Red Wine, Eat Your Heart Out!
I love a good robust red wine, so when I first heard about this new fermented organic coffee from Ethiopia, I was skeptical. Wine is fermented. Coffee is - well, not fermented. Right?
Turns out, there is an enormous amount of research and development going on in the specialty coffee world around the various ways that fermentation can affect coffee quality, flavor and mouthfeel.
Aharon was extremely interested in these particular beans, since we had never tried anything like them, even though the price point was several times higher than the usual high grade organic green coffee beans we purchase and roast at our Beverly Hills 90212 location. We had never heard of any other roasteries offering these beans, so we had to see for ourselves what experience this unique fermentation process would yield.
Specifically, these coffee beans had been washed with a standard natural process (one that we LOVE and that yields fruity wonderful coffee, such as our Ethiopia Dry Natural beans), but with one minor but labor-intensive intervention: the fermentation process.
THE COFFEE FERMENTATION PROCESS
After sorting and floating the coffee fruit in water, the fresh coffee cherry is placed into a hermetic plastic liner (in this case, a fresh GrainPro bag) and tied shut, where it is allowed to speed-ripen for five full days prior to drying. This method, which the farmers calls the “winey” process due to the additional wine-like volatiles and acids present in the final cup, is an attempt to maximize the ripening of available sugars in the fruit for absorption to the seed inside.
It is a constant chore of maintaining temperature stability so the extreme environment inside the bag doesn’t spoil the cherry, and as such often involves moving the bags in and out of direct sun around the clock. Once cured, the softened and fragrant coffee cherries are taken directly to raised beds under shade for a very gradual drying process of almost three weeks.
RESULTS ARE IN: THIS COFFEE DAZZLES
When all was said and done, Aharon received, roasted and tasted (cupped) the new coffee with me. My senses were literally dazzled. The coffee is spectacular, and I confidently recommend it to our cafe coffee customers as a splurge that they will not regret!
I have since learned that it’s not just me - oxygen-deprived, or “anaerobic” fermentation environments like the one used with our Ethiopia beans have gained traction among processing wonks in coffee for the unique flavors and tanginess they can add, as well as creating wholly distinct flavors in the cup than those we’re used to.
In our case, these farmers took an exemplary natural Ethiopian Sidama coffee and added a definite bump of intensity to the fruit flavors, and concentration to the mouthfeel. The coffee is extra pulpy, syrupy, pineapple-sweet, and yes, red wine-like. I whole-heartedly recommend you try it yourself - a splurge! - you are worth it! - before our last bag is out.