RIP Coffee Roasting – Roast In Parchment

October, 2009 Update

This year’s batch of R.I.P. coffee is in. Overall, we think the cup quality is improved over last year: incredible body, with a really unique flavor profile. This year’s batch roasts quite differently from last year’s, as illustrated below:

RIP Coffee 2009, Unroasted RIP Coffee 2009, Roasted to Full City. Note the extremely uneven color of the parchment. Another shot of a full city roast of the 2009 RIP Coffee.


RIP Coffee Tutorial

Okay, this is about as wacky as it gets; roasting coffee in it’s parchment shell, grinding it up, parchment and all, and brewing it. But we tried it and it’s a unique cup, with extra body, and unusual cocoa and woody flavors. RIP coffee is a name we came up with for “Roasted In Parchment,” which is a another of our crackpot ideas. But the logic is all there: After coffee is processed at the wet mill or the pulping station, it is dried in the sun. At this stage the coffee has it’s outer parchment shell on it; it is called pergamino in Central America at this stage. After it is sun-dried down to 12% moisture content, the parchment coffee is rested in silos or bags for anywhere from 30-60 days. This allows the coffee to stabilize. In it’s parchment shell, the dried green coffee can be stored for much longer, and is more protected from temperature and humidity changes that damage cup quality. I had toyed with the idea years ago of importing coffee in parchment, and milling it here. You can store it and dry mill it right before shipping it to the customer. The logistics never made sense, and milling is expensive and dusty. Some time last year I was in my cupping room and on a whim I started roasting some samples I had of parchment coffee. I remember seeing women in rural Guatemala roasting parchment coffee on a wood stove. What would happen? I was really surprised by the cup. It was very different, not at all unpleasant. There was tons of body, an unusual maple syrup and cocoa powder taste. It seemed like I had blended coffee with something else, but I enjoyed it! I also found that the darker roasts were my favorite. So this year while traveling in Costa Rica I asked Juan Ramon at Brumas del Zurqui Micro Mill if they would ship us parchment coffee. They did, and with a twist: this isn’t wet-processed parchment coffee, it is Red Honey Parchment from pulped natural process. That means the fruit of the coffee cherry was left to dry on the parchment. Rather than the pale cream color of wet-processed parchment, this has a red tint to it.

Wet-Process Coffee Parchment
Here is an image of typical wet-process parchment or pergamino coffee. The coffee fruit has it’s outer skin removed (pulped), then the fruity layer that clings to the parchment shell is fermented off. It is washed and then laid on patios to dry for a week or so. Once it reaches 11 or12% moisture, it is “rested” for up to 2 months to stabilize, then ready for dry-milling (hulling the green bean out of the parchment, screening, sorting) and export.

“Red Honey” Parchment
Note the strong visual distinction of Honey Coffee, also called Miel, or Pulp Natural. In this process the fruit skin is removed, then the coffee is dried on raised screens without attempting to remove the fruit. The fruit dries to the parchment layer. In normal processing, this is removed at the dry mill, and the green coffee that comes out looks a lot like wet-process green coffee. But it has a different cup; lower acidty, more fruit, more body.

Red Honey Coffee – Herbazu Estate
We have a different lot of Red Honey coffee coming late in the season, and this is what the green coffee looks like (no, that lot will NOT be in parchment). It has a lot of silverskin still clinging to the green seed, but it is otherwise much like a traditional Central American wet-process coffee in appearance. If you were inclined, you could buy the RIP lot from us and mill it yourself to produce green coffee that looks much like this image.

Drum Roast or Air Roast? We found that both work well for RIP coffee. In any case, DO NOT leave your roaster unattended!


RIP Coffee (Roasted in Parchment) City+ Roast
Roasting coffee in parchment is tricky. First off, parchment adds to the combustible load in the roast chamber. YOU NEED TO STAY BY YOUR ROASTER. Don’t walk away from this one, even in the warmup stages. Secondly, how in the world do you know the level of roast, and where to stop it? You can’t see the green coffee. Well, that’s one reason I took these images. This is a City roast (not recommended) where the exterior of the parchment has a red-brown color, with dark splotches.

RIP Coffee (Roasted in Parchment) FC Roast
At Full City roast yiu can see an overall browning of the parchment, still with dark areas. One trick here is to shell a few of the seeds out of the parchment shell and have them in the batch. If you can catch sight of them, they can indicate the roast level. This is not so effective with roasters where the coffee is in a rapid agitation, or can’t be probed directly. I would keep roasting past this stage. RIP coffee is better on the dark side.

RIP Coffee (Roasted in Parchment) FC++ Roast
Full City++. I guess I just made that up. It means that 2nd crack has started and coffee roast is stopped. Coffee in parchment makes the 2nd crack harder to hear (if that wasn’t a problem already). Notice the slightly darker coloration overall of the coffee. In a way. the parts where the coffee fruit isn’t starts to catch up to the darkness of the fruitly splotches. This is a good roast level for RIP Red Honey Coffee.

RIP Coffee (Roasted in Parchment) Vienna Roast
Vienna roast of RIP coffee, and the surface color has evened out between the areas where fruit was clinging to the shell, and areas where it was not. This works well with the flavors of RIP coffee: chocolate-cocoa, woody, tobacco, earth. But don’t let it go much futher than this…

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