Brazil is a coffee giant . As Frank Sinatra sang, “they grow an awful lot of coffee in Brazil”.: Brazil is a coffee giant . As Frank Sinatra sang, “they grow an awful lot of coffee in Brazil”. It’s the largest producer of low grade arabica coffee, and a lot of Conilon robusta too. Brazil: there is some in almost every espresso you drink. In fact, some espresso is 90% Brazil. And there is Brazil in most canned coffee and big roasters’ blends.
But things are changing in Brazil. There’s the big push on behalf of Brazilian coffee growing associations to recreate the image of Brazilian as exquisite and distinctive Specialty-level coffee. And some of it is true Specialty coffee, but the majority is still common, low-grade, low-grown arabica. There just isn’t the extreme distinction from cup to cup that distinguishes one regional coffee from another. Attention to good farming and processing techniques has helped, but the coffee is grown at lower altitudes than most Specialty coffee, in non-volcanic soils, in non-forested areas that are sometimes originally grassland (a reason why the “shade-grown issue” really doesn’t apply much to Brazil —the coffee farming areas had little shade to begin with.) Am I saying Brazilian coffee is bad… no. I love these high-quality Brazilian coffees, and you should try it as a Full City or even Vienna roast: its great! And nothing touches a really good Dry-processed or Pulped-Natural Brazil as a base in Espresso blends. They produce more crema and body, adding sweetness and providing a great backdrop for the feature coffees. Brazil can be nutty, sweet, low-acid, and develop exceptional bittersweet and chocolate roast tastes. The caveat is, Brazils are not dense coffee seeds: they are grown at lower altitudes than Central American coffees. Hence the very dark roasts of Brazils pick up ashy, bittering flavors. For espresso, you can roast Brazils lighter, separately, or keep the entire blend at a Vienna roast or lighter: Northern Italian Espresso re: Illy’s “Normale.” Note that there are 3 processes of processing Brazil coffees of interest to us; Natural Dry- Process, Pulped Natural, and Semi-Washed. They produce different types of cups. The Natural has great body, chocolate, possibly fruity notes … and it risks being earthier and more rustic in the cup. The Pulped Natural is when the coffee cherry skin is removed and the parchment, with a lot of the mucilage attached, is sun dried on patio or raised drying bed. This coffee cups like the fully Naturals but is a bit cleaner in the cup. The Semi-Washed uses a demucilage machine to remove the skin and some or all of the mucilage. So the Semi-Washed ranges in character from being identical to Pulped Natural to being similar to a Wet-processed coffee (clean cup, uniform, less body, less chocolate, a bit brighter). I like good Naturals- they have more intensity, produce more crema, but I have to cup them rigorously to watch for defective cup character. On the other end of things, really clean Semi-Washed, where a lot of the mucilage is removed, do not have Brazil character to me.

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