Costa Rica Cumbres del Poas
Last week, we dialed in a roast profile for a washed Colombian coffee. This week, we wanted to dial in a profile for a natural coffee, but we decided to take it one step further and choose a farm that not only produces naturally processed coffees, but also varying levels of honey processed coffees as well as some washed. This way, we could see how this profile holds up to varying levels of processes.
Our coffee this week comes from beneficio Cumbres del Poas or Las Lajas which resides in Sabanilla del Poas, in the Central Valley of Costa Rica. Dona Francisca and Don Oscar Chacon are the owners of this mill and the multiple number of fincas that surround the mill are owned by Oscar’s brothers and sisters. They are committed to producing the highest quality, environmentally friendly washed, natural, and honey processed coffees.
The Chacon family coffees are praised throughout the industry, but they worked hard to get to where they are today. When Oscar was 18, he inherited 5 hectares when his father passed away and immediately began to work on the farm to protect and maintain the work his parents had already achieved. Francisca came from a coffee background as well, but the idea was always “quantity over quality” and she had no experience with milling coffee.
In 2006, in order to spend more time with their son, The Chacons decided to build their own micro mill. They had no idea if it would world work out and at first were only producing 25 exportable bags. They now produce around 2000 bags.
They are considered to be the first pioneers of high quality natural and honey processed coffees in Costa Rica. They first tried the process back in 2009, though the reason for the endeavor was out of necessity: an earthquake hit Costa Rica in 2008 in the middle of the harvest and left them without water or electricity for a week. In order to be able to continue to process their harvest and pay their pickers, they decided to proceed with the natural process, which was customary in Africa and Brazil. Although the resulting cup was not popular among their local peers, American importers and roasters visiting their farm thought the coffee had potential. Today, they've mastered their processing technique. This video shows Oscar measuring the brix content (sugar content) of a coffee cherry, one of the methods they use to make sure the cherries are at peak ripeness and ready to be picked.
The Chacon family also prides themselves on being one of the few micro mills that produces certified organic coffee, a costly production in Costa Rica. They hope that the production of organic coffee becomes a family legacy to pass on to their children. “We are also convinced that organic agriculture is the key to reducing poverty, by promoting cultural, economic, social and environmental development” the Chacons said when asked why the chose to go organic. “We utilize natural resources without destroying them, producing a product that comes from a healthy environment… so that more people can live a healthy life.”
But wait, what is natural or honey processed coffee ?
Natural processing is done by drying the coffee cherry in its entirety, then depulping it to remove the cherry mucilage and skin. The resulting coffee typically yields an intense fruit forward cup, since some of the flavors and sugars of the coffee cherry are absorbed by the beans. This is in contrast to washed coffees, where the coffee bean is depulped and separated from the cherry and washed in clean water before being moved to the drying stage.
Unlike natural and washed processing, honey processing leaves some (but not all) of the mucilage on the coffee bean through the drying process. Once picked, the coffee is fed into a depulper, but not washed before drying; think of this as a hybrid of natural and washed processing. Once the coffee is dried in the mucilage, it’s processed like a typical washed coffee and moved along for further processing. This results in varying levels of fruit flavors and sweetness:
Black honey (most mucilage)
White honey (least mucilage)
Cumbres del Poas defines their honey process differently:
This is an example of how terminology can mean various things region to region and farm to farm.
Ikawa Roast Analysis:
When roasting natural or honey processed coffees, there are a few things to consider:
1) Due to processing, natural and honey coffees can have a weaker bean structure. If you put them into the roaster at the same start (or "charge") temperature as a washed coffee, you run the risk of tipping or scorching the beans.
2) Even high quality naturals tend to have beans with varying densities. This can create a first crack that starts slow but yet never seems to end. To combat this, you can extend your "drying" phase, or the beginning of your roast (before the beans start to brown.) This will help the beans lose moisture a bit more slowly and become more uniform. Then, a bit of a push in energy right before first crack can ease the beans into a more harmonious and louder first crack.
3) Some natural processes coffees can taste astringent or sour when roasted too light. A little more development time can help round out the acidity and bring out some nice cocoa notes.
Taking these 3 things into account, I adjusted my charge temperature to be slightly lower than normal and attempted to reach first crack at around 8 minutes, having a very slow and steady increase in temperature for the drying phase. I also gave my roast a little increase in temp right before where I thought first crack would occur. We tested 6 different variations, but here is the profile we liked the most:
Charge Temperature: 130°C / 266°F
End Temperature: 171°C / 340°F
End Time: 9 min 9 sec
First Crack: 7m 31s - 200°C / 424°F
Development Time Ratio: 18%
 You’ll need the IKAWA Pro app installed on your tablet or phone in order to use this profile with your IKAWA roaster
I was surprised because my development time wasn't as long as I wanted it to be, so I assumed it might taste too acidic, however, this profile was the most balanced on the table. It had really nice notes of dark chocolate that blended with the cherry acidity equally.
We cupped the Cumbres del Poas Alma Negra and gave it an SCA score of 86.5. It tasted like cherry cordial: red cherries, dark chocolate, vanilla, and a winey like quality.
We then cupped this same coffee alongside it’s black, red, and yellow honey counterparts, as well as a naturally processed Brazil, Honduran, and Ethiopian coffee, since this profile was originally created for a natural coffee. We were pleased to see a theme: this profile complimented the natural coffees on the table more so than the honeys. We also found the more “honeyed” the coffee, the more the profile worked.
We also really enjoyed how this profile worked on the Natural Ethiopian Yirgacheffe Banko Gotiti on the table, bringing out notes of raspberry, apricot, tangerine and a hint of mint.
Costa Rica Cumbres del Poas Alma Negra: Ref: 33172 - 8 bags available, NJ
Organic Costa Rica Cumbres del Poas Black Honey Micro Lot: Ref: 33170- 26 bags available, NJ
Organic Costa Rica Cumbres del Poas Yellow Honey Micro Lot: Ref: 33171- 1 bag available, NJ
Costa Rica Cumbres del Poas Yellow Honey Micro Lot: Ref: 33174 - 19 bags available, NJ
Organic Ethiopia Natural Yirgacheffe Banko Gotiti, Fair Trade: Ref: 33619 - 103 bags available in NJ warehouse.
If you’d like any more information about these coffees, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Want to learn more about how coffee is processed or more about coffee roasting? Stay tuned in the next few months, as we will be posting more classes!