Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Sumatra Coffee and the Mold Taste Dilema

Sumatra is the third major coffee-growing island in Indonesia, and it produces Mandheling and Ankola coffee. Both are grown in west-central Sumatra, and both are dry-processed... dry. So why the moldy taste?

Surfing around, I found a great little article by a the owner of Sweet Maria's, home coffee roasting supplies. Here are some relevant quotes on the WTH-with-the-mold front.

(I added the italics for emphasis.)

...The tastes associated with age are hard notes, namely bagginess: a burlap-like taste. It belongs to a family of defects where the fats in the coffee absorb odors over time, and the degradation of the lipids in particular. The bean structure degrades too, stored probably in too hot or too cold temperatures, losing its moisture content as time goes by. Moisture may also be liberated from the coffee only to condense in a container, which can form an environment where bacteria and mold can possess the coffee...

Another complication: How was the coffee stored as it was getting old? The worst case is that it sat in a humid hot warehouse in New Orleans, bagged in jute. This is common for commercial-grade coffees that are sold and resold by speculative buyers....

Lastly, lets talk about age in terms of months... It is commonly stated in the trade that green coffee is Past Crop once the New Crop from that origin has arrived in the U.S. ... and Past Crop coffees are often discounted for quicker sale. But that means a roaster buying a Past Crop coffee from a broker might have it a year in his own storage before roasting it all. That makes the coffee very old for ANY origin, and the cup will suffer.

The cup and me both.

So I've come to the conclusion that the reason Sumatra sucks at so many coffee houses from coast to coast is that it has been poorly stored at the wrong temperature, allowed to get covered in mold, and left green without roasting in the back of some muggy warehouse for years.

Or maybe Sumatra is just not my cup of... coffee.


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