Coffee Seed – Planting
Pure Arabica based coffee is the seed of a berry from a small tree / bush, which grows in a narrow sub-tropical belt, between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. It requires very specific environmental conditions:
- to grow 1500m above sea level,
- in moderate temperature,
- moderate rainfall,
- rich soils with good drainage and strong mineral content,
- shade is preferred, especially that of a rainforest.
For this reason it has been found that the best Arabica coffee beans are mountain grown, in rain forests since they are exposed to the optimal conditions naturally
Depending on the approach some areas cultivation of coffee trees begins with planting the seeds in soil and keeping them in green houses for 9 to 18 months, until they reach a height up to half a metre. After that young plants are transplanted to permanent groves. It takes a year for the plant to reach just 30 centimetres tall. After four years they reach maturity.
Coffee plants bear fruit in lines along their branches. The fruit turns cherry-red when it is time to be harvested. In here lies the contradiction since natural Arabica ‘typica’ will fall off the plant when it is mature. Since the Arabica ‘typica’ coffee bean matures differently per tree and part of the tree this would normal mean harvesting by hand is manageable.
This has given rise to the most extra ordinary type of coffee bean the kopi luwak which originally referenced the animal who enjoyed the fruit, and passed the seed after enjoying the fruit. The animal is the Asian Palm Civet which originally discovered this fruit when man planted the plants in Java and Sumatra. The process is quite similar to a wet process (discussed below), although there are some who believe it a special tasting coffee.
We only source the finest coffee, this means that the trees are allowed to mature naturally, and are in some cases grown inside a rain forest at least 15 metres apart so that the natural habitat is not affected, but rather compliments the growth of the tree. A pure coffee tree that is planted to match Arabica ‘typica’s specific requirements produces high quality coffees, and this is the type of coffee Quaffee sources
Note: There are about 40 major species within the coffea genus and with the Arabica ‘typica’ fruit maturing over a 9 month period
This is probably the one step that is most neglected in the pursuit of fine coffee. As noted pure Arabica ‘typica’ or real coffee (the type Quaffee sells) takes 6 – 9 month to mature, the only way to truly harvest coffee is by hand normally within a day of the cherry falling from the tree. As you can see by the picture the cherry goes through a number of stages over its maturation period and hence must be harvested at the correct time. The only way to ensure this is done is by hand.
Most commercial coffees are machine or strip harvested and this means that with the ripe cherry comes the unripe and overripe (especially for Robusta, since Robusta beans do not drop from the tree when overripe, and so to the Arabica derivative that have been created using a variety of methods to mix the Robusta properties with Arabica). Strip or mechanically harvested coffee leads to a mixed green bean, giving unbalanced taste since the green beans are not uniformly ripe
Cherries that are picked by hand are only picked when they are ripe or have fallen to the ground (they are easier to pick then). The same ripeness is reflected in the green bean since the beans are all the same tone. With bulk coffees the green beans need to be sorted and graded since their ripeness varies.
After the ripe cherries have been harvested, the next task is to get at the seeds, or coffee beans, inside. To separate the beans from their cherries, a total of four layers must be removed: the tough, shiny outer skin; the sticky, mucilaginous pulp of the fruit; a stiff parchment casing; and the thin, delicate “silverskin” that clings to each bean.
There are two popular methods used to isolate the beans: the washed or wet process and the dry process. The method used depends largely on the availability of fresh water and is one of the most important determinants of coffee flavour.
|Dry process||This is the oldest method of separating the fruit from the treasured coffee seed or bean. After the fruit is picked using a rake it is spread out in the sun to dry. The fruits are regularly raked making sure the fruit at the bottom is brought to the top. Drying takes from 10 days to 3 weeks. The commercial dry process uses heaters and mechanical driers. Once the husk is dried it is hard and shrivelled it is removed by hand (or mechanically for commercial farms). Our most popular dry processed coffee is Harrar, the original Mocha coffee.|
|Wet process||WWet processed coffee is divided into two types the classic process ferment and wash, and a modern aquapulping or mechanical demucilaging. Most of the coffees we source use the classic method. Essentially the fruit is soaked so that layer after layer of fruit is removed gingerly. Starting with the outer skin being pulped, then the sticky fruit is removed by the natural enzymes and bacteria (fermentation)|
There are many opinions about which process produces the best coffee (we have not included the digestional track coffee here), but dry processing adds more complexity and fruitiness. While wet processed coffees tend to be brighter.
