Saturday, December 12, 2009

Seed Prep Theory



On my last trip to the farm I spent a lot of time watching coffee dry. When I had full-time employment obligations in the US I was not able to spend as much time as I like on the farm. A one week trip to the DR would only allow maximum 3 maybe 4 days playing in the dirt. The rest of the time was spent in transport to Los Frios from Santo Domingo.

In the coffee circles that I get my inspiration from, there has been a shift in "appropriate" drying times from a maximum of 10 days up to 30 days. Just two years ago when I was asking all the processing questions to anyone who might know the answer they usually said that washed coffee should be dried between 5-10 days. Just before leaving on this last harvest trip I had a really enlightening conversation with Tim Hill from Counter Culture Coffee. "Yea Byron the Peru - Valley de Santurario and the Burundi - Bwayi from this year were both took up to 30 and 20 days to dry respectively," said Tim. In my opinion, the Peru was tasting super solid at the end of its green lifespan (6-8 months) and the Burundi was one of my favorite CCC coffees of the year. The Bwayi was also the only Burundi that had a post-fermentation-soak after the washing.

Then at SCAA in Atlanta, I had a chance to get a coffee drying tutorial from the owners of Virmax. They recommend that the growers build these raised beds with coffee stacked one over the other. After the coffee is washed the coffee is placed on the lower bed to drip dry. (If you are a grower and want to learn from my mistakes please contact me directly). It is really important that the coffee is spread very thin, no more than 2 beans stacked. Then as the coffee dries it is raised up to the second tier. Then after a week, the coffee can be raised up to the highest bed where it is dried in the sun under the plastic tarp.

This year in Colombia the micro-lot from the La Golindrina project at CCC is the result of an experiment with underwater ferment, done by a couple farmers. When Tim and Kim cupped the coffees from the coop, Organica, there were 3 stand out coffees on the table. All three came from the same farm! When Kim asked what was different the farmers said the only thing they did differently was to ferment the coffee underwater, they had heard that it had good success in other places and wanted to see if it made a difference there.

To prepare coffee seeds for planting: pick the cherries ripe, depulp, ferment, wash the muscilage off and dry the coffee in the shade until it reaches about 20%.

So my seed prep theory came to me when I was drying coffee. All of these new processing techniques are more akin to seed prep than the old theories of coffee prep. Older coffee processing techniques were all about pushing coffee through processing because it is much more cost effective. For example, one wash, as short as possible fermentation times, as short as possible short drying times, and less experimentation. If you follow the Virmax recommendations about coffee drying you could take the coffee off the middle bed and plant it because the processing until the last stage is exactly the same as seed prep. As I've mentioned before Virmax's advice won them First and Seventh last year at SCAA. Then if you look at all the post fermentation soak and underwater ferment that is showing signs of success it only further supports the theory because just prior to planting coffee seed it is ideal to soak them for 24 hours in water.

No comments: