I’ve been a big fan of the Kone filter for Chemex and the Disk filter for AeroPress since I first started using them almost two years ago. From reducing waste, to highlighting certain elements of a coffee that may not make it through paper filters, the Kone and Disk are both used frequently in my brewing rotation. So I’m thrilled to share the latest progression of filters and brewing devices from DCILY sponsor, Able Brewing.
After Able Brewing amicably parted ways with Coava Coffee earlier this year to focus solely on brewing equipment, Keith Gehrke has officially reintroduced the new company. Today, Keith launched an elegant new website (designed by Jolby) while also unveiling the latest (and possibly last) version of the Kone with its beautiful new porcelain companion—a coffee brewing system designed specifically for the filter.
KONE Brewing System:
We really wanted a way to showcase the KONE’s unique coffee. So we teamed up with a local ceramic studio here in Portland with the goal of producing a manual brewer that is as versatile as possible, a joy to use and a centerpiece in your home. The brewer beautifully houses the KONE and after the coffee is done dripping, the filter support can be removed and replaced by an elegant lid. Up to 32 ounces of Coffee can be served directly from the kettle. While designing the brewer, we also realized that with the KONE resting inside the kettle you could steep a full pot of tea.
Initial orders for the new products are being taken though Kickstarter to help offset the tooling and production costs of the first run (made in the USA). In less than 2 hours, the Kickstarter campaign surpassed the initial $5000 goal, so there’s no doubt this will happen. But if you have any interest, you can take advantage of the significant savings opportunity by pre-ordering yours in the next month.
Congrats to Keith on what will likely be another beloved coffee brewing device.
On my 4th day in Colombia, I spent the morning in Bogotá before catching an afternoon flight to the northern coast. Once all of my official business was done for the day, I had time to visit Amor Perfecto, a local specialty roaster who recently opened up a showcase coffee bar and education lab in the city.
Amor Perfecto, owned by Luis Fernando Velez and Jaime Raul Duque, is also the home of Ever Bernal, the current Colombian Barista Champion and was the first coffee company in Colombia to have someone compete in the World Championship. The Amor Perfecto roastery, which is just a few blocks from the café, is also home to Colombia’s first Loring SmartRoast.
The shop only features coffee grown in Colombia, but it offers a rotating selection from regions around the country. The first coffee I had was an AeroPress of the Boyacá, which is a fairly unknown coffee growing region just a few hours northeast of Bogotá. It has a very spicy chocolate taste profile that I don’t normally prefer, but it was really unique compared with the other coffees I’d been drinking all week.
I sat down with Luis and Jaime who told me about all the classes they provide to customers, from basic cupping to learning how to roast their own batch of coffee. Their goal is to provide an environment and experience where someone can come have a nice cup of coffee and relax, or if they choose learn everything they want about the process.
Along with their selection of coffee and a small assortment of baked goods, Amor Perfecto also offers single malt whiskey pairings with their coffee—an incredible dream come true. Sadly, I didn’t have time to stay and experience the pairing, but I look forward to doing so in the future. Unique pairings like this are something I’d really like to see and experience more of in the world of coffee.
The coffee shop and lab are on the ground floor of an old two-story home that’s been renovated to contrast a history of textures, modern lines and delicate woods. The modern furniture is illuminated by the natural light that washes through the front windows, the enclosed courtyard and translucent ceiling above the lab.
Upstairs are several rooms that include a dedicated training lab and classroom for teaching employees and friends in the industry. Everything about Amor Perfecto is considered and focused on growing the knowledge and capabilities of the baristas, roasters and interested customers engaged with the company.
If you happen to live in Bogotá or are visting Colombia for an extended time and need any kind of coffee gear, this shop is probably your best bet. Along with their coffee bar and coffee roasting duties, they are Colombia’s official distributors of AeroPress, Bodum and Nuova Simonelli espresso machines.
Amor Perfecto is a great example of how passion for coffee goes far beyond serving it. Because of their passion, the customers and baristas in Colombia will benefit greatly from the energy and quality brought to the city. Since the World Barista Championships took place in Bogotá last year, there has been a new found interest in discovering what coffee can be to Colombia besides just an export. It was great to meet the people at Amor Perfecto who are helping lead the way.
Late last night we arrived in Bogotá for a good night’s rest before spending the next morning in the city. Michael met me in the lobby of the hotel and we walked a few blocks to the Federation of National Coffee Growers (FNC) headquarters to meet with Marcela and learn more about their work. While we gathered to talk, an employee who makes coffee for the office came through and delivered us our first cup of the day—nice perk.
The FNC was founded in 1927 as a private non-profit organization to represent all coffee growers in Colombia. Every coffee farmer in Colombia (560,000 of them) is a defacto member of the FNC, and farmers with at least 1500 coffee plants can become Federated. A Federated Member receives voting rights, a national coffee grower’s ID and direct deposit for their coffee sales, but every grower has access to the FNC and its resources.
All of the representatives at the FNC are democratically elected in national and local elections, with a 68% participation rate—higher than governmental polls. In November of each year, new policies and goals are presented and voted on by representatives before being implemented.
For every pound of coffee sold in Colombia, six cents goes into the National Coffee Bank. The coffee bank funds all of the FNC programs, ranging from the research at Cenicafé, productivity and sustainability programs, quality control, and the coffee purchase guarantee—one of the most interesting things I learned on my visit.
The coffee purchase guarantee program ensures that all coffee is purchased from farmers for the current market rate, no matter the quality, to prevent farmers from falling victim to weather or other quality catastrophes that may ruin their crop. However, if the quality of the coffee isn’t high enough to be exported, the FNC absorbs the loss and works with the farmer to solve future problems.
After learning more about the FNC, I stepped across the hall to the Almacafé lab where a library of green coffee from all around the country is received, cataloged and quality tested, much like at the El Agrado lab I visited on day 2.
After meeting the lab technicians, I sat down with Camilo for a cupping that included coffee from the north, central and southern regions as well as defects that included past crop, over-fermented and Phenol. I had never specifically cupped defects before, so it was really eye opening to experience just how bad coffee can be when growing or processing problems occur—which are usually filtered out before they reach consumers.
Following our cupping session, we crossed the street to Juan Valdez Café, one of the 120 locations found throughout Colombia. When we arrived, Ronald Valero, the two time runner-up in the Colombian Barista Championship, was there to hang out and make us some lovely espresso. Ronald is now the head trainer for Juan Valdez as they work to improve the quality of their coffee, baristas and service.
Juan Valdez Café is owned by the FNC as well as about 20,000 coffee grower stake-holders. The project was started in 2002 as a way to showcase Colombian coffee within the country and has since begun to expand with locations in Chile, Peru and the United States. Royalties from the Juan Valdez brand, which is owned by all of the Colombian coffee growers, are paid into the National Coffee Bank benefitting all of the growers.
Recently, some of the cafés have begun offering home brewing classes and tasting events with customers a well as placing an emphasis on the differences of taste found in each Colombian region. The cafés rotate the brewed coffees each week to highlight different parts of the country and introduce variations in taste to their customers.
It was great learning more about the FNC, the work they do and the progress they’re trying to make. Colombia, until 2008, exported about 11 million tons of coffee each year. But recently, because of unrelenting rains combined with an increase in coffee rust and other pests, the yield has dropped to about 8 million tons. With 33% of the population relying on coffee for their livelihood, there are just as many social reasons as there are economic reasons to make sure the coffee industry remains healthy and strong.
Before catching an afternoon flight to Santa Marta, we stopped by Amor Perfecto, a local specialty coffee roaster who recently opened a beautiful new café and coffee lab following the World Barista Championship in Bogotá—more on that in a separate post.
For months now, there have been rumors that Denmark’s darling specialty coffee roaster, Coffee Collective, was expanding—as well as their interest in a Loring Smart Roaster. Less than a year after opening a new shop at Torvhallerne, those whispers have been confirmed with more details and an exclusive first look inside the new space.
4 ½ years ago The Coffee Collective opened their microroastery and coffee shop in a small basement in the at the time dodgy street ”Jægersborggade”. Since then the collective have opened another coffee shop at the food market Torvehallerne and is supplying coffee to shops all over Denmark. Now the time has come to get more space for roasting amazing coffees and at the same time try out yet another kind of coffee shop experience.
For the past few months the collective have been renovating an old factory building in the picturesque Frederiksberg. It will house a larger roastery with a 35 kg Loring Smart Roast, a larger office space and a coffee bar unlike any other in Denmark. Here The Coffee Collective wishes to focus more on the flavours in coffee rather than brew methods, and show just how different coffees can taste.
There will be a changing menu of brewed coffees, signature drinks and even a cupping session will be on the menu. The goal is both to get more people to focus on what they can taste in coffee as well as experience some of the amazing drinks from the barista competitions.
The roastery will be visible through a large glass wall, so you can see how the green coffee is transformed into brown, roasted beans. And all along you can relax in the shop while sipping the same coffee. Transparency is key, both in the coffee shop, the roastery and the way we do business. -Coffee Collective
While an opening date hasn’t been confirmed, I’d guess if you’re coming to the Nordic Barista Cup, you’ll have a chance to visit. Congratulations to Klaus and the crew as they continue to expand. Looking forward to walking across those liquid glass floors.
On the third day we left from Pereira and drove for an hour along the scenic “coffee highway” on our way to Chinchiná. Today would contrast yesterday’s fun on the farm with a more microscopic view of coffee at Cenicafé, the Colombian National Research Center—one of the world’s largest coffee research labs.
Sitting atop a mountain in the west Andes, Cenicafé is a beautiful research campus where a large team of scientists, engineers and agronomists work on programs that range from genetic mapping, coffee processing technology and biodiversity preservation. I had the pleasure of meeting with several of these brilliant minds who shared way more knowledge than I could absorb in one day, but I was introduced to new concepts and perspectives I had yet to consider in my understanding of coffee.
We began the morning meeting with Dr. Huver Posada, who talked about the Denominations of Origin program. The DO program is tasked with mapping chemical markers within coffee from all around Colombia to determine specific environmental traits that contirbute to certain qualities of Colombian coffee.
Using an infrared spectroscopy machine, Dr. Posada can test samples of coffee to capture and catalog data that includes levels of caffeine, acidity, sugars and many other chemical compounds. This information can be used to not only determine expected qualities based on where a coffee is grown, but it can also be used to authenticate a coffee’s origin.
Next we met with Dr. Alvaro Gaitán who gave us a tour of the campus and several labs while discussing Cenicafés genetic improvement program. One of the many projects by Dr. Gaitán and his colleagues include mapping the genome of various coffee species to study and compare gene arrangements. This allows them to clone the agronomically beneficial genes and try to develop solutions to problems that plague farmers, such as leaf rust and the coffee berry borer.
While enjoying your morning coffee, the last thing you probably imagine are shelves filled with cloned plant specimens and labs experimenting with beetle killing fungi. However, Cenicafé is where these scientific explorations of coffee take place to ensure that future generations of Colombian coffee farmers will still have their livelihood, should unmanageable pests and disease threaten their crops.
After lunch I met Gloria Lentijo who works in the Biology Conservation Department at Cenicafé. She shared some of the work being done to study, understand and conserve the incredibly rich biodiversity in Colombia without sacrificing the farmer’s productivity.
This department works with farmers to promote eco corridors that connect forests and vegetation patches on farms as well as how to properly use shade in regions where its needed. They’ve also cataloged hundreds of species of insects and wildlife that can be found throughout the country, which is also used to educate school children.
This information is shared with farmers in several ways, but one of the most interesting methods is through community bird watch groups created to foster appreciation and pride in the conservation of Colombia’s natural habitats.
Next, I got to meet Dr. Rodrigo Sanz, an engineer who worked on the Becolsub, a technology developed by Cenicafé that I was eager to learn about in person. The system was developed to speed up coffee processing, minimize contamination and use less water. While the traditional washed process uses about 40 liters of water per kilo of coffee, the Becolsub uses less than 1 liter of water per kilo.
The system consists of a standard pulper, driven by belts instead of a hand crank, that is connected to a “demucilager.” The demucilager is a small silo filled with knobby gears that spin at high RPMs. The depulped seeds travel up through the silo with a small amount of water and are washed clean of the mucilage—without having to ferment for the standard 12-18 hours. The expelled beans are ready to to be dried moments after the cherries enter the machine. I would have liked to cup the same coffee processed with both methods to see if there are any significant differences in the taste, but that would have required more time than we had available.
This method of washing coffee is becoming more prominent in Colombia and similar systems are being used in other countries as well, but the coffee is generally labeled as “washed processed.” I’d be interested in learning more about the Becolsub’s effect on flavor development—if any—as well as seeing more coffee labeled specifically with this processing technique out of sheer curiosity.
Before leaving Cenicafé, I spent the afternoon exploring the varietal research collection that features row upon row of varieties and hybrids that include plants from the Arabica, Canephora (Robusta) and Liberica species of coffee. It was incredible to see how drastically different coffee plants could be from one another. From the strikingly tall Liberica trees to the bushy Timor and the spindly Bourbons. A truly great experience.
Dr. Posada met back up with us in the field to discuss cross-pollination and to talk about the development of Castillo. This variety, formerly known as Colombia, is a product of cross-breeding Caturra with Timor varieties to develop a coffee that’s resistent to leaf rust with a high yield and short height that contributes to easier harvesting.