Note that if the processing is not carefully done it can taint the taste of the coffee especially for dry processed coffees
Cleaning and Grading
It can be argued that this part of the process is part of the de-pulping process. After de-pulping the bean are cleaned of the silver skin and dried fruit residue, normally this is done using a process of milling. After that the coffee is sorted using removing any debris that may be mixed into the coffee after processing, like stones and nails. Then it is graded using the following characteristics:
- bean size
Typically for the high quality coffees this is doing by eye and hand, with teams of workers
The pure hand picked highland and shade grown coffees are then tasted or cupped. Those coffees that consistently (i.e. 5 out of 5 cuppings) score at least 86 out of a maximum of 100 are classed as speciality coffees, the rest enter the commercially traded coffee market.
Packing, Warehousing & Transport
Pure green bean coffees can be packed in normal Hessian sacks. Once the green coffee is packed they are normally warehoused. Where the coffee is warehoused is important. Coffee warehouse near other crop will absorb that crops taste, and coffee warehoused near the sea, like say at a dock can become musky and fungus can affect the green bean. It is best if coffee is warehouse close to the source it comes from, as that affected the coffee the least
If you are going to transport coffee then it should be only green bean, since roasted coffee is only fresh for a short time. Most of the coffees we source are traded using a central dealer in a particular country well know for its mountain grown green bean. We have established relationships with these dealers, and we use the most reputable dealers in a country that represent fair trade and only the highest quality green bean (“AAA” and “AAA+” rated). Our established dealers secure the highest quality crop and then transport the green coffee bean normally using air freight.
Since our method of roasting is specialized most of the detail is under Coffee Roasting. However to summarize, roasting is a delicate balance between roasting the bean without exposing it to carcinogenics and ensuring that the optimal roast level is attained. A coffee bean should essentially roast in it own ‘juices’ and not be exposed to any external chemicals, the best tasted are exposed if the coffee bean is gently roasted and the oils are retained in the bean, rather than exposed.
Grinding is a whole discussion on its own so it is covered in more detail under Grinding. But in summary only fresh coffee beans should be used and coffee beans should only be ground when the coffee is to be brewed. A burr or if you can afford it a conical burr grinder has been found to be the best type, since it does not damage the coffee or destroy the flavour, has a consistent grind. It is also important that fineness of the coffee grind should match the brewing method.
There are many ways of brewing coffee. Stove top, semi automatic and automatic methods for espresso, drip methods, filter methods, soaking methods (like French press or Turkish). Here are our rules for the perfect brew:
Fresh Roasted Only
|Always use fresh roasted coffee. Coffee is best 6-8 hours after roasting and will retain its aroma for up to 2 weeks, and flavour for about 2 and a half. Our tests on freezing our coffees found that aroma is preserved for up to 2 months, while flavour just under three months. See FAQ for more details about this|
|Always grind coffee as you are about to brew it. Typically ground coffee looses half its aroma every 3 hours and half its flavour every 6 hours. The newer the grind the more life it has in your mouth|
|Use fresh, clean water that you enjoy drinking. Technically this normally means that it has a hardness less than 10° (dH), and Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) parts per million of more than 50, less than 250|
|Always prepare the coffee brewing equipment as you are about to brew. Make sure it is clean, ready and at the correct temperature so that the equipment is eased into the brew, and at no more or no less than 5°C of the temperature you are going to brew the coffee at|
Perfect Temperature 93°C
|Coffee brewing water should be just below boiling point (as measured at sea level), between 93 and 95°C is best. If the water temperature is too high, your coffee will taste bitter (and for espresso brew have a reduced amount of crema) – if it is too low, the coffee will taste acidic, flavourless and watery.|
Match Extraction to Method
