Fermented Field Trip: The Coffee Ride (Boulder, CO)

Hey everyone! Happy Thursday! We here at Live Cultures FFs have started a new segment called Fermented Field Trips! There are so many foods/beverages in this lovely world of ours (cheese, beer, sauerkraut to name a few) that utilize the magic and mysticism of fermentation.  We are going out into the field to meet with some of the people who have learned how to de-mystify the 10,000 year old art of fermentation and have harnessed the benefits in one way or another.

Today we are meeting with Josh Crane of The Coffee Ride in Boulder CO. If you live in the Boulder or surrounding areas, you will likely find this fine gentleman literally pedaling his delicious micro-roasted coffee to his customers. Josh is an avid bicyclist and a believer that fine coffee is at its peak flavor when consumed with in 15 days of initial roast, so all of his coffee is roasted to order every Wednesday, and it is highly suggested you share it with good friends (it just tastes better that way!).

You may be wondering why we stopped by the Coffee Ride today…  Well, Live Cultures FFs are coffee lovers, and The Coffee Ride does make amazing coffee, but those aren’t the only reasons. We wanted to learn a little more about the coffee bean fermenting processes (since we can’t make it to the coffee bean fields for production) behind the beautiful black bean that Josh handles with such love and care.

Did you know that coffee is first fermented before it is sent to the roaster? That’s right. You read correctly. Crazy, right? Sounds funny to put coffee in the same category as beer, stinky cheeses, and pungent kimchi. Indeed, it is a long journey for the coffee bean before it reaches our cup.

Fermentation of the coffee bean happens during the processing of the bean before the roasting, grinding, and brewing.

There are 3 popular methods in the processing of coffee beans.

 

The first and oldest is the dry or natural method.  This is where the beans, after being picked by hand or machine, are laid out to be dried in the sun. In Ethiopia, India, and Kenya it can be as simple as placing the beans on sheets on the ground to dry. It is the most traditional method and is most commonly used in regions that fall short on water supply. Here, none of the layers are removed from the coffee bean.

dry process coffee
photo courtesy of Britannica.com

This provides a slight wildness to the flavor and a little extra tartness. An uneveness, a little randomness to the taste.

This is why earthier coffees are dry processed. If the coffee cherries aren’t dried fast enough, there will be a slight rottenness to the coffee, and bad cherries have to be identified and removed by hand. In poor grade coffees, there’s also a slight chance of dirt granules or rocks being in the mix.

 

Next we have the honey process.  

honey-coffee-blog3
photo credit: Cafebritt.com

This process falls somewhere inbetween the dry and wet process. It is very popular in places like Costa Rica. The honey process is named after the very sticky and slimy mucilage layer within the coffee bean. During the honey process, coffee cherries are picked, sorted, depulped, and then moved to drying patios or beds for various periods of time. Coffee is dried with some or all of the mucilage remaining on the parchment encasing the seed. There is a small amount of fermentation taking place here. It happens in the short amount of time it takes for the mucilage (honey) to dry. This process provides a little more acidity than pressure washed or pulped natural coffees .

 

Lastly, we have the washed coffee with the wet fermentation process.

Pulped coffee, fast shutter speed
photo credit: Sweet Maria’s


Traditional washed coffee includes a period of wet fermentation. This means the pulped coffee is soaked in a tank of water. The water allows the sticky mucilage to degrade slowly. Wet fermentation is undertaken in 12-72 hours depending on weather and the farmer’s desired outcome. The hotter the weather, the shorter the fermentation period. Usually the coffee can be rubbed together in the farmer’s hands to indicate whether fermentation is complete or not. Fermentation is complete when the coffee has no stickiness or sliminess left. Longer fermentation times can lead to increased acid complexity (eg. Acetic, Citric, and Malic). The fermented coffee is then rinsed and put out to dry. This style of processing encourages clean, bright acidity and sweetness.

Below is a chart that explains how fermentation effects the bean’s acidity.

fermentation-charts1
image credit: Seattle Coffee Works

So in a nut shell, fermentation is a key part of the coffee-making process before the beans make it to you, the consumer.  With out these processes, coffee would not taste the way it does. Next time you sit down with a well roasted cup of coffee, you can praise the fermenting gods (and goddesses) and thank them for their aid in making your coffee what it is!

IMG_9721Thanks to Roasters Like Josh and The Coffee Ride we can drink great coffee and have it delivered to our homes sustainably. He does a wonderful job at pairing country of origin and bean process with the appropriate roasting profile! Josh aims to give back to the coffee farmers as much as possible while providing customers with only ethically grown coffee roasted to perfection. To learn more about Josh and to purchase coffee, click on The Coffee Ride to go to their website.

If you have suggestions on any fermented processes you want to know more about or have any businesses you would like us to interview about their fermented processes please contact Live Cultures FFs.

Stay tuned for more Fermented Field Trips!

 

 

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