Crop to Cup – Part 4

The fourth instalment in this Crop to Cup series looks at the final steps of processing, followed by the roasting of our “microlot” of coffee, kindly received straight off the tree from a barista friend about a month ago. As with anything, good things come to those who wait, and four weeks after starting, we are almost to the point of tasting the fruits of our labour.

To date, we have worked our way through Pulping, Fermentation (Crop to Cup – Part 1), Drying (Crop to Cup – Part 2), Drying again (yep – it took a while) (Crop to Cup – Part 3), and we continue on below.

4. Parchment Removal (Hulling)

In Part 3 of this series, drying continued in preparation for the final “hulling” or parchment removal prior to roasting. After a further two weeks drying (four in total) it was time to remove the parchment layer.

As I have written in previous posts, the beans being “dry enough” and the parchment ready for removal, is determined both by observing an appropriate drying time (approximately two weeks to a month), and having the parchment split easily off the inner bean upon attempted removal. According to the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF):

Inadequate drying – greater than 12 per cent moisture – will cause mouldiness and stale aroma during storage.

Upon proceeding with the hulling by hand (or rather thumbnail and finger), it is clear this is quite a labour intensive undertaking. After 1 hour, the parchment layer was removed from our crop, and we were a step further along in the process.

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Given the time and labour intensive nature of this part in the process, the DAFF suggests the following:

Place the beans, a small quantity at a time, in a food processor or similar type of blender. Use plastic blades to avoid breaking the coffee beans. Blend at low speed for approximately 30 seconds to remove the parchment from the beans.

My mother uses a similar approach, blending on low-speed for 8–9 seconds, which she finds removes much of the parchment layer without damaging the green bean inside. Whether done by hand or machine, you will be left with a fine outer layer of “silver skin” remaining on much of the bean. Enlisting the assistance of my son to provide a quick rubbing of the beans between his hands removed this final layer. Blowing away any remaining silver skin completes the process.

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We were now ready for roasting!

5. Roasting

With a dry weight of 35 grams, there was certainly no margin for error, and had me thinking I really should be calling this a “nanolot”, as “micro” probably doesn’t go far enough (yes an hour of hulling for 35 grams of green beans – as I said – very labour intensive!).

So proceed with care I did.

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The roast was undertaken via my usual breadmaker / heat gun set up which I have previously written about. The heat ramp was very slow, and the total roast time 12 minutes, with the beans pulled out 3 minutes after first crack. The result looked like a pretty even roast, and was cooled and bagged. A few days rest and it will be ready for tasting.

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Check back soon for the much anticipated taste test!

Crop to Cup – Part 2

Coffee drying in the sun. Dolka Plantation Cos...

Coffee drying in the sun. Dolka Plantation Costa Rica (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Continued from Crop to Cup Part 1.

With the fermentation phase now complete, we move on to the drying phase of processing. You may remember from the first part of this series, coffee processing is broken up into the following stages, as described by both the Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, and my mother, who is very experienced and knowledgeable in these matters:

  1. Pulping
  2. Fermentation
  3. Drying
  4. Parchment removal (hulling)
  5. Roasting
  6. Grinding, strong and brewing

At the completion of Crop to Cup Part 1, we left the beans fermenting in water at stage 2 above. I was a little unsure of how long this may take (72 hours or up to a week), though armed with the knowledge this phase would be complete when the mucilage (slippery outer layer) was easily rubbed away. Daily testing was undertaken, until on day 7 (exactly as predicted by my mother), rubbing one of the beans between thumb and finger resulted in a slightly gritty/pebbly feel rather than a slippery one. Time then to move onto drying.

3. Drying
Once the beans have fermented for long enough, they are required to undergo a final wash and rinse, before being laid out on drying beds. In aid of passing down the coffee loving tradition to the next generation, my son was enlisted to rub off the mucilage, with repeated washes then performed to remove any remaining on the outside of the bean. Agitating the beans and replacing the water over three washes was sufficient to achieve this.


Looking back to our Department of Agriculture guide, the drying process is described as follows:

The beans should be spread out in a thin layer no more than 3 cm thick, stirred three times a day, and be protected from rainy weather. Drying in this way can take 5–30 days, depending on the seasonal weather pattern.

As you can see below, an initial drying of the beans was done on a small towel, before transfer to a drying rack to allow plenty of airflow around the beans. The rack is situated under cover to avoid any weather or dew, however sees the mid to late afternoon sun, which should assist with drying. Given the small crop I am processing, a single layer of beans was placed on the drying bed, with little chance of any mould formation (the reason for stirring daily), though I aim to ensure the beans is are turned regularly.


I hope you will join me in a couple of weeks for the next post in this series, where we will be up to removing the remaining parchment layer and roasting our crop!

