Finca La Primavera - Processing Methods & Auricel Conde

I’m in awe of how these two Colombian coffees have been received by the Sow community. Hearing the positive feedback on the amazing work behind Padre Coffee’s Good Coffee Doing Good initiative has driven us to keep spotlighting producer Auricel Conde. Teaming up with Colombian coffee producers and exporters Cofinet, Padre Coffee is raising funds to construct a new fermentation tank for Finca La Primavera. Cofinet will then donate time and labour towards its construction. It is amazing to see the community effort being poured in from every direction.

In Bessie’s previous journal feature, we discovered how the Good Coffee Doing Good initiative was born, and introduced the coffee producer behind these amazing coffees, Auricel Conde. A big 2021 goal for Sow Coffee Project is to feature more amazing humans sharing their experiences and passions, so it was particularly special for me to have Bessie write that feature.

For this piece, I wanted to explore and explain the importance of what we call ‘processing’. From the moment it is picked, coffee goes through a journey to become the product that is packed into GrainPro plastic bags, zip tied and placed in hessian sacks before being loaded into a shipping container for export. These processes - referred to collectively as ‘processing’ - are far from simple. Processing is an art form, that requires a lot of labour, time management skills and knowledge to get right.

It’s actually quite rare to be able to taste two coffees grown by the same producer, of the same varietal at the same farm, yet processed using two different methods. This is another very special aspect of this offering.

I’ll focus on explaining honey process and washed process as these are the two processes used by Auricel to produce these two coffees.

Honey Process

I’m a big lover of honey processed coffees and their bold flavours! The coffee is picked by hand when the cherries are at their ripest - bright red, deep maroon, yellow and orange depending on the varietal of coffee. Within 24 hours of picking, the fruit is stripped of its skin and part of its mucilage - or flesh - and left to dry for anywhere from 18 to 25 days, depending on the weather conditions.

Fermentation starts as soon as the coffee is picked and this speeds up during the drying period when the mucilage which is still in contact with the parchment that houses the beans is exposed to the elements. This fermentation will continue as long as there is fuel available to the microorganisms (eg. sugar, moisture, acids, etc).

Finally, when the coffee seeds reach a moisture content of around 11%, they are removed from the drying patios or raised beds and warehoused. The parchment is hulled before exporting the final product.

Honey processed coffee can vary in flavour depending on the types of honey - yellow, red and black. Generally, these coffees boast jammy sweetness: think plum jam, poached peaches or berry compote. They also tend to have a rich brown sugar caramel finish. Delicious!

Washed Process

The initial stages of processing washed coffee are similar to that in honey processing. The coffees are hand picked when they are at their ripest, stripped of their skin and mucilage by a depulping machine. Depulping usually happens as soon as possible for the washed process - usually within a few hours of harvesting. After depulping there’s still a layer of mucilage left on the beans.

This coffee is then transferred to a fermentation tank, and could be left there for up to 24 hours to allow for a timely controlled fermentation. For washed coffees, this short fermentation process is important as it aids in the next step of the processing - the washing.

When the farmer is satisfied with the level of stickiness of the coffee, the farmer will then submerge the coffee (in the fermentation tank) with fresh water and begin the task of washing the coffee by removing the mucilage that’s left on the parchment housing the bean. This is typically done with large wooden paddles, depending on the origin. This washing and draining of water can occur multiple times until the farmer is satisfied with the cleanliness of the parchment.

Once the washing is done, the parchment-covered beans are then transported to drying patios or raised beds to start the controlled drying process. The beans are usually raked down to a fine layer and will be turned multiple times throughout the entire drying process, ensuring it dries evenly. This could take up to 14 days, depending on the weather. Like the honey processed coffee, when the internal moisture level reaches roughly around 11%, the coffee will be removed from the patio or raised bed and warehoused. The parchment is then hulled before exporting the final product.

The flavour of washed coffees is often clean and sweet with crisp acidity, a wide variety of fruit flavours and subtle floral features. Washed coffees are complex, sweet and delicate!

Both of these coffees are so delicious, but each showcases different qualities of the coffee. Knowing a little bit more about fermentation and processing is super important for understanding the improvements we’re hoping to help Auricel make on his farm through the Good Coffee Doing Good initiative. We’re excited to be a part of the process and can’t wait to share more about this story.