May – Jun 2004: Culling All Coffee; What Your Can Do

Culling All Coffee
Preparation of coffee is very important in determining the character of the cup. When we talk about preparation, we mean the steps that a coffee mill (in Latin countries it is called a beneficio) goes through to screen, sort, and separate green coffee. These steps are done by a variety of machines and by hand at the mill, representing a continuation of the elaborate hand-picking process that happens on the farm … the selection of only red, ripe coffee cherry from the tree. You might find an exquisite small-farm coffee, grown from the best old-world arabica cultivars (typica or bourbon for example), grown in volcanic soils at high altitude, carefully hand-picked, taken down to the wet-mill each evening after the harvest, wet-milled with the utmost care, patio dried in the sun –resulting in a cup of foul, unpalatable blech due to bad preparation. Preparation of coffee begins with the pergamino, the coffee seed nestled in in a brittle parchment layer. This coffee was either sun dried or mechanically dried, then rested (the reposo stage) for 30- 60 days. The first stage is to hull the coffee out of the parchment as well as much of the very thin silverskin clinging to the seed. (The removed parchment is used as a fuel for the coffee driers) Ideally, the new friction hullers are used, but careful attention must be given to the amount of friction applied. Heating up the coffee in the step is a major problem, having a profound affect on cup quality. The older metal-burr hullers damage green coffee, but I have seen them used with care and good results. In the next stage, a primary density separator called a catadora is then used to separate the coffee. Lowdensity coffee seeds are from unripe coffee cherry, and will spoil the cup. The catadora works by using a flow of air to draw the coffee up a chute with various gates. The green coffee then moves through a screener to separate by seed size. One of the best screening machines for this step in the process is a modified grain separator made in Scotland. These machines are extremely accurate (operating using a series of precisely measured holes), and more importantly, very gentle on the coffee. Coffee sizes are measured in 64ths of an inch, so “17 screen” coffee would pass through an 18/64ths screen. Further sorting occurs with the winnower, often called an Oliver Table after the most popular manufacturer. The winnower is a slanted table that vibrates, shaking the coffee and separating lesser density seeds from higher densities. Now the coffee is sent to the color sorters. These machines are highly accurate, modern inventions that scan each coffee seed individually to compare it to a pre-set color range. The coffee passes individually through a tube at fairly high speeds. If a seed
is determined to be off-color, an air jet knocks that one bean out of the tube, into a reject receptacle. It’s really amazing to see a color-sorter in operation, and a large mill will have a sizable bank of them, with perhaps 40-60 of these individual streams of coffee being color-sorted at any time. But truly good coffee must go through one last, and all-important step. This is the final hand-culling, where the coffee is sent as a single layer down a conveyor, and as many as 30 people inspect coffee visually, removing what the machines did not catch. This is a job that requires stamina, a lot of training, and is often a highly desirable job. In the absolute best mills, like La Minita’s Rio de Tarrazu, the sorting is not done on a conveyor, but at individual tables. In this case, a top sorter cleans no more than 50 pounds of coffee in one day. What I have described here is the dry-milling that occurs after wet-processing, the method that involves fermentation to remove the fleshy coffee fruit mucilage from the parchment layer. Wet processing has another advantage in removing defects: in the cribas, the washing channels that move the coffee out of the fermentation tanks, unripe seeds will float as they move along and are skimmed off the surface, while ripe cherry will hug the bottom of the canal. But many of the exotic coffees of the world are dry-processed, while a few involve a mixture of the two methods. What is dry processing and how does it affect the culling of coffee in the drymill? Dry-processed coffees are not fermented, nor is the coffee skin or pulp separated from the parchment-covered seed. In dry processing, the entire cherry is laid out on patios to dry. After the fruity skin has lost enough moisture to attach itself to the parchment, and the inner seed has shrunk, the coffee is hulled, and the skin, mucilage and parchment are torn away from the seed in a single step. In most cultures, the coffee is then subjected to careful hand-sorting to remove the paler under-ripe seeds, broken seeds, black beans (overripe or dead seeds) or other defects. Clearly, this is a less technified method, but while less equipment is involved, it is in fact no less laborious. It is used in areas where access to water is limited (wet-processing involves serious amounts of water to move the pulped cherry through the mill). And it involves a completely visual sorting method to grade, size and cull the coffee, with a much slower output from each individual since there is no machine to assist them. But you can see that dry-processed coffees have a much greater risk of allowing defects, especially low-density coffee seeds and under-ripe seeds, to slip through into the final product. In a generous analysis, this greater range of seeds, and the fact the coffee seed had longer contact with the fruity mucilage layer, give dry-processed coffees their somewhat outrageous character. It is what makes an Ethiopian Harar a winey, apricot-laced experience, or a Sumatra Mandheling a deep, full-bodied, lush
cup. At it’s worse, each pound of coffee, even pot of brewed coffee, are an inconsistent experience, and a few may have too much earth, too much mustiness, so much leathery flavor, to be enjoyable. You risk more with dry-processed coffees, but the rewards can be great too.

