Giving decaf some love.

In the specialty coffee industry, we give a lot of attention to the various countries, regions, altitudes, varietals, etc. of different single origin coffees.  We all definitely pride ourselves in showcasing as best we can what each and every coffee has to offer.  However, we have noticed a lack of attention to really great decafs in our region if not the industry as a whole but do understand the barriers as to why decaf does not receive a lot of attention.

99.9% of decaf coffee started out as regular green coffee that undergoes some sort of natural or chemical decaffeination process before the roasting process.  A very small amount of coffee does grow naturally as decaf but it’s so rare that it’s often unseen even in the specialty market.  There are multiple different types of decaffeination methods but most undergo the same basic process where the green coffee is soaked in a solution, the resulting water is then filtered of caffeine and then the green coffee is allowed to absorb the caffeine-less solution back into itself up to a certain point.  This process most often negatively affects the cell structure, chemical composition and thus taste of the final product after roasting.  You may often notice that a decaf coffee is quite oily on the surface even if it is not a dark roast.  This is due to damaged cell structure and takes quite a lot of care in the roasting process to prevent this from happening and keep those delicious oils inside the bean so they can be extracted while brewing and not oxidize on the outside of the bean.

So, we here at DRC have been working with importers to source really great decafs for several years to bring coffees that have undergone the best possible decaffeination process to maintain the integrity of the final cup quality.  Throughout this year we have been dialoguing with one importer in particular, Artisan Coffee Importers, to bring an extra special decaf to your palates.  This new Colombia La Serrania is from 29 small farmers in the state of Huila in Colombia and has undergone a process called “natural ethyl-acetate” process.  In this process a 100% pure sugar cane substance was used to draw the caffeine out of the coffee and not put any added chemicals into the bean.

This beautiful decaf will give you chocolate, creme brûlée and dried strawberries in the cup and hopefully will give you a great experience with a product that usually gets bad street cred.  We hope you enjoy and hope you stay with us on the hunt for quality decaffeinated coffees to add to our arsenal.

Einar Ortiz in his immaculate farm.  Photo courtesy of Virmax Coffee in Colombia.

Einar Ortiz in his immaculate farm. Photo courtesy of Virmax Coffee in Colombia.


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.

Potato Defect in Coffee

Have you ever drank a cup of coffee from East Africa (Burundi, Rwanda, Zambia, etc.) and tasted a distinct potato taste?  We at DRC have seen this potato defect for years but have been truly impressed by what the growing specialty coffee production has done for the Rwandan economy and have been equally impressed by the taste of the coffees from there.  In order to enjoy this wonderful coffee and support what’s going on in Rwanda, this year we’ve bought another coffee being willing to take the occasional potato defect head on.  But, it’s caused us to want to take a dig and find out a little more about this defect and give our readers an overview about what’s happening.

After some digging we’ve found that the dreadful potato defect is hypothesized to be from microorganisms infecting the coffee bean that could have been transmitted due to damage from insects called Antestia bugs.  It is thought that these bugs transmit a chemical from the methoxypyrizine family (2-methoxy 3-isopropylpyrazine) when they feed on the unripe fruit and create a defective bean.  There isn’t definitive proof that these bugs are the sole culprit.  When they burrow into the bean they leave small holes in the fruit where other chemicals could enter but again, that’s just a hypothesis.  Regardless, the damage that the Antestia bugs create are hard to detect when farming and processing and the final, hideous aroma whether it’s from the bugs or not can’t be detected often until the coffee is ground.  We’ve talked to some of our friends at Toby’s Estate in Brooklyn, NY and they occasionally experience the same thing with this exact Rwandan.  It only happens ever now and then, but when it does, it’s easy to detect and discard before serving.

A lot of time and research is currently being spent to determine the exact cause for this defect and how it can be prevented in the future.  But for now, when you grind an East African coffee, pay attention to the dry aromas before you serve it.  If you smell some potato just dump the grounds, purge your grinder and re-brew.  It’s an unfortunate defect but it’s an interesting reminder that we serve an ever changing, highly intricate, agricultural product.

Brew on people.