Today's article is entirely dedicated to the explanation of coffee processing.
Let's start by explaining that the ripening times of the red coffee berries (drupes) can vary from 8 to 12 months from flowering, depending on the variety and the area of cultivation. Once harvested, there are two different berry processing processes:
- The "dry" method consists in washing the drupes under running water and then letting them dry naturally (in this case we speak of natural coffee). The coffees obtained with this method are quite full-bodied: in the Arabica coffees their sweet and balanced taste is enhanced; in the Robuste, on the other hand, the strong and woody notes are more present.
- The "wet" method involves washing the berries in large tanks which, thanks to special machinery, are then deprived of part of the pulp. Then follows a new washing under running water and drying. This process makes the Arabica coffee more delicate and aromatic, the Robusta one strong and full-bodied with hints of chocolate.
A method that really intrigues "Caffè Pontevecchio Firenze" is finally the third treatment with intermediate characteristics: the drupes are separated according to the level of ripeness and passed in water, then dried in the sun or in the dryers. The result is a coffee which is called semi-washed.
Once collected, cleaned and packaged in jute bags, the still green coffee reaches the roasters in the country of destination, where the beans are roasted: an essential step for the extraction of the drink that we all know. For roasting today mainly automated electric ovens are used, with cylindrical baskets that allow the continuous stirring of the beans, so that a homogeneous roasting is obtained. Rather rare are the artisanal roasters who still use the wood roasting method because it is more complex and expensive, but the coffee obtained from this process is more appreciated by connoisseurs because it is capable of keeping the aromatic properties of the bean intact.
The level of roasting also varies according to the variety and the coffee we want to obtain. The most common cooking intensities are three:
- mild, for 13-16 minutes at 165-175 ° C;
- medium, for 17-21 minutes at 180 ° C;
- strong, for 22-23 minutes at 180-190 ° C (in Italy it can easily reach 230 ° C).
During roasting, the coffee bean changes its body, becomes oily, brown in color (due to the caramelization of the sugars) and crumbly (due to the evaporation of water), but its volume increases by 30-50% since carbon dioxide develops inside. It also changes in terms of chemical composition, losing almost 20% of caffeine.
Once this roasting phase is finished, it is essential to cool the coffee and let it "degas", protecting it from alterations caused by exposure to air. Unlike green coffee, roasted coffee, especially ground coffee, loses its taste and fragrance in a few days if it is not adequately protected from oxygen; while if protected from light and air (vacuum-packed or in a controlled atmosphere and in the dark), the coffee can be kept for many months without appreciable organoleptic losses.
Most of the coffee preparations available on the market are obtained by mixing Arabica varieties with Robusta coffee. This blend will modify the foam obtained, as well as the aromas in the cup: the sweetness and acidity of the Arabica will mitigate the bitterness of the Robusta coffee, obtaining a result that is often more appreciable than the coffee prepared with the pure variety. Each blend is in fact the result of numerous tests, which serve to identify the right composition, with as few defects as possible. The best way to enhance the qualities of the blend and obtain a high quality product remains to know exactly each of its components and the degree of roasting. The master roasters know their producers and, together with their distributors, test and select the most suitable blends for all needs: real coffee sommeliers.
Once roasted, the coffee must be ground to obtain the preparations that we find on the market. Depending on the type to be obtained, the grinding of the coffee will also be different. To give some examples, for the so-called “Turkish” coffee you will need a very fine grind, medium for the mocha coffee, coarser for filter preparations such as coffee for American coffee.
In short, behind a simple cup of coffee there is a world made of history, farmers, producers and roasters. True artisans of taste who work every day to satisfy the most diverse palates and tastes.
The coffee tradition in our country is one of the most appreciated and “Caffè Pontevecchio Firenze” is proud to have carved out a prominent place in the world panorama of artisan and high-end coffees.