On May 29th, our co-op, COOPADAP (Agricultural Cooperative of PADAP), started writing a new chapter in coffee quality production. Since May last year, we’ve been talking to PhD. professor Flavio Borém, about a consulting project to our producers. Since 1997, he has been teaching at Federal Lavras University and he’s a nationally and internationally well-respected researcher for coffee scientific articles and for the book “Handbook in Coffee Post-Harvest Technology”.
After negotiating the investment for the consulting services, defining the project goals and schedule, we finally had the kick off that happened on May 29th for a group of twelve producers focused in improving coffee quality.
According to Professor Borém, there are 10 concepts related to specialty coffee production:
1) The specialty coffee is formed at the coffee plantation area. The producer must know the coffee plots (in Brazil we call it “talhão”) and each one potential. Then different sensorial profiles must be separated.
2) Only healthy and well-nourished plantations will result specialty coffee. The soil must be well covered by organic material and vegetal cover to protect it from sun heat. The earth must be chill.
3) The harvest planning must be aligned with the capacity of post-harvesting infra-structure. It doesn’t make sense saving money making use of mechanical harvesting but then losing coffee quality on drying patios.
4) When considering coffee matureness and harvesting it mechanically, specialty natural coffee must be harvested with a maximum of 20% of immature fruits (frutos verdes) and for specialty pulped natural a maximum of 30%. It’s preferable having a tolerance for immature fruits to explore the maximum potential of ripe (cereja) and a little bit over-ripe and dry cherries (passa, seco or bóia).
HINT: coffee with pendulum is not totally mature and coffee without pendulum is mature.
5) The quality can improve during post-harvesting process. If adequate techniques are applied during coffee post-harvesting the quality might improve and you reduce the risk of losing quality potential that already comes from the cherries. For instance, one coffee processed as Natural may result in better final score than processed as Pulped Natural or vice-versa.
6) It’s possible producing specialty coffee using any kind of coffee process! That is Natural, Pulped natural (in Brazil we it’s possible producing 3 types of pulped natural in the same wet milling structure that are CD1, CD2 and CD3, which mean depulped ripe cherry, depulped unripe cherries and depulped over-ripe cherries, respectively), and Washed processes. It depends on infra-structure, logistics, coffee potential and most importantly the Coffee buyer!
7) The hygiene is a critical success factor because without it excellent coffee may be contaminated. So, every post-harvesting structure must be cleaned and “shining” every day!
8) More uniformity and less risk are synonyms for quality. In the end, producing coffee quality is about reducing risks. For every new attempt in coffee process make both questions: (1) Is it going to result in more uniformity? (2) Is it going to reduce risks?
Example: does using a wet milling washer-separator results in more uniformity? YES, because it separates the ripe cherries from the over-ripe and dry ones. Does it reduce risk? YES, because there are less unripe fruits.
9) The coffee drying process can reduce the coffee quality. If coffee cherries dry at a high loss of moisture rate it can damages the quality. There are expected drying times for each process, also according to each local climate context.
10) The coffee quality reduces along storage period. To minimize the loss of quality Natural dry cherry coffee can be stored in tulhas (wooden cells) for a minimum period of 30 days to equilibrate the moisture and once hulled sounds just like fresh coffee.
If you want to learn more about Professor Borem research, projects, articles, presentations, etc. in coffee post-harvest technology I highly recommend accessing his website where he shares lots of content he has produced along his career.