- By Alex Lafrenière
Processed (and roasted) with baby onions
From the time it's grown until it's brewed, a coffee bean sees it literally of all the colors. The coffee tree blooms in delicate white flowers and produces small green fruits that gradually turn red as they ripen. These juicy cherries are picked and processed with care to extract the coffee beans which, in the end, are cooked and then take on their brown color. Let's unravel together the stages that coffee goes through to evolve from dry, green and acidic fruit to brown coffee bean and rich in flavor, all while taking a short coffee break!
From red to green
Have you ever read the mention Honey on a bag of coffee and were convinced you'd got your hands on a honey-flavored coffee? I am definitely a victim of this trick! In fact, in order to extract the beans from the fruits of the coffee tree, there are several processing methods. The most popular are the wet method (also called washing), the dry method (so-called natural) and finally, the so-called honeying (or commonly called Honey).
In the case where the coffee has been wet-processed, it is understood that the cherries have been deprived of their pulp, that is to say the sweet body enveloping the core of the fruit, after harvesting. The seeds then fermented for a few hours and slowly dried. In the cup, this type of treatment offers coffees that are generally fruity and thick in the mouth. Now, in the case where the coffee has been processed naturally, the reverse path has been taken: the cherries have been left to dry in the sun, we have made sure to brew each harvest regularly and we came to meticulously remove what was left of the pulp. In the cup, we discover a coffee with a complex aromatic profile, medium body and a higher level of acidity. Finally, honey mixing is a technique representing the perfect mix between the two previous ones. No no, no bees are involved in this technique! It is more a matter of pulping the cherries, drying the seeds in the sun and above all, preserving a certain quantity of mucilage, that is to say the viscous substance and honeyed surrounding each grain. Here, coffee growers can have fun customizing their recipe by varying the thickness of the mucilage removed around the coffee bean. A process whose grain has less mucilage thickness will be called BlackHoney, a thickness of mucilage between 50 and 75% of its original state will be called Red Honey and finally, when the mucilage is practically intact, we speak of the process Yellow Honey. Of course, this rich layer of sugar enveloping the grain will be caramelized in the sun and will give a naturally sweet taste to the coffee.
FUN FACT: Since coffee production is an art in itself, several other more specific techniques have been developed over the years. Precisely, one of the most expensive coffees in the world is characterized by a process that leaves no one indifferent. The coffee cherry turns out to be a staple in the diet of certain animals, such as monkeys and birds. So they spoil themselves and pick the perfectly ripe coffee cherries, stuff themselves to their heart's content and digest them. The parchment or, in other words, the envelope which surrounds the grain and which bathes in the mucilage, protects it during digestion. Believe it or not, but some producers will come and pick up the animal waste, shell it and set aside the perfectly intact coffee beans to then process them. I tell you, it's not pranks!
From green to brown
The very last stage in the metamorphosis of the coffee bean is the one that allows it to change from its green and hard form like a rock to the brown bean suitable for consumption. We are talking about roasting here. Without this step, the coffee bean would only be a very small dry and sour fruit like a sour patch. Thanks to controlled cooking at approximately 200°C, the color of the bean changes from green to brown, its body swells and above all, its aromas unfold. Roasting requires a rotary kiln in which the seeds turn in all directions until they are cooked and their essential oils caramelize on their surface.
Human intervention is vital during this process. Indeed, the cooking time as well as the maximum temperature delimit the intensity of the taste of the coffee and these parameters must be meticulously monitored. To do this, roasters must analyze the color reached by the beans as well as their smell. They must also pay attention to the final crackle of the coffee beans, a crackling sound that sounds like popcorn in the microwave. It is at this moment that the cooking must be ended.
Good coffee :)
The Coffee Break with Alex // Treated (and roasted) with baby onions
- By Alex Lafrenière