This Week in Coffee: Farming- Processing Part 2

This Week in Coffee: Farming- Processing Part 2

In these days of summer heat, we are staying cool in the studio with many wonderful iced drink offerings. Come in from the humidity and refresh with a nice cold Spindrift soda, Iced Yunnan Tea from Mem Tea Imports, or Iced herbal tea option, Ginger Lime Rooibos from Rishi Tea.


Of course, we are also offering some wonderful iced coffee options for a cool down complete with a boost of caffeine. Always popular is our cold brewed iced coffee. Enjoy a full 12 oz cup or a quick shot of energy from our small 4oz option. Also available when reserved a day in advance is a 64oz cold brew growler that you can keep in your fridge at home or work to enjoy throughout the week.

This week our espresso is brought to you by our current guest roaster, Mountain Air Roasting of Asheville, North Carolina. Currently is the hopper is Heirloom espresso. This Yirgacheffe, Ethiopian is floral, spicy, and intense. Next up this week we will be Obelisk espresso from Brazil. This option is smooth and delicious with flavors of honey, chocolate, and cherry. Looking for the full flavor of espresso in a cold drink? Any of our espresso drinks can be made iced.

Of course, even in the summer, hot coffee is a wonderful option is get your day going. Currently on our pourover menu are two wonderful offerings from George Howell Coffee. San Jose de Pedregal from Colombia is  rich with flavors of black grape, dark cherry, and orange. Reko Kochere from Ethiopia is bright and sweet with flavors of watermelon, apricot, and candy lemon.

Focus on Farming: Natural Processing

Since February we have covered many topics to introduce some of the complexities of coffee farming and production. We started with a basic overview, followed by a focus on soil effects, climate conditions, altitude, varietals, and harvest. Recently, turning to the processing of coffee, our last post focused on the traditional washed process for removing the coffee cherry fruit from the coffee bean. Today, we write about a less common processing option: natural processing.


Natural processing (or dry processing) is the oldest way to process coffee and plays a large role in effecting the taste of coffee once it is roasted and brewed. Typically naturally roasted coffees present with a fruity flavor that washed processed coffees cannot achieve. This is because in the natural process, the fruit of the coffee cherry is allowed to dry on the coffee bean before being removed from the seed. This allows the bean to assume that fruity or berry flavor. While a vast majority of the coffees we serve here at the studio are traditional washed coffees, we have had opportunities to serve natural processed coffees in the past: most recently, Misty Valley Ethiopian from Gracenote Coffee.

This Week in Coffee: Farming-Processing Part 1

This Week in Coffee: Farming-Processing Part 1

For the past few weeks we have been serving up some delicious pourover coffees from our current guest roaster, Mountain Air Roasting of Asheville, North Carolina. Today we are switching gears and serving up Mountain Air espresso with pourover options from George Howell Coffee.


Mountain Air's American Espresso is a Colombian coffee from the Huila region that tastes fruited, bright, and lively, and pairs beautifully with milk to become your favorite espresso drink. From George Howell we have an old favorite, Borboya from Ethiopia and a new option, Quispe Senk'a from Peru. Borboya is light and floral with notes of sweet lemon, lavender, and green tea. Quispe Senk'a is fruity and tropical with notes of pineapple, sangria, and passion fruit.

Also available and perfect for the summer like heat we have been experiencing, is our cold brew. Want easy access to cold brew at home or at the office? Reserve a cold brew growler today and pick it up tomorrow!

Focus on Farming: Washed Processing

After a bit of a hiatus, we are back with our Focus on Farming Coffee series! This winter's posts included details on some of the various factors that effect the growth and taste of different coffee beans including a basic overview, soil effects, climate conditions, altitude, varietals, and harvest. Now, moving past the growing process, we are turning to the next step in coffee production: processessing.  There are a few different ways to "process" coffee, or remove the fruit of the coffee cherry from the coffee seed or bean, preparing the freshly harvested coffee for roasting. Today's post is dedicated to the most common manner of processing: traditional washed processing.


Washed processing completely removes the cherry and pulp from the coffee seed through friction, fermentation, and a water wash. Fresh from the harvest, the coffee is first weighed and then fed through a depulping machine (pictured above) which uses blades and a water wash to remove the fruit, leaving a thin layer of mucilage coating of natural sugars and alcohols on the bean. This mucilage has a great impact on the flavor of the coffee and after depulping, must be fully removed from the coffee bean. This can be done through fermentation or mechanically.

Depending on several factors, including desired flavor, amount of mucilage, and climate conditions, fermentation can take as few as six hours or as long as four days. Turbulent water and naturally present bacteria break down the mucilage and can remove 100% of the sugars and alcohols. Mechanical demucilagers can strip most of the mucilage, but not all. This new technology can be carefully calibrated to remove a controlled amount of mucilage by applying friction with bristles. This method also uses a considerably smaller amount of water and produces less waste.


