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Three Canyons Roasters

Coffee Processing

  Ideally coffee is hand-picked by people who can visually distinguish ripe coffee cherry from immature cherry, and pick only the fully mature, ripe cherry.  Once the ripe coffee cherry has been picked, it has to be processed, a process that should start as quickly as possible to prevent spoilage or off flavors developing from prolonged contact between the coffee bean and the coffee fruit.  There are three basic methods for processing coffee, and roughly a million variations on those methods: wet processing, semi-washed (also called pulp-natural), and natural processing.  Even the best coffee cherry can be ruined by improper processing.  Mold, pests, weather, and a host of other hazards can completely destroy a crop.  Wet processed coffees are those that have the skin of the cherry and the pulp removed after harvest either in water tanks or in pulping machines.  Once the cherry is pulped, the beans are separated by weight (good beans sink, bad beans float) as they pass through water channels on their way to being sorted by size.  After sorting, the beans go into fermentation tanks where they stay for 12-48 hours to break down the mucilage that coats the parchment.  Once the mucilage has been broken down, it's rinsed away and the beans, still in their parchment coats, are either spread out to dry on large open-air drying patios, or, less frequently, dried in mechanical dryers.  After the coffee is dry, it's referred to as parchment, and it's typically stored in this state until it's time to prepare them for export.  The parchment is then stripped away from the beans.  Washed coffees tend to have cleaner, rounder, nuttier flavors, and more subtle fruit notes. Pulped natural coffees are those that have had the skin stripped from the cherry, but the fruit left intact around the bean and permitted to dry.  Pulped natural coffees are trickier than wet-processed coffes to carry off well, as they have a much greater risk of being attacked by mold or bacteria, and developing moldy, fermented, sour, or other nasty flavors.  When the pulped natural process is carried off well, though, these coffees tend to have earthy, complex, fruit-forward flavors, and a heavier, richer body. If the coffee has been dry-processed, the fruit is allowed to dry around the beans either after picking or just on the tree, the risk of spoilage is very high, as the coffee has lots of opportunity to develop off, fermenty, yeasty, rotten flavors.  That said, a good dry- processed coffee can be an extraordinary experience.  An excellent dry-processed coffee will have pronounced fruit-flavors, delicate acidity, and a heavy, syrupy body, often with notes like pie-crust, molasses, or toasted barley.  Not everyone loves dry-processed coffees, but we can honestly say that one of the most extraordinary tasting experiences for us involved a dry-processed coffee from a tiny Ethiopian co-op that was richly perfumed with the almost-floral notes of perfectly fresh white Babcock peaches.  The lucky few of us who got to cup this coffee were immediately in love. (Yes, if we can ever get our hands on a sack or two of this coffee, we WILL share.) Finally, the coffee is graded and sorted by size and weight, and defective beans are culled out.  If you see "European Process" or "EP" on a coffee, it indicates that there should be no more than 4 defects per 1,000 coffee beans.  We hand-sort the beans for each roast to ensure that your coffee has no defective beans, and, we try to buy coffees that have very few defects to start with.  You'd be amazed at how few defective beans it takes to ruin the flavor of a batch of coffee. Finally, coffee has to be roasted.  That's where we come in.  You order it, we weigh out the quantity of green coffee required to produce your order (depending on the bean, a batch of coffee can lose up to 22% of its original weight in the roasting process) and lovingly twiddle our machines to bring your coffee to the right temperatures at the right times.  Unsurprisingly, we talk a lot more about the process of roasting coffee in the Coffee 101 section titled "Roasting."
© Three Canyons Roasters, LLC 2013
Micro-Roasted Artisan Coffees