© 2007 The George Howell Coffee CompanyREMOVAL OF FRUIT
Once the coffee is harvested the coffee seeds must be separated from the cherries, a process called Milling. It is exceedingly difficult to remove all the fruit from the coffee bean without to some degree harming its quality. There are three methods to remove the coffee seed from the surrounding berry:
Natural, Pulped Natural and Washed
Natural - the fruit is allowed to slowly dry and harden around the coffee bean during a period of 2 3 weeks; the bean gradually absorbs starches in the fruit. The dried husk is then hulled. Liveliness tends to be muted while body and base notes increase. This kind of bean is ideal for making an elegant espresso coffee. The risk, however, of bacterial infection and of fermentation in the bean is very high for the farmer – who consequently cannot guarantee consistent quality results.
New methods are currently being developed to ensure far greater quality control. One of the coffees from the Daterra farm in Cerrado, Brazil, which we are carrying, is such a coffee. We are serving it as our North Italian style espresso.
Pulped Natural - the fruit’s skin is removed at once (the bean is pulped). The remaining fruit, called mucilage, is then dried along with the coffee seed. Thus the pulped natural process is similar to the natural process: the bean absorbs starches. While this method does not produce as much body in the coffee as the natural process it allows brighter, more floral notes to surface in drip style coffees. The Brazil Daterra Farm Special Reserve is prepared this way.
Washed - the outer fruit layer is removed immediately; the clinging (wet) inner fruit layer ferments for 20 to 40 hours and is then thoroughly washed off the bean. This method can produce a crisp, clean flavor with great snap.
Washed or wet processed coffees include our Costa Rica, Kenya, Ethiopian, Nicaragua and Guatemala coffees.
All three processes are easily botched, leading to off-fruity, rotten and barnyardy characteristics.
The coffee beans must be dried at a precise rate, not too fast or too slow. Excess can produce extreme off moldy and stale peanut-like flavors.
Once the green beans are free of all outer matter and dried, they are taken to another mill where sorting occurs. The best quality coffees are sorted:
With the highest quality coffees in the world, a final sorting is done by hand to remove very slight imperfections. These coffees include our specially selected Kenya AA and Costa Rica La Minita, the most meticulously sorted coffee in the world.
Every coffee that is considered for purchase must be carefully cupped, as we say in the industry. The cupping process involves detection of any defects or inconsistencies that might appear from cup to cup; one bad bean can destroy even a pot of coffee. Coffees that are chosen for purchase must be outstanding in clean cup (no taints or dirtiness), sweetness, refined acidity, smooth body, distinct flavor, elegant aftertaste and good balance. All coffees must be measured for correct moisture content before purchase as is done by Terroir ™. This is critical since wetter, unstable coffee can deteriorate rapidly.
Green coffee beans are hard and cold to the touch, like small pebbles. The minute green coffee has been dried and made ready for export it starts to age, and then to deteriorate. If the coffee has not been dried to the correct percentage–which is hard to do in humid climates–or properly dried, it will deteriorate rapidly and within weeks to a couple of months lose everything. First to go are any fresh floral aromatics, and then sweet, clean fruit flavors fade into baggy (from absorbing the smell and taste of processed jute bags) and sour woody flavors and aromas, as the oils within the bean turn rancid. Indeed green coffee oils quickly absorb odors around them – so what they are transported with is critical!
Many of the greatest coffees are harvested just once a year. Central American and East African coffees are in this category and are harvested during our winter season. The best Kenyans, for instance, are picked in late November. They are auctioned in Nairobi from late February to late May and may not arrive in the US until August or September. By November the deterioration process has set in. Most Central American coffees can start deteriorating between August and November.
Fine green coffees should not be stored in jute bags. Their oils will, over time, absorb “baggy” odors. Even more important, exposure to the air and changing conditions of humidity and temperature accelerate disintegration. We believe that the next step in quality control is better packaging beginning ideally at origin. Terroir™ Coffee is leading the way toward these changes. Upon arrival at our warehouse, coffees are immediately taken out of their jute bags and repacked into metal-foil vacuum bags. This dramatically slows down the aging of the coffee while preventing evaporation of aromatic oils from the green beans (the one exception is Daterra, which packages this way at source, as noted in our review of our Espresso and Brazilian coffees). We know of no other roasters doing this packaging. But we go still further than this.
Even stable fine coffees can decline, as noted earlier, when storage conditions are poor. This often happens when green coffees come down from the cooler drier highlands where they grow and wait at hot, humid terminals in port, to be then put into containers which can spend weeks at sea. Terroir™ Coffee flies coffees in danger of this abuse from origin to Boston.
Terroir™ green coffees are carefully monitored and, when the time is right, are placed in a freezer at minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit, stopping any change in its tracks. I remember how, during the months of January and February at my previous enterprise, The Coffee Connection, I couldn’t wait for the newly harvested Central American coffees to come in. Once they did, we would get phone calls from customers who suddenly noticed the strong change in the aroma, liveliness and flavor of the coffees. No longer! Terroir™ coffees are crisp and sweet year-round. We do not treat our raw coffees as commodities kept in sacks.