After washing and fermentation, coffee is spread out to dry. At this point in processing, the coffee is still surrounded by a protective parchment skin. When drying, the coffee bean shrinks, allowing for easy removal of the parchment in a final step of preperation: hulling. Once the parchment is removed from the dry bean, the green (or unroasted) coffee is ready to be packaged and shipped to roasters around the world.

For more information on washed processing, check out this page on the Stumptown Coffee website. This photo page from George Howell's 2007 trip to Kenya also includes some great photos and descriptive captions of traditional washed processing.

This Week in Coffee: Farming - Varietals

This Week in Coffee: Farming - Varietals

This week in the cafe we are serving up some wonderful espresso from George Howell Coffee and delicious pourover options from our current guest roaster, Gracenote Coffee of Berlin, Massachusetts.


Continuing from last week, the espresso currently in the hopper is George Howell's La Soledad Espresso from Guatemala. This sweet and bright option presents with flavors of apple, pear, and brown sugar.

We are also continuing to serve Gracenote's Bellavista-Cortes from Colombia. This microlot coffee is smooth and delicious with flavors of cherry cola, lemon, and cocoa. A new pourover option this week has been Finca Kassandra from Mexico. This unique coffee presents with complex and varied flavors of grape, caramel, cinnamon, sweet basil, floral, and pomegranate.

Focus on Farming: Varietals

Over the past few weeks we have been walking you through some basic information on the complex process of farming coffee. Beginning with an overview, we have since covered topics of soil characteristics, climate, and altitude. Today we turn to the characteristics of the plant itself, focusing on the many varieties of coffee plants.


Coffee plants are part of the taxanomical family Rubiacea and genus Coffea. Within the coffea genus, there are over one hundred species, only a few of which produce coffee cherries for consumption. The most common species grown in the coffee industry is the arabica species which consistitute about 70% of the world's coffee. Other less common species include canephora and liberica. Within a species, further differences exist between different varieties or varietals. The differences can evolve naturally but can also be created through cultivation. Different varieties within the same species share most characteristics, however there are small differences that, in the case of coffee, can require differences in growing techniques and contribute to differences in the taste and body of the roasted and brewed coffees.

Two common varieties of arabica coffee are typica and bourbon. Typica, the earliest discovered variety of the arabica species was first found in the Kaffa region of Ethiopia. Typica has served as the basis for many mutations and cultivations of further varietals. Though typica is a low yielding varietal, it is known for its excellent quality in the cup with rich sweet flavors and complex body. Bourbon is also a low yielding, high quality varietal. It is named for the Island of Bourbon off the coast of Madagascar and began being actively planted by the 1870s. This particular coffee varietal is highly regarded for its balance and acidity.



The  coffees that we serve here at RSC often involve these two varietals, as well as many others. Take this week's coffees for instance...

La Soledad is a combination of yellow bourbon, caturra (a higher yeilding mutation of the bourbon variety), typica, and pache. Bellavista-Cortes is 80% castillo and %20 caturra. Finca Kassandra is a bit different from the others: a pacamara varietal. Pacamara is a hyrid of the maragogype (known for have large beans with low density) and pacas (a naturally occurring bourbon mutation with smaller beans). As you can taste in the basil notes of the Finca Kassandra, pacamara is unique with its herbal and savory flavors.

Want to learn more about particular varietitals? Former RSC guest roaster, Stumptown Coffee Roasters has a great guide to varieties that has served as a source for the information in this blog post. A second source is the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) and the guiding information on their "A Botanist's Guide to Specialty Coffee" page of their website.

You can also find more information on this topic and many other coffee details in the television broadcast of George Howell's talk at the Studio from this past fall. Check out our post about the "What's Brewing" series from Lex Media for more information.

This Week in Coffee: Farming - Soil Effects

This Week in Coffee: Focus on Farming Part 2: Soil Effects


For the third week in a row, the studio is serving as a warm and safe refuge from the snow storms. Inside we are brewing up some wonderful espressos from our guest roaster Gracenote Coffee of Berlin, Massachusetts and delicious pourover options from our fantastic house roaster George Howell Coffee.

IMG_0314Currently in the hopper is Gracenote's Ethiopian Konga espresso. This bright and sweet espresso has been a popular option over the past few weeks, presenting with flavors of stone fruit, candied lemon, and hibiscus. Next up is a new and limited option, Colombia Bellavista Cortes! This microlot option is a special treat with notes of cherry cola, lemon, and cocoa. Come in later this week to try it out while it lasts!

