Raul ́s Experiment Semi-washed / Pulp Natural: Why?


Raul Rodas, 2012 World Barista Champion and the owner of “Paradigma Coffee Roasters” decided to put his own experiment and thoughts together to describe the coffee process method that he found to be unique. Basically, the coffee cherries were pulped and placed into fermentation tank for 14 hours without water and afterwards cherries were dried. Read below.

Trying new things and something that is not common has lead me to break some Paradigms in coffee. Traditionally, Guatemala produces washed coffees; and we strive to have the best washed coffee always – to get that neat clean flavors to use them on different markets and adapt to the personal preferences of the consumers. Also for the producers it’s something that they know works which makes it “safe”. So many producers rely only on this that it is obviously understandable. On the other hand, we know importers pay higher prices for high quality coffee, which is great and makes it “scarier” for producers to try new processes that are not traditional and have not been experimented with as much.

For about two years now, I’ve been interested in making a coffee that was different and understanding that all the coffees have their purpose and their market. So for the roastery I own, “Paradigma Coffee Roasters”, the idea has been to get coffees that are not usual for the market (unique) and also experimenting with the producers. So an idea was born. I talked to my friend called “Raul Perez” son of Henio Perez and owners of “Finca La Soledad” in Acatenango.

We have been friends and I have been to their farm; additionally, for the past 2 years, Raul Perez has been helping the Guatemalan Barista Competition as a Sensory Judge – he loves to try quality coffee and is also interested in how baristas can deliver true quality to a customer or a judge. He had actually never tried his coffee in the Guatemalan Market or in a Barista competition and we started discussing about doing something different with the coffee, just for fun! We wanted something unusual so we could share with customers and experiment with everyone: break paradigms!!

The deal was that we were going to try to make a small sample and try it out. I was really interested in playing with the “semi-washed” process. We selected this same coffee; pulped it and placed it on: a) African Beds, and b) patios; just to figure out the difference. The results:
a) the cup was a little cleaner but it had this funky taste to it
b) the cup was not as clean but way more fruit notes come through in the flavor
Both coffee were tasting ok but not great. However, we did know that you have to let the coffees rest so that they taste a little better, for about two months. When Raul Perez was removing the parchment, he realized it was completely sticky and could not be taken away easily because the mucilage was still fresh – even though the humidity level was 11%. In summary, it didn’t work.. But this was 2010.

New Harvest came. We were not done. We decided to wait until the end of the harvest to be able to have better control over it. In February, I had the opportunity to attend the EAFCA Conference, held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; and part of this event was a conference on “how and why natural coffees are so great” – it was lead by Mario and Manuel, two friends from Mexico. I understood so many different things here – that you can often adapt to a semi-washed or to a pulped natural coffee; things like fermentation time of the mucilage and how can be good or bad for the sweetness, the embryo and the flavors. During that same conference, I also talked about pulped naturals to Teija, from Zambia, (also a WBC Judge), and they have been doing these coffees for a long time and using them more and more for espresso and getting great results. We concluded that it was much better to dry them on African Beds to get a cleaner cup and avoid those funky flavors we had been getting. So back I came with all this new knowledge, ready to play and experiment again!

Back at “La Soledad”, the Rauls (myself and Raul Perez) pulped the coffee, placing it in fermentation tanks for 14 hours (as opposed to the normal time for that farm of 28 to 32 hours). The fermentation was done without any water; this created two different layers: one outer layer that would ferment and fall off when dry, and one internal layer that would attach to the bean – resulting in a much sweeter cup. After those 14 hours, we placed it on African Beds directly so that the outside layer could then be easily removed and the rest of the mucilage (internal layer) would be dry enough to remove the parchment after the two-month resting period.

Results:
– spicy beans when you bite it (green)
– Red pepper in the finish
– Pomegranate
– Green apricot

When we cupped this coffee it was really interesting and weird at the same time. We got so excited and I decided then and there I wanted to use this coffee for competition – it had so much history and it was a chance to share the experiment with people. When it was time to roast this coffee, we couldn’t roast it darker than cupping roast (Agtron 65 Drop temp:400F) because the sugars were very present. Raul Perez was involved with me until the end while we played with roasting and found this unique coffee for competition.

I have always believed that for each coffee there is more than one profile; it is a matter of extraction and depends on your personal preferences. Of course, competition presented a platform to showcase this as well.

Roukiat Delrue (WBC head judge) and my friend was always there for me. She helped in integrating the signature drink, which came about from the processing / roasting experiment and not the search of a signature drink itself. One thing that I enjoyed from the whole experiment was that the coffee was so versatile that with different extractions and different infusions from “stages” of the same coffee you can obtain different experiences and profiles such as “Natural Profile and Washed Profile”. I used several elements of the coffee, such as: Fresh cascara, Mucilage, Yellow Bean and First crack – all to complement the versatility of the coffee.

This whole experiment gave me an opportunity to try different processes with farmers and gave me more credibility that we can find quality with better controls and with a reason in mind. We can now send samples to importers or roasters who want very specific micro lots of coffee but with the processing bringing a different profile.

Conclusion:

I am very happy and and honored to have had the opportunity to be a part of this whole experiment and be able to showcase the results not just to judges or customers – but to producers who are willing to try new things!!

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