A Wild and Natural Coffee Experience
Back in 2014, we were contacted by a private farmer from Ethiopia. At the time we were frustrated with working and buying coffee through the unions in Ethiopia as we felt we could not work close enough and transparent enough with the farmers.
We jumped on the chance to meet up with Akmel Nuri and traveled to the deep forest of Limu Kosa just north of Jimma. We spent 3 days on the farm sleeping in tents in the heart of the coffee forest.
From the first visit, it was clear that Akmel lives and breathes for working with nature in creating coffee. To be honest, at that time, the quality wasn’t the best we had come across in Ethiopia. But the land and spirit of Akmel was inspiring and made it clear to us that if we put the right time and effort into it, together we could create something special.
We have been working closely together for 5 years now and during this time it has come to many discussions at the farm. Subjects on farming, picking, sorting, drying, keeping the natural forest intact, not interacting and scaring off wild animals, varietals (or selections if you will), microclimate, soil, and self-made organic fertilizers.
To this day, the only energy source used around Akmel’s farm is the sun. We have come a long way together, yet it never fails to impress us the energy and love Akmel shows for his forest and farm. This is as wild and natural we have ever experienced coffee farming.
The Fundamentals of Fermentation
Each time we visit farmers in the origin, or they visit our roastery in Copenhagen, we talk about the harvest of the year, the quality, new projects and which challenges there may have been.
For the past 5 years, you’ve been able to taste the full-bodied Natural coffee by Akmel Nuri with an almost syrupy sweetness to it. Part of this coffee’s rich taste comes from the fermentation it undergoes as a Natural coffee. For several years we have wished to create a new and fermented coffee, which has resulted in several tests at Akmel Nuri’s farm.
Visiting Akmel Nuri this year, we were excited to continue with our fermentation tests. The goal is to go even further with fermented coffee and to achieve an intense coffee with a fuller taste beaming with sweetness and acidity. To understand this fermentation project, we’ll go through the basics of fermented, Natural coffee.
Natural coffee is known as a sweeter coffee, as this processing method gives taste from the pulp to the seed. Fruity sugars that develop in the coffee seed, will be expressed and caramelized when roasted.
At Akmel Nuri’s farm, coffee cherries are handpicked in his coffee forest. Immediately after picking the cherries, they are sorted on the nearby raised beds. Here, they will dry for 11-13 days. During this time, spontaneous and uncontrolled fermentation processes will happen. Depending on the country and the processing method, the control of the fermentation process will vary as well as the outcome of the taste. In Ethiopia for instance, their Naturals are known for the fruity aromas that develop in the process.
After drying the cherries to the optimum level, the look of the cherry changes from red and glistening to dark and wrinkly. It is now time to remove the dried fruit pulp from the seed, and the green beans are ready to be shipped to our roastery in Copenhagen.
What happens with the cherries during fermentation, is basically that the sugars from the mucilage covering the seeds will be ‘eaten’ by a natural bacterial flora. This process can in a way be compared to carbonic maceration in natural wine, a fermentation process also involving carbonic dioxide or CO2. With carbonic macerated wine, you will add the carbonic dioxide to help break down the grapes. Whereas with fermented coffee, carbonic dioxide is developed naturally over time. Since this fermentation process takes place under open air, there’s no way to trap the carbon dioxide that built up during the process. It will instead escape and not be a part of the fermentation. But – what happens when you trap carbon dioxide with the cherries, almost parallel to semi-carbonic maceration?
Our New, Anaerobic Natural
In a dry and ventilated storage house located in Akmel Nuri’s 200-hectare land, the rugged floor is made from uneven, yellow bricks. Against the walls, heavy jute bags are stacked and filled with green coffee beans. The house is made from irregular, slim tree logs. Standing horizontal as they would in nature, the sun rays beam through the long cracks between the logs resembling the beautiful coffee forest on the other side of the wall.
In the middle of the small house, we have placed six tall barrels filled to the brim with 1,500 kilos coffee cherries. Before being placed in the barrels for fermentation, the red, ripe fruit has dried for a few hours to one day on drying tables and sorted. After 10 days of fermentation under a closed lid, they are dried on the drying tables under the sun for 12 days.
Our fermentation test is mainly anaerobic. Instead of using the raised beds for drying the cherries, we have used barrels closed with lids. In the barrels, the cherries are fermenting in its own fruit juices. Using the method with a closed lid, the carbon dioxide is not able to escape, and will eventually build up pressure. Like with macerated wine, an anaerobic fermentation will happen after a while, forcing the oxygen out. Without oxygen present in the barrels, the carbon dioxide will presumably allow the sweet and fruity flavours of the natural coffee juices to be absorbed by the parchment surrounding the seed.
The result is an intense coffee with a great richness. The sweetness and acidity both give that extra boost to the coffee, complimenting the pleasant, fruity aromas of strawberry and pineapple. There is a spicy, round aftertaste of sweet cardamom.
The Anaerobic Natural coffee will be sold in our pink coffee bags, which refers to our limited coffees. We paid a Quality Bonus to Akmel Nuri 765% above the market price for the high quality.
We will simultaneously launch our beloved Natural Akmel coffee alongside the Anaerobic Natural limited edition.