Crop to Cup – Part 1

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While the above title may sound rather exotic, the reality is I have been lucky enough to be given a small, recently harvested crop of beautiful red coffee ‘cherries’. Receiving such a gift carries significant responsibility, and I am determined to process, roast and cup the resulting brew with all the dedication and care I can muster. As regular readers will know, I have been roasting at home for some time now (purchasing green beans online), however to this point have not processed beans straight from the tree. This is a whole new ball game for me. How to proceed?

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The first step was a call to my parents, who grow, and therefore regularly process, roast and drink their own crop. Next, an internet search to see what is out there on this topic. I was surprised to find the most helpful instructions on my state government’s Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry website. For additional reading on the types of processing methods, the International Coffee Organisation (ICO) provides a good summary.

Wet or Dry Processing

Firstly, there are two options, wet or dry processing. What follows in the section below outlines the wet processing method I plan to use, said to “better preserve the intrinsic qualities of the bean”. This method is the one outlined on the state government website, and also the one my parents use.

In the dry processing method, the entire coffee cherries are dried in the sun for approximately 4 weeks (to a minimum 12.5% moisture content), followed by removal of all outer layers around the bean by hulling equipment. States the ICO:

The dry method is used for about 90 percent of the Arabica coffee produced in Brazil, most of the coffees produced in Ethiopia, Haiti and Paraguay, as well as for some Arabicas produced in India and Ecuador. Almost all Robustas are processed by this method.

Wet processing generally follows the procedure outlined below, though obviously on a fairly large scale for commercial operators. As opposed to the dry method, the seed is extracted and fermented first, the drying process then follows, again until the beans reach 12.5% moisture content. The beans are then stored, and the hulling process is completed just prior to export. Again from the (ICO):

The wet method is generally used for Arabica coffees, with the exception of those produced in Brazil and the Arabica-producing countries mentioned above as users of the dry method. It is rarely used for Robustas.

My wet processed micro lot

The wet processing technique I am using involves the following steps:

  1. Pulping
  2. Fermentation
  3. Drying
  4. Parchment removal (hulling)
  5. Roasting
  6. Grinding, strong and brewing

Comparing the method my parents use with those online saw many similarities, with only some of the time frames differing a little in each stage. We will focus on steps 1 to 4, as other posts deal with roasting, grinding and brewing, and in any event, steps 5 and 6 occur independently of the processing method used. Today we will look at Pulping and Fermentation, and return in future posts as my drying process proceeds.

  1. Pulping
    Here we are removing all of the skin and pulp (flesh) from the cherry, and extracting both halves of the coffee ‘seed’ from inside, and should occur as soon as possible after harvesting. Be sure to discard any underripe (green) or overripe (black) fruit which will reduce the quality of what ends up in the cup.

    Seed extraction in the pulping phase.

    Seed extraction in the pulping phase.

    This process can either be done by hand (squeezing each cherry between your thumb and finger), or in the bottom of a bucket using a piece of wood to squash the fruit, resulting in the seeds being forced out from the flesh. Adding water will then allow removal of the skins and one other critical element – any floating beans. Good coffee beans will not float, and those that do should be discarded as they are unusable, and will spoil the batch.

  2. Fermentation
    There is not a lot to say about this step, apart from the fact it should last anywhere from 18–48 hours to a few days, and involves natural enzymes breaking down the ‘mucilage’ (the outer slippery substance) around the parchment layer.

    Removal of floating beans (left); fermentation (right).

    Removal of floating beans (left); fermentation (right).

    Fermentation should be done in a plastic bucket or container (metal may affect the taste), with the entire bean mass covered by water. To test for completeness of this phase, washing a small amount of beans should see the ‘slippery’ coating disappear, resulting in a clean, gritty feel. If so, agitate and wash the remaining beans until he water is clear (again removing any that float), which may take several washes.
    Once washed and clean, the beans are then ready for drying.

At the time of writing this post, the pulping is completed, and the beans are sitting fermenting…

To be continued in Crop to Cup Part 2

What’s Roasting #4 – Brazil, Guatemala, Indonesia

English: Tz'utujil men hanging around Santiago...

Men of Santiago de Atitlan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In keeping with my plans to create some tasty coffee blends, I recently roasted what will hopefully bring me closer to achieving a great all round blend, suitable for the variety of brewing methods I use to consume my roasts.

Three separate batches were roasted recently on a Sunday afternoon in the backyard:

  1. Brazil Moreninha Foremosa Natural
  2. Guatemala Atitlan Small Producers
  3. Indonesian Aceh Gayo Gr1 Organic

Fast facts on these varieties (courtesy Ministry Grounds):

Coffee was bought to Brazil in 1727 from French Guiana, by Captain- Lieutenant Francisco de Melo Palheta. Legend has it, that Francisco de Mello charmed the French governor’s wife and she buried coffee seeds in a bouquet of flowers and that is how the cultivation of coffee began.