What you can do:find out early in your home-roasting journey exactly what your tolerance level is for the dry-processed coffees. I choose these coffees very carefully, and will give strong hints in the language of the Coffee Review if it is a really “edgy” cup profile. Some people have no patience for a really good Mandheling, and every cup tastes moldy to them. I cup a lot of Mandhelings that are truly moldy-tasting! But I stock only the
best lot I find that is deeply complex, with perhaps mild earthiness, but not excessively “dirty”. With the dry-processed Ethiopian coffees, there may be a winey, dried-fruit character in the cup. I have the perfect analogy: ever eat unsulphered dry fruit? I grew up with it (hey, my mother worked in a health food store) and each one is a new experience. The best pieces are sweet and complex like no fruit you have ever tasted, others are going too much toward ferment. For me, that can be the experience with Ghimbi, Sidamo, and even Harar dryprocess. You might improve the cup by removing the very, very light beans after roasting. You can also ruin the cup this way, removing the character that gives the coffee its distinct cup profile. If I remove beans, I will either eat them (I call it drycupping) or grind them and use the traditional cupping method to see what they have to say to me. The folks who really “get” the home roasting experience are explorers, who want to taste the whole bag of fruit to find out what they like. I don’t mean this as an insult … but there are others who should stick to the stuff in the cans. –Tom

Sweet Maria’s Coffee
1455 64th Street, Emeryville CA 94608
email: [email protected]
Sweet Maria’s Green Coffee Offering List on May 6 2004.
Central American 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 20 lb
Costa Rica Tres Rios -La Magnolia $4.80 $9.12 $20.88 $73.92
Costa Rican La Minita Tarrazu $6.80 $12.92 $30.26 $108.80
Guatemala Antigua -Los Pastores $4.60 $8.74 $20.01 $70.84
Guatemala Fraijanes -Palo Alto Azul $4.55 $8.65 $19.79 $70.07
Mexico Org/FT Oaxaca Pluma $4.90 $9.31 $21.32 $75.46
Nicaragua Organic/FT Segovia $4.90 $9.31 $21.32 $75.46
Panama -Hartmann Estate “Songbird” $4.75 $9.03 $20.66 $73.15
South American 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 20 lb
Bolivia Organic Cenaproc Co-op $4.50 $8.55 $19.58 $69.30
Bolivia Fair Trade “de Montana” $4.70 $8.93 $20.45 $72.38
Brazil Cup of Excellence Laranja-Cravo $5.60 $10.64 $24.36 $86.24
Brazil Cup of Excellence Sitio Araucaria $5.70 $10.83 $24.80 $87.78
Brazil Fazenda Ipanema “Dulce” $4.50 $8.55 $19.58 $69.30
Brazil Matas de Minas -Fazenda Brauna $4.50 $8.55 $19.58 $69.30
Brazil Sul de Minas – Carmo Estate $4.40 $8.36 $19.14 $67.76
Brazil Organic/FT Poco Fundo $4.90 $9.31 $21.32 $75.46
Colombian Huila “Mercedes Supremo” $4.20 $7.98 $18.27 $64.68
Colombian Organic Mesa de los Santos $4.90 $9.31 $21.32 $75.46
Colombian Huila – La Florencia $4.50 $8.55 $19.58 $69.30
Colombian Popayan Supremo “Caucano” $4.65 $8.84 $20.23 $71.61