Pourover options this week include George Howell's Mamuto AB from Kenya and La Bendición from Guatemala. Mamuto is rich and smooth with flavors of blackberry, cherry, and plum. La Bendición is bright and fruity with flavors of lime, tangerine, and jammy fruit.

Focus on Farming: Soil Effects

In last week's This Week in Coffee post, we outlined a few of the major factors that contribute to the growth, harvest, and quality of coffee beans. Today we focus in on one of the several factors effecting the decision of where and how to plant coffee: soil characteristics.

View from Alto Bonito

Soil content and consistency can have a great impact on the success of coffee growth. To grow successfully, coffee needs access to proper amounts of water and nutrients. The micro-organisms, minerals, organic matter, and acidity of soil will all adjust characteristics of the coffee plant and the resulting coffee bean. Many of these characteristics can be controlled through farming techniques, adding fertilizers and lime, but there is another soil quality that is harder to control: texture. As noted by George Howell, the ideal soil type is one that is "loamy--crumbly, permeable, having high oxygen content, and be deep, especially in drier areas."

Why deep? And why in particular in dry areas? Coffee plants can survive through long dry seasons characteristic of many coffee growing regions, as long as the soil is able to retain a certain moisture content. Coffee roots can extend three meters into the ground to reach this moisture, making deeper soil that remains moist the longest, the most beneficial for the coffee plant. At the same time, this soil moisture level is a delicate balance, as too high a moisture content can overwhelm the plant and  be harmful to the root system. Farmers must take great care to properly water their plants, knowing the specific depth and textures of their soil and in some cases building in controlled drainage and monitoring soil erosion.


For further detail on farming and optimal growing conditions, stay tuned for next week's post about climate and regional differences.

If you have not yet had a chance to watch Lex Media's broadcast of "What's Brewing" talk at RSC with George Howell, check it out HERE.

This Week in Coffee: Focus on Farming

This Week in Coffee: Focus on Farming Part 1

More snow?! We can think of no better way to warm up to this winter weather than coming by for a hot cup of coffee, tea, or perhaps a delicious mocha latte. Cozy up with a croissant or sticky bun from Iggy's Bread of Cambridge, take comfort in a bowl of hot oatmeal with brown sugar, dates, cranberries, and pecans, or get a warm boost of protein with our house made vegetarian chili. Yum!


Currently in the Cafe we are brewing up some recent favorites from Gracenote Coffee and George Howell Coffee. In the espresso hopper today, we have Gracenote's Ethiopian Konga, a bright and naturally sweet espresso that presents with notes of stone fruit, candied lemon, and hibiscus. Coming up next will be Pulcal of Guatemala. This option is soothing and sweet with flavors of caramel, brownie, and key lime pie.

For pourover options this week we are serving George Howell's Karinga from Kenya and Kochere from Ethiopia. Karinga is rich with fruit flavors of blackberry, black grape, and apple. Kochere is light and tea-like with flavors of earl grey, honeydew, and apricot.

Focus on Farming: Overview

Leaving the snowy Northeast behind, we can turn tour attention to tropical, coffee growing regions for a focus on farming! In the coming weeks, stay tuned to the "This Week in Coffee" posts for further details on the various factors that affect the growing and taste of coffee.

Photo Courtesy of George Howell Coffee

Today, we will start with some basics...

There are four primary factors that influence methods for growing and eventual taste of coffee beans: where, what, how, and harvest.

First, a farmer must decide where is the best place to plant. There are several secondary factors that affect this decision, including soil characteristics, altitude, and climate.

The next question is what species to grow. Not all coffee plants are the same. Some species produce higher quality coffees than others, and certain species will grow better in certain climactic conditions or at certain elevations.

The third factor, "how," refers to care for the coffee plant and methods to ensure that the plant is receiving proper nutrients and an appropriate amount of water.

The fourth and final decision making factor is when and how to harvest. Harvesting is a tricky and delicate process, complicated by the varied rate of ripening. Coffee beans are seeds of coffee cherries that grow in clusters on the coffee shrub. Ideally coffee is harvested when it is ripe, however, within one cluster of coffee cherries, some cherries can be more ripe than others. Farmers must take great care to hand pick the appropriately ripened cherries to produce the highest quality product possible. Once harvested, the coffee is processed to remove the fruit, dried, and then packaged and shipped to roasters around the world.

Want to learn more about the ins and out of growing coffee? George Howell Coffee is a wonderful resource, with clear and interesting descriptions of the farming and sourcing process on their website.

Another great source for more information is LexMedia's "What's Brewing?" broadcast of George Howell's "Coffee Talk" at the Studio this past October. Check out Part 1: Finding the Best Coffee Around the World for more on sourcing coffee. More detail on "What's Brewing?" and other episode links are available on an earlier post to our blog.