What Is Peaberry?

The elusive coffee cherry that continues to smoothly flow off the tongue of coffee professionals and coffee amateurs alike – peaberry. It’s catchy and sophisticated. So what exactly is a peaberry?  Why is it unique and what causes this anomaly in the coffee world? To better understand what a peaberry is, we’ll approach it from a coffee botany standpoint.

A peaberry is an underdeveloped coffee fruit that has only one seed inside of it as opposed to the typical two seeds that develop inside a coffee cherry and it inherently grows on all coffee species.  About 5-7 % of harvests are peaberries, and they are smaller in size.  To understand why they are smaller and have only one seed, we first need to understand how fruit develops in the plant world.

A fruit of any plant is nothing more than a ripened ovary. That ovary is the fleshy substance surrounding the seeds inside the plant (also called mucilage in coffee). How do those seeds come about? Fertilization is the simple answer. With regards to the Coffea arabica species, there are 2 floral organs that we will briefly talk about, the stamens and the pistils. The stamens are the male representation and the pistils are the female representation. When the pollen from the stamens reach the pistils, it fertilizes the ovules (contained within the ovary prior to fertilization) and those ovules form into two seeds. Within Coffea arabica, there are two ovules that must be fertilized to get a typical coffee cherry. If, for some reason, there is a malfunction in that fertilization process and only one of the ovules can be fertilized you get an anomaly called peaberry.

So, why does this happen? Much research is still going on about what exactly causes it, but when you distill it down it’s a fertilization issue. Coffea arabica is self-fertile meaning, although beneficial, pollinators are not necessary to fertilize coffee flowers. Both the stamens and pistils are in the same flower and are compatible with each other, but genetics are not always perfect. So, what exactly causes the incompatibility? Is it an issue in the uptake of pollen? Is it an ovary malfunction? Is it the pollen itself? Does it have to do with genetic diversity in Coffea arabica? It’s still an ongoing discussion and more research needs to be done to fully understand how it comes about, but it becomes a conversation of genetic diversity and maintaining good breeding practices. The farther away we get from true Coffea arabica genetics, the more genetic malfunctions we get. So, celebrate proper horticultural practices and celebrate quality cups. Tasting is knowing, so drink up!

San Jeronimo Miramar

Yes, this is the much-famed Geisha coffee variety that is sought after by coffee enthusiasts around the world. To understand the true beauty of this coffee you must first understand where it was grown. The Bressani family has operated the beautiful Finca San Jeronimo Miramar for over 100 years. To call it just a coffee farm would be selling it short. Not only are some fantastic coffees being grown and cared for here, but also beautiful jersey dairy cows, honeybees, and exotic tropical fruits. Sitting high above all of this is a gorgeous, protected natural reserve. This forest is the lifeblood of the farm as its volcanic terrain feeds the farm’s natural fresh water springs and powers the farm’s entire processing facilities with hydroelectric power.

We had the pleasure to start our relationship with the Bressani’s on the grounds of Finca San Jeronimo this past year. Working with their farm and mill management team we helped to develop an understanding of the quality level for their current coffee production. Over the past few years farm administrator, Don Arnoldo Villagran, cultivated a plot of Geisha as an experiment through the suggestion of Anacafe. This experiment yielded some truly remarkable results, and lucky you have the chance to taste it for the first time in the US.

Geisha, a heirloom variety of Arabica coffee originating in Ethiopia, has taken the coffee world by storm over the past few years. The floral and stone fruit notes are as distinctive as they are nuanced in a manner really incomparable in other Arabica varieties. This offering from San Jeronimo is a wonderful expression of that and is a great way to kick off what is to become a great relationship over the years to come; with many more great coffees to show for it!

Giorgio (left) and Mark (right).  Father son duo from San Jeronimo Miramar.

Giorgio (left) and Mark (right). Father son duo from San Jeronimo Miramar.

Deeper Roots' Les Stoneham cupping with the team at Finca San Jeronimo Miramar

Deeper Roots’ Les Stoneham cupping with the team at Finca San Jeronimo Miramar

The diary cows on the farm.

The diary cows on the farm.

Drying patio at Finca San Jeronimo Miramar.

Drying patio at Finca San Jeronimo Miramar.

Don Arnoldo, the farm manager at Finca San Jeronimo.

Don Arnoldo, the farm manager at Finca San Jeronimo.

Geisha plants with Volcan Fuego in the background.

Geisha plants with Volcan Fuego in the background.

Geisha beans just weeks from being fully ripe.

Geisha beans just weeks from being fully ripe.

Why not fresh espresso?

Why rest your espresso? Coffee in general is very volatile in the first few hours after roasting. Soon after a coffee comes out of the roaster it starts a process called de-gassing or off-gassing. This is mainly carbon dioxide (and some other delightfully long named science-y things) leaving the cell structure of the coffee bean and is the culprit for that amazing smell when you open a bag. When a coffee is roasted it will continually off-gas until it has completely staled but it’s important to wait at least 8-12 hours after roasting. A significant amount of gas is leaving the bean at this time and if you try to brew before allowing this time to pass you will get a really bubbly brew of coffee as well as a seemingly underdeveloped acidity in the cup. Sometimes this can lead to some vegetal notes as well and just overall makes for a really unbalanced. One-dimensional cup. To see just how much gas comes off fresh roasted coffee just put some in a sealed plastic bag for a day and all will be revealed.

