PS COFFEE Flavor profiles
Coffees with acidity of incredible quality that matched with sweetness taste like fruit: lemon, orange, lime, papaya, pineapple, blueberry, strawberry. Acidity is the hops of the coffee world and while not for everyone, is often found in the most elegant of coffees. These are most often the high grown Central American coffees and East African Coffees.
When the weight, texture, and sweetness of the coffee predominate are in perfect harmony, and we detect minimal acidity and bitterness, we call those coffees smooth. In coffee lingo, we call them balanced. Often these are Latin American coffees and clean tasting natural coffees, but the best East African and Asian coffees often come out tasting smooth.
These coffees are taken sufficiently beyond first crack to introduce roast flavors. Caramelized sugars and baker’s chocolate with bitterness. Best suited for lubricating car engines and for cutting through milk. Our darkest roasts minimize oil loss while maximizing caramelization and sweetness.
Coffee is a seed. Two seeds normally grow in a fruit called “cherry”. Coffee cherry is thin and comes in shades of red, yellow, pink, orange, and purple. While we buy arabica coffee, but robusta and liberica are other species of coffee grown commercially. Arabica is a cross of two different species in the coffea genus: eugenoides and robusta. It is prized for its sweetness and lack of bitterness, but is susceptible to bugs and diseases while requiring cool temperatures at high elevations.
Many sub species (varietals or cultivars) of arabica exist. Most commonly Typica and Bourbon as well as varietals and cultivars derived from them are around throughout Latin America. Haiti, Hawaii, and Jamaica are famous for their indigenized subspecies of Typica and Bourbon. More recent developments have included cross breeds between Typica and Bourbon with disease resistant varietals as well as quality driven transplants from the forests of East Africa.
In most countries, coffee flowers (five petal, white flowers reminiscent of jasmine flowers) then slowly maturates into coffee cherry. Flowering typically occurs once, but in some countries a second flowery occurs. In even fewer countries, flowering occurs almost year round in one part or another.
25 million people in 70 countries produce coffee. The size of a farm varies from a few trees to acreage the size of Colombia! In general, coffee grows on farms of three types: small (less than 10 hectares), medium/estate (10-40 ha), and large/estate (40+).
Small farms typically cannot access foreign markets and sell their coffee to one of several types of intermediaries depending one whether they process their own coffee: local consolidators, wet mills, or governmental drop off points. Harvesting is done by hand, typically by the owners, their family, and their friends. They have little control over the price of their product and usually use coffee as—often essential-supplemental crop. Some countries, such as Ethiopia, Kenya, and Costa Rica have strong governmental support for wet mill centralization that garners a higher price for small growers and better quality control. With a few notable exceptions, farmers sell all their crop blended with standard processing techniques. Organic and other certifications are rare.
Medium farms begin to offer farm owners control over their product. They typically grow and process their own coffee and occasionally export it alone or in cooperation with other farms. Often, they supplement the coffee they grow by purchasing from their neighbors. Harvesting and processing is done by the owners as well as hired full time and seasonal employees. Varietal and day lot separation, innovative processing techniques, and blending of unroasted coffee begins with medium sized farms. Certification can be a burden, but is not uncommon.
Large farms grow, process, and often times export their own coffee. While almost every country h as large estates, Brazil is most famous for the enormous size and productivity of its farms. Harvesting and processing is done by permanent and seasonal employees. A good deal of coffee produced in these size farms is inexpensive commercial and low grade specialty. But with the decrease in costs and the high volume of coffee, there is money for varietal and day lot separation, innovative processing techniques, and blending of unroasted coffee for farm owners interested in producing high grade specialty coffee. Certification follows from the farm owners interest.
Perhaps the most important and least understand part of coffee growing. Processing refers to a two stage process: wet milling and dry milling.
After removing coffee from the tree, coffee cherries are taken to a wet mill. Small farms often have depulpers on site to remove the coffee cherry from the parchment. If not, they’ll sell cherry to a washing station or intermediary, who removes it. Once removed, the parchment is sent through channels of water where it is washed and soaked to remove the sticky mucilage. Varying levels of mucilage remove are called washed, white honey, yellow honey, red honey, or black honey depending on how much sugar is left on. Additionally, the number and lengths of washings and soaks of full mucilage removal vary tremendously based on temperature, available space, and tradition. Recent innovations include adding yeast, salt water, soda water, removing oxygen, and adding CO2 to the soak tanks. Some fermentation traditions, such as Kenyan processing, require up to 72 hours at cold temperatures, but result in a distinct and recognizable flavor yield. The wet mill is an important stage in removing defects as rocks, sticks, and defect beans will float or sink in water and can be easily skimmed off during this phase.
