Our Java seed stock came to us by pure chance. The story goes that in mid-2001, my grandfather and father were driving back from one of our farms when they noticed a man on the side of the road selling some fruit. They stopped to purchase some and they noticed the man had a bag with him that was labeled “Java”. He claims they were seeds of a rare variety he said was called Java. My father had heard about this varietal and its great cup profile, however, he was skeptical, to say the least. My grandfather felt bad for the man and decided to purchase the seeds. Luckily, the man was indeed not lying, it was the long berry Java variety. We later learned that the area they had met this mysterious man, was actually the site of a nursery project that was spearheaded by an organization known as UNICAFE. Their goal was to bring over exotic varietals and study their productivity and disease resistance potential. Unfortunately, the project went bankrupt. Our theory is that the man must have worked at the nursery, or knew someone that did, and he probably got the seeds from there. We first planted it in our farm Limoncillo in Nicaragua, which even gained it 2nd Place in COE Nicaragua 2007/2008. Given its new home in Nicaragua, we dubbed it “Javanica”. It's susceptible to all major diseases but it does have a good yield production for an exotic variety and the cup quality is fabulous at high altitudes (more recently earning 4th Place in COE Nicaragua 2017). It was initially believed to be a cousin/mutation of Typica (given the similar bean and treen structure) but more recent findings indicate that it is indeed an Ethiopian heirloom varietal initially that was then taken to the island of Java where it got its name.
Natural Anaerobic at Low Temp
Anaerobic fermentation simply means fermentation without the presence of oxygen. But going even further, it's actually redundant to say “Anaerobic Fermentation” since biologically speaking all fermentation is anaerobic. It would be like saying wet-water. Hence, internally, we refer to this process as Fermentation at Low Temp, but marketing-wise “Anaerobic” has a nice ring to it. It begins with only picking optimally ripe, blood red, cherries. We placed floated and rinsed whole cherries into juice barrels (due to their food-safe interior) with no water and covered them with a lid. It’s important to note that we made sure that the lid would seal the barrel airtight so as to prevent any oxygen from entering the barrel. The lid was modified by drilling a hole in the middle and attaching a PVC pipe and valve. Using our industrial vacuum, we sucked out most of the remaining oxygen inside the barrel. We then attached plastic hosing to the valve and connected it to a water bottle (that was punctured at the top) filled three-quarters of the way with water. By leaving the valve slightly open creates an airlock whose purpose is to suck out any carbon dioxide that will be produced by the coffee during fermentation. Next, we placed the barrels inside a 6m X 9m X 3m cold room we built inside our warehouse. It is run by two industrial AC’s which keep the room between 6C and 10C. We let this lot of cherries ferment for a period of 48 hours.
After spending 48 hours inside the cold room, the cherries are spread out as a thin layer on our patio under 100% sunlight where they spent four days. The cherries were moved three to four times a day, always making sure not to damage the cherries. After spending two days on our patio they were transferred onto African beds inside a greenhouse. The cherries finish drying on the African beds after 28 days. So total drying time was 32 days when they reached a humidity level lower than 11.5%. Once the cherries reached our desired humidity, they were transported inside of our well ventilated warehouse where they were allowed to “rest,” or age, for a month as dried cherries. This allows for the humidity level to homogenize within all the beans.
The cherries entered the barrels as a blood-red color, but they changed into a darkish maroon after spending 48 hours at low temperatures. Cup-wise the first thing we noticed was that the profile was much cleaner, meaning the flavors were easier to identify. We also noticed a higher, but delicate, acidity. Naturals tend to display a fuller/heavier body, yet we’ve found that this process balanced the body with the newfound acidity. Some of our results were confirmed by Songer & Associates, Inc. who expressed that cold processed coffees had a “cleaner acidity.” In the anaerobic environment, we are encouraging the growth of microbes that do not require oxygen to carry out their metabolic process by creating an atmosphere without oxygen and controlling the temperature. Some of these microbes include lactic acid and yeasts, such as saccharomyces cerevisiae (used to ferment beer and wine). Lactic acid will help in increasing the acidity of the coffee1. Since most of the coffees increased in acidity, we can expect there to have been a significant amount of lactic acid produced during the fermentation.
The coffee bean is a living organism, and the substance spectrum found in a living organism is determined by its metabolism2. Our goal was to slow down the metabolism of the coffee bean by allowing it to ferment at cold temperatures. However, we do not want to stop it entirely. If the rate of fermentation is too slow this could lead to the development of butyric acid3. We want to avoid butyric acid fermentation, as these types of acids produce unpleasant flavors and odors. We are aiming for alcoholic or lactic acid fermentation. This slower rate of the metabolic process will lower the risk of over-fermentation, allow us to prolong the length of time of fermentation, and produce a cleaner cup profile with increased acidity.