We know once you try coffee it becomes part of your life and sometimes its like gas to a car. But when you are passionate about coffee some times you have the chance to know the difference between good coffee and bad coffee. I say some times because even in my country Colombia we were by law excluded from tasting our high quality coffee. The government wanted all the export quality coffee to be exported and prohibited the sell of that coffee within the country. Back in 1989 that changed, but that is sad isn’t it? Then other countries, the ones that buys Colombian coffee had once before the best coffee right at the reach of their hands or corner store. That also changed when companies decided to blend coffees due to cost optimization and thats why nowadays is sometimes difficult to find good coffee even in the most known brands.
Anyway some coffee
growing countries focused their production
towards quantity, Colombia focused their production towards quality.
Secret #1: Land and Environmental Conditions: factors such as the elevation, the climatic conditions and the land are all factors to the Colombian recipe to grow the perfect coffee. Elevations of between 1200 and 2000 meters are the best elevations to grow coffee. There are also 2 seasons, rainy and sunny, but there are 2 of each of these seasons each year. This allows for two main harvests a year during the sunny/dry months and smaller harvest the remainder of the year. This results in year round production of Colombian coffee.
Secret #2: Hand Picked Coffee: pickers and farmers pick the coffee beans manually, focusing on only the red ripe beans. A good picker must harvest 150 to 180 kilos of coffee beans a day and 80% of that harvest must be the red ripe beans ( it is hard not to pick green or yellow beans picking beans all day) but if a picker picks more than 20% of green and yellow beans they better find a different job.
Secret #3: Pulp Removal and Drying Process: Colombia uses water to remove the pulp and the slime of the bean so that it will not ferment and give other flavors that lessen the quality of the coffee. In many countries, because of water shortages or ease of processing the coffee, they just put the beans to dry under the sun with the pulp. This creates a bitter bean and changes the inner flavors due to fermentation. In conclusion, no fermentation, no bitterness or flavor changes results in a smooth and less acidic coffee.
Secret #4: Selection: As we already learned selecting only the red
beans is key for good quality coffee, but the selection process doesn’t end there; the perfect bean is the one that is at the perfect maturity and ripeness, and has developed all the inner flavors and sugars. In the drying process, when the beans have been washed and pulp removed there is a channel where the beans float in water, the density of the bean determines the depth that the bean floats. The “perfect quality or Export quality beans” are the highest density and therefore deeper in the channel. The yellow, green and immature beans float somewhere from the middle to the surface of the channel. The beans are then collected and separated by their density and put to dry under the sun. Each farm now has different quality of coffee that are sold to different markets and at different price ranges. The selection process continues for the premium quality or specialty coffees at the coffee laboratory. Beans are sorted by size and weight so that all beans in a bag of premium or specialty coffee are all the same size and this results in a more uniform grind when the coffee is ground to make coffee. Then the roasting expert decides the recipe for the coffee lot, the coffee beans are roasted and sorted once again based on the color and the aroma. Some beans might look perfect before the roasting process, but may have certain impurities in their composition or even have a previously unnoticed fungus that can alter their composition. One bean can alter the flavor of a whole pound of coffee if stays in the lot, that is why if the goal is to make a premium coffee they select again after the roasting process to extract those beans.
Secret #5: Avoid Blending Coffee Beans: This last step is also very important to reaching perfect quality and being able to replicate that quality year after year. Some factories or laboratories are very strict on every process from the seed to the roasting and some may even ally themselves with only certain farmers with proven and known growing methods. Some may even require certain specific processes, land treatment and other nurse crops grown among the coffee trees, to find that unique composition. Therefore, they will not blend coffees from other farms.