By: William Ferrufino
Ferrufino House of Coffee
Drinking coffee in the coffee field feels a long way from, say, San Francisco or Paris. You’ll find volcanic mountains in place of hip coffee shops; and instead of conversation and business meetings there are coffee farmers, picking down rows upon rows of red cherries with heavy, giant baskets known as “cestas”. The coffee itself is passed around in small, espresso cups—not unlike he coffee shops—and the process of drinking the coffee, which glimmers in various distinct aromas, is a far cry from the lattes and cappuccinos we all know so well.
To witness the complex process behind how coffee is made—and to learn how to authentically drink it—you have to travel to its regions. The most popular coffees hail from Central America and South America, and its in Colombia where we begin our journey. The region is home to vast volcanic and hilly terrain with jungles as lush and green as one can imagine. It is here where families upon families set coffee farms. The economy here is based on coffee bean production. Coffee growers are by the hundreds and they have the same passion of coffee as the coffee drinker.
With its colorful buildings, cobblestoned streets, and mountainous backdrop, coffee makes for an ideal couple of days tacked on to a trip to Santander, Colombia, which lies just an hour’s drive away. There is a modest smattering of hotels around town; options to go hiking or horseback riding through the coffee fields; a museums, churches and fresh brewed coffee in every shop.
Our trip begins with meeting the coffee growers. We take time to understand the process from selecting the best cherries and how to process and wash them. We walk with the coffee grower as he shows us a day in the life of a coffee farmer. We take a “cestas” with us and begin to select the cherries that will become our coffee. After a few hours go by, exhausted but accomplished, we set off to go back home with our “cestas” to see what is in store for these coffee cherries.
Once our coffee has been picked, processing must begin as quickly as possible to prevent fruit spoilage. Depending on location and local resources, coffee is processed in one of two ways: TheDry Method, and theWet Method. We use the Wet Method. The wet method removes the pulp from the coffee cherry after harvesting so the bean is dried with only the parchment skin left on. First, the freshly harvested cherries are passed through a pulping machine to separate the skin and pulp from the bean.
Then the beans are separated by weight as they pass through water channels. The lighter beans float to the top, while the heavier ripe beans sink to the bottom. They are passed through a series of rotating drums which separate them by size.
After separation, the beans are transported to large, water-filled fermentation tanks. Depending on a combination of factors — such as the condition of the beans, the climate and the altitude — they will remain in these tanks for anywhere from 12 to 48 hours to remove the slick layer of mucilage (called the parenchyma) that is still attached to the parchment. While resting in the tanks, naturally occurring enzymes will cause this layer to dissolve.
When fermentation is complete, the beans feel rough to the touch. The beans are rinsed by going through additional water channels, and are ready for drying.
After this point, we set the beans down on a tarp. This is known as the “Drying Process”. Since the beans have been wet, the pulped and fermented beans must now be dried to approximately 11% moisture to properly prepare them for storage. The preferred method of drying is down by simply laying all the beans down and letting it sun dry. We then mill the beans which removes the parchment layer and then its off to sorting.
Beans are sorted carefully by size and weight and reviewed for discoloration and flaws. Once this is complete the green coffee beans are ready to be exported and they are placed in a burlap sack.
Our journey on how coffee beans are harvested concludes. The next day we take on roasting the coffee and tastings.