I often hear people suggest that Castillo doesn’t produce good coffee, but my experience during this trip found that to be an exaggerated stereotype. I had great coffees that were both Castillo and Caturra grown in Colombia. Just as one can find good and bad Caturra or Bourbon, there is also good and bad Castillo to be found.
After seeing trees that have been decimated by leaf rust on some of the farms I visited, it’s easier to understand the farmer’s needs to address the problem however they can. While quality may be of upmost importance to roasters, baristas and consumers—the ability to grow coffee is of greater concern to the farmers.
As we rode along the winding roads to the airport, I watched the passing towns and thought about the immense depth of scientific research and development found behind the humble coffee bean. People frequently toss around a statistic stating that coffee is the second most traded commodity after oil, if so, one should assume there is an industry of research behind it—I just never considered how advanced it might be until now.
The energy and resources that the FNC and Cenicafé have invested into its coffee industry is impressive to say the least. I know that each origin has it’s own unique issues, but many of the solutions I’ve experienced here are interesting, inspiring and definitely worth studying in a greater capacity. Next stop, Bogotá.
After spending an evening at the lovely La Navarra Hotel in Armenia, Quindio I woke to another grey, wet morning. We ate a hardy breakfast of arepa, a flat bread covered with cheese, fresh fruit and hot cocoa, before heading to nearby El Agrado, one of Cenicafé’s regional research farms.
Upon arrival, our group was led towards a forest of bamboo that reached high above the trees, forming shelter from the rain. Inside was a circular grove outlined with benches that overlooked a porcelain brew bar set upon a bamboo table. Marta, the farm’s resident barista and head of its quality research lab, talked about the importance of proper preparation and sharing that knowledge and experience with farmers to help them better understand the end product of their coffee. She then brewed a Chemex for us all to share before we headed out to do some work.
Today was dedicated to learning more about the coffee growing process step-by-step. After spending the previous day at several farms, it was time to get my hands dirty and experience each of the steps throughout the process.
I began with a bag of Castillo coffee seeds in their unmilled parchment state. Castillo is a hybrid variety of Caturra designed to be resistent to leaf rust, a fungus that’s become a growing problem for coffee farmers in Colombia. The nursery bed was nothing more than a garden box filled with wet sand, where seeds would grow roots and their first pair of leaves during the next 60 days.
Taking my first handful of seeds I began to cautiously sprinkle them as if I could consciously place each bean as it landed. After being encouraged not to worry about uniform spacing, the blank sheet of sand became speckled at a much quicker pace. When the bed had been saturated with enough coffee seeds, I used a bamboo roller to level the seeds before spreading another centimeter of sand over them.
After planting my own seeds, we moved to a couple of beds that were further along in the process. After about 30 days, the seed itself is pushed up from the sand on a stem, while a system of vertical roots begin to take hold. By 60 days, the first pair of leaves develop and the tiny plants are transplanted from the bed of sand into cylindrical bags filled with soil and organic material.
The cylindrical bags and their new inhabitants are grouped together and set aside to grow for another 6 months, where they’ll grow to be about 12 inches high and develop roughly 6 pair of leaves. At this time, the plants will be strong enough to be transplanted to their permanent places in the field.
Arriving to the plants new home, I cleared away any brush, sticks and weeds and dug a hole deep enough to receive the column of starter soil—making sure the base of the plant rested level with the surrounding earth. I took the fill dirt I had removed from the hole and mixed it with about 1/3 compost, made of decomposed coffee cherry pulp, before refilling and packing the hole, making sure there were no pockets of air left in the soil. Then I moved on to my second plant.
While it took me about 30 minutes to bury my first two plants, a real farmer can plant hundreds of new trees in a day. I imagine with a bit more practice and a more flexible pair of jeans, I could increase my productivity exponentially.
Once my plants where in the ground, they would have another year of maturation before the first flowers would arrive, followed 8 months later by the first coffee cherries.
I also learned a bit about fertilization, which consists of spreading nitrogen and phosphorus pellets around the base of the plants when the soil becomes off balance. The rest of the growth cycle involves continued management of soil health and preventing leaf rust and other pests that may destroy the plants.
In Colombia, the coffee cherries mature at different times, and many farms are on steep and uneven terrain, so once cherries begin to ripen they are picked by hand as needed. The farmers concerned with the highest quality will sort the harvested cherries again to make sure only the best ones are being processed. Tanks of water are are also used to separate the bad cherries which will float to the top, while the others sink.
When the ripe cherries have all been gathered, it’s time to process them. Colombia’s primary method of processing is washed, either with fermentation tanks or the Colombian designed Becolsub (or eco pulper). Once the beans have been separated from the cherry (depulped), they are left covered with a clear jelly-like substance called mucilage. In order to remove the mucilage, they are left to sit for 12 to 18 hours while microorganisms in the mucilage dissolve the sugars. This part of the coffee process is one of the most sensitive and can lead to defects that affect the taste if done improperly.
Once the proper fermentation time has elapsed, the coffee beans are washed clean and dried to reach a moisture level between 10–12%. Drying is done with the sun on patios or raised beds, and in some cases with mechanical heated silos. The silo I saw on this visit was powered by burning dried coffee parchment, a waste product from the mill. After the parchment coffee has dried to the proper moisture level, it’s bagged, taken to the nearest selling point and checked for quality.
Following our morning of work in the fields, we washed up and headed to the El Agrado lab, where Marta gave us a tour of the facilities and talked about the quality tests run on coffee sent to them by farmers. These tests help diagnose problems they can help resolve as well as discover farmers producing great coffee who they can learn from. I also looked at physical examples of green coffee defects and learned more about their causes.
After working my way through the coffee process this morning, it was about time to taste the resulting product. Marta had prepared a cupping with 5 coffees from different farms in the Quindio region, both Caturra and Castillo varieties. While each of the coffees were very nice, two of them stood out as definite favorites. Most surprising to me though, was how different these coffees could taste when all of them were from the same region. The complexity and nuance of coffee continues to amaze me.
With the most exciting and information filled part of the day coming to an end, we headed off to the Colombian National Coffee Park for a late lunch and some relaxation. The Parque Nacional del Café is a sprawling theme park that shares the culture and process surrounding Colombian coffee, as well as being home to several roller coasters and go-carts. Although the weather wasn’t the best for water rides, we strolled around the park and took in the view before heading to our hotel in Pereira.
Today was the most informative of my trip, which I don’t necessarily attribute to the amount of information received, but through the process of learning by hand. This helped me absorb what I learned and apply a level of physical effort to the knowledge itself. The romantic idea of being at origin was punctuated by the reality of how much work goes into growing coffee and the intensity of the labor involved. The most important thing I’ve learned so far at origin, is that everything I’ve learned has an asterisk.
I finally arrived in Colombia yesterday and my week long trip to origin has begun. I hope to make up for the lack of recent posts with some great content this week as I learn about and explore Colombian coffee at its source. I just wrapped up my first day and it was incredible as well as exhausting. I’ve posted a few photos from the day here, but there will more content and videos of the week over on the Colombian Coffee Hub.
After waking up at 4:30 this morning, our team took a flight from Bogota to Armenia where we loaded into a van and stopped at a nearby café for breakfast (huevos rancheros & lulo jugo). With full bellies and acquaintances made we headed to our first destination, Café San Alberto in Buenavista.
San Alberto was the largest farm we visited today and was very well groomed with a refined infrastructure in place. There was a beautiful terrace and coffee bar with a full-time barista to look after visitors and provide us with the farm’s finest coffee.
Francini prepared lovely examples of both Caturra and Castillo varieties of coffee for us in a press pot and Chemex, which were enjoyed along with the breathtaking view.
Afterwards, we toured the farm and visited the nursery where I got a close look at seedlings in various stages. The first 60 days of the coffee plant are surprisingly slow growth, followed by a fairly rapid increase in size over the next 6 months.
Next we visited two smaller farms, El Reposo and Jalisco. El Reposo, was purchased 12 years ago by Gloria and her husband after coming to the area to visit family. They enjoyed their visit so much, they purchased a couple hectacres and moved from the city to take on the life of coffee growers.
El Reposo was also visited by competitors from the 2011 World Barista Championship, who each planted a tree to be named after them. It was great strolling through the rows to find familiar names beside plants overflowing with cherries about to ripen.
At Jalisco, I visited the rooftop patio and it’s rolling roof, a contrast to Gloria’s raised beds inside a covered shelter, as well as a quirky veranda with table sets made from stump wood—the trimmings of cultivated coffee trees.
When our afternoon at the coffee farms came to an end, I rode on the back of an old Jeep Willy with a few sacks of coffee to be sold in Pijao. At the selling point, I learned how the coffee is weighed, checked for quality, and its final price calculated for the farmer. This particular lot received a bonus for being extra high quality—a way to incentivize continued progress and education among farmers.
The evening ride back to Armenia was dampened by rain and the grey evening light made it hard to stay awake as the sights of small Colombian towns passed by the window. Upon arriving to our lovely hotel, I relaxed with Camilo and the rest of the team as we talked about our day—I can’t believe it’s only the first.