mix of traditional Colombian varieties like Caturra and Castillo, as well as new varieties like Pink Bourbon.
Since 2016, Jairo has been doing experiments on his coffees, starting with extended fermentation. During the initial COVID years, the worldwide lockdown and closure of cafes meant that he had nowhere to sell his coffees. He expanded his fruit business to sell domestically, and started a juice company for the excess fruits he produced. It was at Santa Monica that he started experimenting coffee with the peels of the mandarin oranges he produced. The safest experiment probably was a natural process, when the intact coffee cherry is in contact with the chosen fruit. His method is simple: mix into the peels with the coffee cherries during dry fermentation, and a second time during the drying stage, then remove the peels and send to the coffee to the dry mill. With the success in the mandarin coffee, he started experimenting with other fruits - 2 of which are in this collection: passion fruit and strawberries, both produced at Finca Villarazo. But this time, he was more adventurous and he tried the honey process. This process is modelled after the mandarin process, but this time the skin of the coffee cherries are removed in both the stages. There are 2 key differences: In the mandarin process, dry fermentation took 48 hours while this stage took 72 hours for the passion fruit and strawberry processes; wine yeast was added in the passion fruit and strawberry processes. These 3 are considered new coffee processes, known as fruit maceration.
At this point, we want to explain a bit on the idea of maceration. A common food processing method, it refers to softening food by soaking in a liquid. In the wine industry, there is a common method of carbonic maceration, which is to "soak" the grapes in "carbon dioxide" during fermentation. Oxygen is flushed out of the tank where fermentation takes place by pumping in carbon dioxide, allowing the "soak" to happen. First popularised by Sasa Sestic during his championship routine, the concept has now extended to become fruits + carbonic maceration, when you "soak" the coffee cherries in fruits in an oxygen-free environment. Fermentation does not involve oxygen, and is by default anaerobic. In the coffee industry, the weird term of "anaerobic fermentation" refers to fermentation taking place in an oxygen-free environment such that there is no oxidation happening concurrently with fermentation. In such an environment, fruits - the coffee cherries and the added fruits - will start to ferment intracellularly, i.e, from the inside, with the indigenous yeasts that are already present in the fruits when they are growing. The carbon dioxide rich environment helps to release more sweetness by breaking down complex sugars. It also breaks down sharp malic acids, inducing a rounder texture to the product of this fermentation. Concurrently, the externally present yeasts - either wild in the air or subsequently added cultured yeasts like wine yeasts - also starts to consume the sugars available to them. These sugars could be from the added fruits or from the exposed mucilage of the coffee when doing a honey process. This releases metabolites, including volatile aroma compounds which are desirable to our olfactory senses.
In the mandarin process, Jairo's first experiment, he chose natural process, avoiding the risks associated with the coffee mucilage but also limiting the amount of sugars immediately available to the yeasts present since the coffee cherry is whole and the yeasts needs to penetrate the coffee skin. Further, the mandarin peel, unlike the pulp, inherently contains lesser sugars, thus limiting the aromatic metabolites produced. These metabolites then diffuse through the skin of the coffee cherries into the pulp, which are already broken down by intracellular fermentation to be sweeter and rounder. The result is a sweet and round coffee with a mild aroma of mandarin. In the honey processes of the other 2 coffees, intracellular and external fermentations happen in both the added fruits and coffee mucilage, elevating the total amount of aromatic compounds from this fermentation. That's the reason the aromas of strawberry and passion fruit are so pervasive in the respective coffees. When we get coffees that smell like strawberries and passion fruits, there will be a reverse case of these fruits smelling like coffee, because the migration of aromatic compounds happens both ways. Through experimentation, Jairo has learnt the best time to stop the fermentation.
Jairo adopted 2 other control points on his subsequent experiments: to add stability to the riskier method of honey process + fruit maceration by adopting cultured yeast originally meant for wine production instead of letting the uncontrollable and unpredictable wild yeasts do the job, and to use dehydrated passion fruits to limit the amount of juices and the associated fermentation uncertainties. As a last step, the involved fruits are sun-dried together with the coffees (cherries in the natural process and parchment coffee in the honey process) to further elevate the aroma.
Watch our social media on our videos on how we are brewing these coffees.
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