Coffee Sojourn in the American Northwest: (Portland, OR - Part 2)

Presentation Day 1 - Topics

Tuesday, Day One of the presentation, was designated to Varietals and Processing. 

Coffee Varietals and Mutations

Coffee varieties included Pacamara, Red Bourbon, and Yellow Bourbon, each undergoing the Full Natural, Pulp Natural, Machine Washed, and Fully Washed processing methods, altogether creating 12 individual samples.

First, we began by talking about the different mutations that naturally and artificially occur within coffee varieties; beginning with Typica, the original and oldest strand of Arabica within the Americas; naturally mutating into Bourbon, Maragogype, and Pacas; where the shrubs, adapting to a new environment, climate, or elevation, naturally mutate into new, more suitable varieties.  

Secondly, we looked into genetic modifications of natural traits to create varieties. Specifically within the case of Yellow and Orange (or pink) Bourbon, naturally occurring traits, such as recessive genetic yellow or orange color within Typica, and all other species Arabica, were bred with other genes to create a variety of coffee that will always produce yellow or orange fruit.  

Finally, we looked into combining varieties to create new ones, such as the Pacamara, where two different Arabica varieties, Pacas and Maragogype, were combined, selectively breeding desired traits such as resilience and cup quality, to create one new variety. 



Since the presentation was also geared toward processing, we explained all of the machinery within the de-pulping station at El Manzano, discussing how each was used in order to process coffees with multiple methods. 

The audience was able to engage in both the methods of processing and the varieties, by cupping each of them individually on the table; showcasing all four processing methods for each coffee varietal, which as we mentioned earlier, totaled 12 samples. 

The significance of this cupping is the understanding of how each variety showcased for each processing method, in order to determine the influence that method played in the final cup. We hoped to observe this influence, in order to measure two factors; first the extent to which the natural processing, highlighted, or muted the terroir of the plantation within each variety; and secondly how acidity varied between the machine and fully washed coffees. 


Cuppings and Drawing Conclusions

Our conclusions from this first assessment, ultimately point to the fact that, although it is more difficult to determine variety within the natural processing, specifically within the dry and wet aroma, there are still feature characteristics that are maintained, such as sweetness and acidity throughout the natural process. The yellow bourbon for instance, features a bright sweetness, more present in the cup, than the other two varieties on the table, which is a natural characteristic found in that variety throughout all processing methods.  

Secondly, to consider the machine and fully washed methods. Scientifically, fully washed coffees contain high levels of acidity, because of the chemical reaction that takes place within fermentation, where non-soluble sugars comprising approximately 30% of mucilage, react to create acids that both help to protect the parchment from fungus and bacteria, and show in the cup; typically a favorable quality, sought after in fully washed coffees.  While this is true, multiple members of the audience, and distinguished professionals within the coffee industry, noted the machine washed coffee as having the highest acidity on the table, indicating that the machine washed processing method could maintain the same levels of acidity as the fully washed method.  

All cuppings were performed blind, and therefore, no indication was given for them to choose the machine washed, over another. Perhaps not conclusive evidence, but yet, an interesting note to make, considering the wide range of opinions and preferences concerning processing method. 

To be continued: Second Day - Fermentation and Drying Methods