Barista Magazine

APR-MAY 2018

Serving People Serving Coffee Since 2005

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"IF IT WAS THE SAME EVERY DAY, I'd be so bored," says Aida, a Cup of Excellence-win- ning producer who owns four farms in El Salvador. This insatiable curiosity makes her popular with roasters and green-coffee buyers who come to her with their bold ideas: Let's freeze some cherry and see how it tastes in a year, they suggest, and she's game. Can we try Kenya process but with triple fermenta- tion? She's down for it. So when her friend and then-green buyer for Counter Culture Coffee Peter Giuliano arrived for his annual visit in February of 2011 with fi ve vials of yeasts in his suitcase, Aida was eager for the pitch. "Peter brought all these yeasts down— they were beer yeasts and wine yeasts, and we didn't know really anything about them," Aida says. "The idea was to use them in coffee fermentation to see if they changed the fl avor, but we didn't have any protocols. Remember, it was just another weird exper- iment." I do remember: I happened to be there at the mill Aida works with, J. Hill in Santa Ana, El Salvador, the same week as Peter. Those experiments, they were wild. None of us was a scientist, and we certainly didn't have much, if any, experience with microbiology. Peter said right away that he was guessing, that he just wanted to play around. That's why he came to Aida, because he knew she'd geek out about this weird experiment, too. Here are the basics: Fermentation in coffee involves ambient microbes, among which are wild yeasts. We know that yeast has been used to ferment myriad food stuffs, from beer to bread to wine—so why not coffee? Would these selected yeasts alter the taste of the coffee, and if so, would it be for better or for worse? Experiment day: I watched as Peter set up the test. He would use coffee from a single day's picking, from a single farm. After depulping, he would separate the coffee into 5-gallon buckets, and add the contents of the 100-millileter vials of yeast individually to each bucket. He had a control, as well. All six buckets were left to ferment for 24 hours before being washed with fresh water, then left to soak for another 24 hours. After that, they were spread on the patios to dry. Weeks later, Aida sent samples and he cupped them back home. Peter wrote about the experience on his blog in 2012, noting, "In this test, microbial treatments didn't have a strong effect on the point score of the coffee." He's up-front about the fact this wasn't a Experimenting is really what Aida Batlle loves most about coffee—that, and pushing boundaries. Clockwise from le : A petri dish of probiotics is inspected in Lallemand's research and development lab in Tolouse, France. The yeast cells will remain active for 3–4 years. From le at the cupping table: Francine Vidal, Margaret Fundira in the story, Tim Hill, and Rachel Peterson cup samples of Tanzania coff ees inoculated with LalCafe yeasts against a control sample. Aida Batlle (foreground) and Rachel Peterson learn about fermentation profi les from Celine Raynal, project leader in yeast wine applications at Lallemand's lab in Toulouse. PHOTOS BY SARAH ALLEN 84 barista magazine

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