Each coffee bean has a different flavor. In each of these coffee beans, there are certain factors that can affect its flavor characteristics. One of them is the post-harvest process.
In fact, there are many discussions about post-harvest processes, ranging from ordinary post-harvest processes to experimental post-harvest processes. However, there is one experimental post-harvest process that is currently being discussed, and that is carbonic maceration fermentation.
Basically, the carbonic maceration process is a fermentation method. When it comes to fermentation, the process of processing coffee beans isn’t the first thing that comes to mind, right? You might think of wine, yogurt, kombucha, or other beverages – but definitely not coffee.
Indeed, this carbonic maceration process is a postharvest fermentation process commonly used in winemaking. However, carbonic maceration is now widely applied in coffee bean processing. How did this happen?
The rise of carbonic maceration fermentation
It is not uncommon for coffee farmers to innovate in post-harvest process experiments. In fact, the innovation was also carried out at several washing stations and eventually became a new characteristic of the coffee flavor. This is also the case with carbonic maceration.
Carbonic maceration is a postharvest process that has been used for decades in wine production, particularly in the Beaujolais region of France. This post-harvest process has been widely applied in coffee bean processing since Sasa Sestic, the 2015 World Barista Championship champion, won the championship by using coffee beans that had been processed using the carbonic maceration process.
The coffee beans used by Sestic come from the Finca Las Nubes estate of Colombian farmer Camilo Merizalde. Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood in his book, The Coffee Dictionary (2017), says that Sestic and Merizalde collaborated to experiment with producing a coffee with a richer aroma but a less acidic taste.
Carbonic maceration process method
Post-harvest processes such as carbonic maceration are an experiment and innovation to produce different, even new, coffee flavors. Simply put, this fermentation method involves placing whole coffee cherries in a stainless steel container. Then let the container sit in a carbon dioxide-rich environment.
In this carbonic maceration process, the coffee cherries are carefully and perfectly picked and then manually sorted. The coffee cherries are then poured into a stainless steel tank to separate the ripe and unripe coffee cherries.
The hand-selected coffee cherries are then peeled before being transferred into a temperature- and humidity-controlled container. The temperature and humidity are set at around 24 degrees Celsius with carbon dioxide to remove oxygen levels from the container. This stage allows the coffee cherries to break down different levels of pectin. This processing usually results in a bright, winey coffee with strong red fruit aromas.
The fermented coffee beans are then dried on ‘African Coffee Beds‘ for 12 – 18 days before dry milling.
What are the advantages of carbonic maceration?
Basically, there are two reasons why fermentation is carried out in the processing of coffee beans, namely to add flavor and unique qualities to coffee beans or to clean coffee beans. Producers can make clean coffee with no detectable fermentation flavor or make coffee with bubble gum, fruity, sweet, or new flavors with a certain acidity.
In the carbonic maceration process, the result lies in the development of the flavor profile. By utilizing a controlled, carbon dioxide-rich environment for coffee fermentation, farmers can control the active yeasts and bacteria. This develops the flavor of the coffee without the risk of over-oxidation or alcoholic fermentation that can ruin the coffee’s profile.
In coffee processed using the carbonic maceration method, the expression of flavor, the intensity of aroma, and the quality of acidity combine into a special pleasure. Coffee beans processed using carbonic maceration can provide a new experience that is unique and not commonly found in other coffee flavors and aromas.
The challenge of carbonic maceration coffee
Carbonic maceration is one of a number of exciting innovations happening in progressive plantations. These types of progressive and experimental practices can encourage creativity in an industry that often relies on tradition and provide market differentiation for producers seeking liberation from C-market pricing.
However, according to Chris Kornman of Daily Coffee News, while it may seem exciting to encourage manufacturers to try this experimental processing method, the energy, resources, and potential product loss make this a risky move.
Therefore, according to him, the demand for experimentation must be accompanied by a strong financial commitment from buyers-regardless of the quality outcome-to purchase his output at a fair price that takes into account the farmers’ market rate of coffee along with their additional time, space, and labor.
Carbonic maceration is still a very new technique for processing coffee, but some of the results are promising. Experimentation and innovation to produce different, even new, coffee flavors is essential to support.
The aroma intensity, flavor expression, and acidity quality of the carbonic maceration coffee beans can certainly provide a new experience that is unique and not commonly found in the usual coffee flavors and aromas. Well, for those of you who have tried coffee made from carbonic maceration or fermentation that is on the rise, what impression do you get in every sip? For those of you who haven’t tried it yet, would you like to?
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