The Processing Specialist
There was a time when the only perceivable person making the coffee ‘Special’ was an Italian barista. Then came a time when the person having the most significant transformative action on the coffee to develop flavor was the roaster. As their skill improved, so did the mastery of many baristas around the world.
Now there is a new partner in flavor development; The Processing Professional.
Since 1774, coffee sellers have promoted selling Natural coffee. The Quality then was of questionable nature! It was the only process they had, and there was likely minimal sorting of ripes, un-ripes, and over-ripes.
Fast forward 100 years, and we are introduced to a process that made drying way faster, and productivity goes through the roof. Then, it was the Washed process. Coffee as a beverage was exploding around the globe.
Then 150 years later, the specialty roasters and expert baristas of the world introduced coffee with FLAVOR. When care was taken with roasting and drink preparation, great results came about. This was when the focus started turning to the origin countries and focusing on control points that could increase or decrease the interesting flavors of coffee.
The following chart from Coffee Quality Institute depicts the different ways to process coffee as seen from a high level. It focuses on two factors – Anatomy of the Fruit and Drying Method.
As you can see in the chart below, the NATURAL coffee we discussed initially, the anatomy is left entirely intact and dried whole. This drying would then be ‘Fruit Dried.’
Taking the skin off and leaving various amounts of mucilage on the coffee is some version of Pulped Coffee. It would dry as either ‘Mucilage Dried’ or ‘Parchment Dried’ coffee. If you pre-dry the pulped coffee a bit but then ‘Wet Hull’ the coffee while still high in moisture, you are left with just the seed, and the drying would be ‘Seed Dried.’
Within this framework, the folks in charge of processing are experimenting and pushing the envelope on processing. They are using aerobic and anaerobic methods. They inoculate with different yeast to get different microbial reactions. They play with variables of time and heat to change the progression of varying aromatic/flavor groups.
You, as a roaster, can capitalize on this, but you will need to speak the language. The Coffee Quality Institute has launched classes and courses (certificated) that are open to roasters. A one-day class called Intro to Post Harvest Processing is a good intro and one your customers might also enjoy. The next three are designed for coffee professionals.
Flavors are developed throughout the supply chain. Knowing how to unlock them makes you an expert at your job: Barista, Roaster, and now Processor. Who knows; maybe in a few years, we will be certifying farmers for organizing the growing conditions, inputs, varietals, pruning, and farm maintenance that create unique flavors to the farm.