Santiago Atitlan is a ‘place of much water’ according to historian Jorge Luis Arreola, with five villages around a lake all producing coffee.

The Aceh Province of the Indonesian archipelago’s northern island of Sumatra, was hindered by conflict with the GAM independence movement until 2005. The effect of the Tsunami in 2004 literally sucked the life out of the rebels with estimates of 25,000 killed. The effect forced through a peace agreement that has achieved some stability. By 2006 the area was safe to visit and the high quality coffee industry was accessible again.

One of the primary aims of combining the three varieties above is to power the blend with the deeper chocolate flavours and stronger body of the Brazilian, whilst allowing the crisper acidity of the Guatemalan and floral flavours of the Indonesian to remain. I’m hoping the Brazilian will provide enough body to make the blend work in a milk based drink, and as suggested by Neil at Ministry Grounds:

This is fine drinking as an SO, but is also a great base for a top-notch blend!

Lets hope so! Tasting review to follow soon.

What’s Brewing #3 – El Salvador Finca El Capulin

Coffee in El Salvador

Coffee in El Salvador (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Since the What’s Roasting #3 post a couple of weeks ago, I have roasted a further batch each of the El Salvador and Colombian bean varieties in an attempt to fine tune and unlock their best characteristics. Acknowledgement must go to Neil Atwood from Ministry Grounds, my green bean supplier for some great ‘real time’ twitter advice whilst the second batch was roasting.

The remainder of this post will concentrate on the El Salvador varietal, with the Colombian coming in the future.

The reason for the second roast so soon? Probably due to my expectations being fairly high as to the likely quality and flavour profile, and whilst the results of the initial batch were good, the second certainly was an improvement (lighter roast). Also, my tasting was done (as it often is) both via the Aeropress and a one shot 160 ml latte, both of which undersold the quality a little. Neil also advised he expected the El Salvador would struggle through milk.

Anyway, on with The Whack:

What: El Salvador Finca El Capulin

  • Origin: El Salvador
  • Region: Cerro Verde
  • Altitude: 1498m
  • Processing: Fully washed, patio dried

How: Latte, Aeropress, Espresso

Dry Aroma – notes of citrus and a little spice

Milk Course – Although it fights hard to be noticed, using this blend in your morning latte definitely does not do it justice. Just not enough body to hold your attention. Definitely a good example of horses for courses.

Aeropress – Definitely better here. The notable acidity pushes forward the citrus flavours, with syrupy undertones on the finish. As usual, the flavours are foremost as the brew cools.

Espresso – Of the three tasting methods here, this is where this variety does its best work (depending on your body vs acidity preference – read further on this below). Extracting this through an espresso machine will give you the best example of the smooth, subtle flavours. The notable acidity brings through citrus type flavours, with a syrup like finish. Given the variety is quite subtle, the concentrated form of an Espresso seems to be the sweet spot.

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Be warned however, if you are after a punch of body, it still won’t be found here – for some this may be a negative, however I don’t see this as necessarily the case if your tastes are not crying out for this. Personally, I like it, though can see when used in a blend with a variety providing more body (which is what I plan to do), may appeal to those who find it a little wanting on its own. My favourite barista (herself Italian) who taste tested, called it as she saw it – needing more body:

…you know, like a good Italian woman, she’s got the curves…, she’s strong, she’s got a lot to offer. Not skinny and light, she’s got the body. She’s got real…

I can’t remember the rest as my mind wandered somewhere else – but you get the picture. Some will just like more body in their Espresso. And evidently their women?

Thinking more on this, I would refer you to an excellent article on A History of Acidity in Coffee, which is also featured in this months issue of BeanScene Magazine. Here it is recommended we should acknowledge and embrace the different flavour profiles in coffee, both the more recent trend towards higher acidity espresso and the more traditional full-bodied, low acid type:

Personally, I’m not against this as a style of espresso as some people may think, but it really demonstrates just one style of espresso.

Conclusion; Know This:
Upon review, the El Salvador is definitely a reminder on the merits of a wide range of tasting methods. As I outlined in a very early post on my reviewing system, the assessment of my roasting results is not based on the standard ‘cupping’ methods used to formally assess taste quality by those more expert than myself. This is a conscious decision, as taste for me will always be a result of how I brew and drink each variety on a day-to-day basis.

Despite recent trends in my coffee drinking habits, future reviews will include as many brewing varieties as I have available to me to avoid missing a method that may showcase the full potential of a particular origin. So, as far as this El Salvador lot is concerned, as an origin, it is certainly made for drinking on its own, in a shorter rather than a longer brew. I am looking forward to experimenting with this variety in some blending to achieve a greater balance between the acidity on offer whilst adding some body to the mix.

Overall Rating: 4/5