THIS IS HOW YOUR COFFEE IS PROCESSED IN COLOMBIA
This is how your coffee is processed in Colombia
The journey from the coffee tree to the cup is long and labour-intensive and we’d like to share the process with you step by step. Oscar, the owner of Finca Los Nogales explains how he processes the beans – from the coffee tree to the farm gate.
Oscar selectively picks his cherries. Together with the pickers he hires during the harvest, he hand-harvests the all-red, ripe cherries. As with wine, this ensures that only the most sugar-rich fruits are processed. In order to further enhance the quality, the cherries are laid out and sorted. This harvesting mode requires Oscar and his team to return to the same fields every four weeks to pick the ripe cherries. The light cherries are separated from the denser, heavier and therefore higher-quality cherries in a water tank.
Before the next step, Oscar keeps the cherries in large barrels for 24 hours. A first fermentation process begins. Bacteria begin to break down the sugars in the cherries. The pulp must then be removed. This is done with a “despulpado”, a pulping machine that removes the pulp with two metal discs without damaging the core of the fruit (the coffee bean). Oscar’s machine is designed to reduce water consumption per kilogram of coffee from 40 litres to 0.4 litres.
In order to break down the remaining sugar, Oscar ferments the coffee for another 30 hours. For this process, he bought large metal buckets to protect the coffee from over-exposure to oxygen. He continuously measures the temperature, the pH value and the sugar content of the coffee beans. When a Brix of 10% is reached, Oscar stops the fermentation process. Other than with the production of wine, coffee doesn’t have to be fermented, and we regularly drink unfermented coffee. But when one tastes the end-product in the cup, it’s evident that the breakdown of the fructose by microorganisms has an influence on the flavour of the coffee.
Using a demucilager, Oscar now removes the remaining sugar from the beans. The centrifugal forces generated by the machine ensure that the remaining sugar dissolves. Oscar could complete this step in a washing channel, but the water consumption would be higher. The intermediate product we get after washing is called parchment: the coffee cherry is still covered by a silver skin and a parchment-like shell. The coffee is now ready to be dried.
Before the parchment is laid out to dry, the beans are manually checked for defects. Proper drying needs patience and care. The coffee should be kept dry at all times. Especially in Huila, in the south of Colombia, where it rains every day. Oscar therefore dries the coffee in a greenhouse that he had built himself. At the same time, it is also important that the coffee does not dry too quickly. The coffee is therefore turned over regularly and protected from direct sunlight during the noon hours. Oscar regularly measures the moisture content of the parchment. When 11 -12% moisture content is achieved, the parchment is ready to be processed.
Transport and process
Before the coffee leaves the farm, it is packed in bags and then transported to the neighbouring city in Oscar’s new pickup truck. The parchment and the silver skin are now removed in a larger dry-mill, the beans sorted according to their size and finally packed in exportable bags of 70 kg each. The bags are placed in a 20-foot container and the journey continues towards Buenaventura, the closest port city. After about 28 days on the ship and a passage through the Panama Canal, the coffee finally reaches Europe, where it is transported on the Rhine or by truck to the ViCAFE Roastery in Zurich.