Dry milling occurs after the washing. Most small farmers dry their coffee on their roof or on concrete patios. Many large dry mills do this as well. African raised drying beds, however, create the cleanest coffee and are used now throughout the world. Dry milling can take days to months depending on the weather, but constantly turned, 10%-12% moisture coffee with extended drying times creates the long lasting, cleanest, coffee. At quality oriented dry mills, workers are paid to manually, hand remove defects at this stage. At this point coffee is put in sacks in warehouses to rest (“riposo”) until the moisture levels stabilizes. When the coffee is ready for export, it is hulled, that is, removed from the parchment.
IMPORT / EXPORT
Importers and exporters play a crucial, but not always clear role in coffee. All coffee has to be shipped if it is going out of the country. Air shipping is incredibly expensive, so most coffee gets put into containers that can hold 26,000 lbs of 60kg or 70kg burlap coffee sacks. (Brazil is shipping more coffee in large bladders, which fit more.) To fill these, export companies will either purchase coffee on behalf of clients, usually importers, or they will contract with farms, mills, and cooperatives to export coffee on their behalf. At some point from one port to another, an importer will take possession of the coffee. Typically, they own all the coffee in the container at that point, but sometimes they contract to handle the importation of individual bags, pallets, and containers. Importers handle the coffee through customs and direct it to one of a dozen warehouses in the US before distributing to roasting customers or placing on lists to sell to roasters. Some (but few) larger Direct Trade companies, handle export/import logistics. A few are vertically integrated from the farm or mill through import/export to the roastery and even cafe. Even in the case of vertically integrated companies, many outsource importing and exporting to third party professionals to minimize risk.
Coffee goes from green to brown. While some roasters use fluid beds of air to roast on, most roasters you see are drum roasters and use a continuously rotating drum and interior fins to agitate the beans. The agitation prevents burning while the beans heat to their final temperature over a designated period of time. There are many ways to approach a given coffee in terms of heat/time, and each roaster depending on how they finish the roast, when they add heat, and how much air goes into the drum at certain points will produce a different tasting cup of coffee.
Most commonly people refer to coffee by it’s roast: light, medium, dark or cinnamon, city, full city. Traditionally, dark roasting was used to mask the bitterness of low grown Brazilian and robusta coffees common to Southern Italy. This style was brought to the US in the 60s and 70s and famously exported across the US by Starbucks and Peet’s coffee. In the 90s, a roaster in Boston, began to roast his higher quality coffees lighter. Finding more sweetness and less bitterness, the “third wave” of coffee caught on as roasters pushed their bean quality higher and their roasts lighter. Sometimes referred to as Nordic Roasts, many small roasters across the world now roast light emphasizing the origin character of the coffee with more pronounced acidity.
How should you store your roasted coffee? In an air tight or airless container. Try to drink your coffee within 3 weeks of it’s roast date (and don’t buy coffee without a roast date!). If you’re going to hang on to it for longer, freeze it. Frozen coffee will last a long time; if you vac pac and then freeze it, it will taste fresh indefinitely.
What is espresso? Espresso is coffee brewed under pressure. Most espresso is brewed at 9 bars (or 9x the pressure of gravity at sea level). With the addition of pressure, brewing happens quickly; most “shots” of espresso are brewed in 20-60 seconds (compared to 4-6 minutes for immersion and drip brew). A fine grind is used to allow extraction of as much of the sugars, acids, aromatic and flavor compounds, and oils as possible as well as to provide resistance to the pressure. The coffee is pressed (tamped) to provide additional resistance to pressure. Brewing sometimes involving preinfusion, that is, soaking the grounds at line pressure (3 bars) before adding full pressure. Recent innovations include the ability to adjust the pressure throughout the brew. The liquid that comes out has the appearance of dripping honey, and in the cup will have a head of crema that indicates some combination of coffee types (robusta produces a lot of cream), freshness (fresh coffee produces more), and pressure (higher pressure produces more).
Bar of Pressure
Full City Roast
Total Dissolved Solids