Here at DRC we’ve found that resting brewed coffee for at least one day, or at least overnight, after roasting allows the volatile aromatic compounds to balance out and for the cup to be exactly what the roaster was intending. Since espresso is ground significantly finer and brewed under pressure this waiting period needs to be 4-7 days on average. We’ve had coffees here at DRC taste best as espresso after 10+ days but they are less common. As roasters and fanatics about quality we want to facilitate people at home and shops around the region brewing better espresso. So we’ve recently implemented a built in waiting time to most orders going out the door. Our wholesale shops may now notice a delivery of espresso that was roasted up to 4 days prior. This is beneficial because even if they have a built in waiting period in their shop to brew espresso several days after roast, they’re still brewing fresh espresso in the ideal resting time. If you brew espresso at home and purchase from your local shop, ask for espresso that is rested and enjoy a more balanced, nuanced espresso at home.

Extraction: What’s the Big Deal Anyway?

You can’t get far into the world of coffee without hearing mention of this mysterious phenomenon known as extraction. It’s the secret behind that perfectly balanced cup of coffee or espresso, the “piéce de résistance” that showcases sweetness, body, acidity and the balance between them all. But what is extraction and why does it matter? To put it simply extraction is how we remove the “good stuff” from our coffee. There are several different factors that contribute to extraction:

1. The water to coffee ratio
2. Temperature
3. Water quality
4. Filtration
5. Grind size
6. Pressure.

All these factors combine to affect coffee and it’s ability to produce certain characteristics. Each factor relies on the others, causing taste profiles to morph and change. There is no perfect recipe for extraction, every coffee behaves differently and changing one factor automatically affects the others. Here at Deeper Roots we are about to engage in a series of extraction experiments, focusing on what really matters and how these factors directly affect each other and the extraction profile. Navigating your way through every factor to achieve that “optimum balance” can be difficult. The goal of our experimentation at Deeper Roots is to provide a series of road maps that allow you to reactive optimum extraction and enjoy every cup of coffee you consume! The first factor up for the challenge…PRESSURE! Be on the look out for our findings as we get to play with our new La Marzocco Strada EP!

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Recap from The Event 2013

Innovation. Collaboration. Education. Global crisis. All descriptors of some of the amazing experiences the Deeper Roots crew had at this year’s 25th Annual Event, part of the Specialty Coffee Association of America. This yearly get together of coffee enthusiasts is an exciting conference that brings top professionals in the industry together, giving us all a chance to talk about that little bean we’re all so passionate about. A three-day trade show and educational courses are just the foundation of what makes this event so special. However, it’s the conversations and connections to our fellow coffee geeks that inspire our team to push for excellence within our community.

To share every highlight of our weekend in one blog would be impossible, and honestly probably too long to read, but we are excited to share a few of our favorite highlights and hot issues of the weekend. In the coming weeks more of our experiences will seep their way into our posts, but here are some top highlights from Les, Adam, and Courtney.
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LES:

Coffee leaf rust: the largest growing threat to the coffee industry in Central America weighed heavily on the minds of SCAA attendees this year. This terror of a fungus has been known in many parts of the coffee growing world for over a century now, once decimating the production of coffee in Asia and East Africa. Currently the fungus has spread in new locations, higher in elevation than ever before due to increased humidity and temperatures. A direct result of global warming, this trend is causing concern for growers and buyers alike. Devastating estimates are already projecting a $500,000,000 annual loss to Central American economies just from this year’s harvest alone.

Listed as one of the top issues for 2013, coffee leaf rust constituted many hours of expert lectures at this year’s Symposium; a gathering of top minds in the industry that precludes The Event. While many causes and long term strategies were hypothesized, there was very little offered in terms of immediate solutions. This crisis will be played out in the coming years. As Tim Schilling, executive director of World Coffee Research, shared, “in many cases this could be the end of their careers in coffee,” referring to the number of small producers that will be effected by this severe problem. Not to be to negative, but this drives us at Deeper Roots to be even more engaged in long term relationships with our growers, supporting them through these rough times.

ADAM:

Strength In Numbers: Since starting Deeper Roots Coffee we’ve spent a lot of energy and time building the business to be sustainable enough to support full time staff in our core competencies. This has allowed each of us to directly focus our attention on what we’re doing to the point where we are now getting regional and national recognition for what we do. It’s great being a part of a team now where we can show our strength in numbers and work alongside some of the people we respect most in the industry and our time at SCAA this year was a perfect example of that opportunity.

COURTNEY:

Well there’s no way around it, the learning process is a never-ending journey. The world of specialty coffee is an industry that thrives on the motto “my best is never enough!” What I mean is, no matter how many hours you’ve spent behind a machine there are always new practices and ideas to improve on taste and quality. It’s exciting to be immersed in an industry that is constantly growing, giving life and excitement to my daily endeavors. Working alongside some of the top educators in the field has rejuvenated the approach and concepts that Deeper Roots hopes to bring to our communities. My next new concept to tackle: pressure and espresso! Get ready!

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