|Your brewing time must match the method you use to expose the grinds to the water. For pressure based espresso 17 to 25 seconds is optimal to expose the flavours, and reducing the bitter after taste|
Clean your Brewer
|After brewing dispose the grinds and rinse the filter completely at least. This helps with Rule 4|
|Coffee is most enjoyable in the first five minutes after being brewed. These are the magic moments to enjoy your brew. Ever tried reheating coffee – yuk! (i.e. like instant)|
There are a variety of methods used (see below for some of them). The most important thing about drinking coffee is that whatever float your boat, and makes you happy is the correct way. Most of the time however adding large amount of sugar is not a very healthy way to enjoy it, and suppresses the unique characteristic. Try get any additives out of the coffee like sugar, sweetener and even milk. Coffee when drunk black is a healthy drink and can be enjoyed at a level that suits you. Some can drink tens of cups a day, others just one. It is worth noting that you need to be genetically disposed to drink it. If you have never liked the tasted then genetically you may just not be compatible. For those who enjoy it, the sooner you drink fine fresh coffee the sooner you discover a great taste of coffee.
There are a number of methods used to enjoy your coffee; here is a summary of the most common:
|Speciality||Description||Typical Method of Preparation|
|Espresso||Pure form of coffee||Typically 7g of fine ground coffee is used. No more than 60ml of water is forced through the coffee either by steam pressure or pump pressure.|
|Long Espresso||A slightly less intense version of espresso||The typical method is to prepare an espresso then add around 30-40 ml of boiling or steaming water. Often prepared incorrectly by allowing the espresso machine to over extract the 7g of beans. This is sometimes called an Americano|
|Double Espresso||Brewed under Pressure. Pure form of coffee double strength and volume.||A true double espresso is prepared using 14g of coffee instead of the 7g for espresso, and pumping no more than 120ml of water through the coffee. Using semi automatic machines this is normally done by using a double spout head and instead of placing two espresso cups under the head only one slightly larger cup is used.|
|Ristretto||Short espresso||A short espresso or Italian, between 25 and 35ml, essentially a short extraction so that only the purest coffee flavour is intact. A double is no more than 60ml.|
|Cappuccino||Purist form of coffee with frothed milk||The Italian method is to uses around 75ml of milk, froth the milk, let the milk stand, then prepare an espresso a double espresso cup or similar and then added the settled froth and milk into the espresso. This is the type of drink that has attracted a lot of press with the latté art movement. American method (as it has been called) is to prepare 1/3 milk 1/3 froth and 1/3 espresso, a particularly perverse thing to then do is to sprinkle either cinnamon, cocoa or hot chocolate powder over the frothed milk for effect. YUK!|
|Caffe latté||This is an American take on the Cappuccino||In the cup place milk to a third of the cup then either add the espresso on top of the milk then scoop the milk froth on top, or scoop froth onto the milk and then add the espresso by pouring it slowly through the milk, and adding a little froth on top of “hole” caused by the espresso while it was poured. Also often comes with cinnamon or hot chocolate powder over the frothed milk (sometime to cover the “hole”)|
|Macchiato||Espresso with froth||Froth some milk, prepare an espresso then add the milk froth only on top of the espresso.|
|Café au lait||Essentially coffee with milk||Either espresso or long espresso used in equal portions of milk.|
|Black / Filter Coffee||Typically served in a mug of coffee||This is essentially it is a over extracted long espresso. Known for its increase in bitterness (often called “strong” because of bitterness) and often served with hot milk. Became popular when the filter machine method became popular where essentially an estimated 7g of coffee per cup is added to a drip filter or French press and served. Although enjoyed by many this is not considered by the coffee snob (sorry specialist) to be a pure coffee form. This is the type of coffee that was common at the turn of the 19th century when coffee was brewed in a pot over the fire. In those days however the coffee beans where normally freshly roasted and the taste was far fresher.|