Ecuador EScafe Co-op $4.70 $8.93 $20.45 $72.38
Peru Organic/Fair Trade Ccochapampa $4.90 $9.31 $21.32 $75.46
African- Arabian 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 20 lb
Ethiopian Ghimbi Lot 5025 $4.20 $7.98 $18.27 $64.68
Ethiopian Harar -Lot 6979 “Horse” $4.70 $8.93 $20.45 $72.38
Ethiopian Yirgacheffe Lot 4452 $5.20 $9.88 $22.62 $80.08
Kenya AA Auction Lot 369-Kanake $5.25 $9.98 $22.84 $80.85
Kenya AA Auction Lot 633-Karugwa $5.70 $10.83 $24.80 $87.78
Kenya AA Auction Lot 499-Mweiga $5.90 $11.21 $25.67 $90.86
Rwanda Masaka “Seven Lakes” $4.40 $8.36 $19.14 $67.76
Tanzania AA Songea Flatbean $4.70 $8.93 $20.45 $72.38
Uganda AA Bugisu $4.30 $8.17 $18.71 $66.22
Yemen Mokha Ismaili (Hirazi) $7.80 $14.82 $36.27 $124.80
Zimbabwe AA Salimba Estate $4.60 $8.74 $20.01 $70.84
Indonesian- Indian 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 20 lb
Indian Monsooned Malabar Coehlo’s Gold $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00
Indian Pearl Mountain Peaberry $4.80 $9.12 $20.88 $73.92
Papua New Guinea – Arokara AA $4.60 $8.74 $20.01 $70.84
Papua New Guinea – Kimel $4.50 $8.55 $19.58 $69.30
Sulawesi Toraja Grade One $4.50 $8.55 $19.58 $69.30
Aged Sumatra Lintong $5.80 $11.02 $25.23 $89.32
Sumatra Iskandar Triple-Pick $5.30 $10.07 $23.06 $81.62
Sumatra Mandheling ’04 – Lot 6854 $4.40 $8.36 $19.14 $67.76
Timor Organic/FT Maubesse $5.10 $9.69 $22.19 $78.54
Islands- Blends -Etc. 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 20 lb
Hawaii Kona -Honaunau Peaberry $15.40 $29.57 $71.61 5 lb limit
Hawaii Kona Purple Mountain FANCY $14.40 $27.65 $66.96 5 lb limit
Jamaica Blue Mountain – Mavis Bank $19.40 $37.25 $90.21 5 lb limit
Puerto Rico Yauco Selecto AA $9.70 $18.62 $45.11 $161.02
SM’s Moka Kadir Blend $5.60 $10.64 $24.36 $86.24
SM’s Espresso Monkey Blend $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00
SM’s Classic Italian Espresso Blend $4.80 $9.12 $20.88 $73.92
SM’s Decaf Espresso Blend $5.60 $10.64 $24.36 $86.24
SM’s Liquid Amber Espresso Blend $5.30 $10.07 $23.06 $81.62
SM’s French Roast Blend $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00
SM’s Roasted French Chicory $4.80 $9.12 $20.88 $73.92
Decafs 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 20 lb
Brazil Prima Qualita WP Decaf $4.60 $8.74 $20.01 $70.84
Colombian Excelso Medellin WP Decaf $4.70 $8.93 $20.45 $72.38
Costa Rican El Sol WP Decaf $5.10 $9.69 $22.19 $78.54
Ethiopian Yirgacheffe WP Decaf $5.20 $9.88 $22.62 $80.08
Kenya AA WP Decaf $5.50 $10.45 $23.93 $84.70
Mexican Esmeralda Natural Decaf $4.40 $8.36 $19.14 $67.76
Panama WP Decaf -Panamaria Estate $5.20 $9.88 $22.62 $80.08
Sulawesi Toraja WP Decaf $5.10 $9.69 $22.19 $78.54
Sumatra WP Decaf $5.20 $9.88 $22.62 $80.08
Timor WP Decaf $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00
Premium Robustas 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 20 lb
Indian Organic Washed Robusta $4.20 $7.98 $18.27 $64.68
Uganda Robusta -Esco Farms 18+ $4.00 $7.60 $17.40 $61.60
Ugh! (The Coffee) $0.70 1 lb limit

Related Posts