At the end of the coffee picking day when the temperature cools, coffee cherries that have been picked between 21-26 brix degrees are brought to the wet mill to begin the washed process.
First, the coffee cherries are placed in a tank filled with water that recirculates through a channel. Along the channel there are multiple spots to place wood blocking to prevent the more dense coffee cherries which sink to the bottom from being taken downstream with the current. The cherries that float are considered less dense and of lower quality, they are paddled along the channel and collected for either the producer's personal use or sold as commodity grade. By having multiple stages of blocking, they can better control the density and the qualities of their coffee cherries. La Finca Distribution Corp. only purchases the most dense coffee beans we can acquire from each specific lot.
The coffee cherries are pulped by machine using water from the local water source. The wastewater from the pulping or "honey water" contains many sugars and pectin which ferment into acetic acid and are in most cases, is released back into the water source untreated. Unfortunately, the demand for oxygen to purify the water exceeds that of which it produces, therefore the water cannot naturally filter out the harmful bacteria growing within it, which poses many health risks to humans and the biodiversity that depends on the water source. Honey water is the largest contaminant to waterways in coffee growing regions around the world. It is a requirement for all of our producers to have honey water filtration systems in place and to be cautious about the water they release back into the waterway. It is impossible to not contaminate the water during the washed process, the least we can do is prevent the amount of harm we are doing. Our blog post Petroleum Coffee has some more interesting insight about the topic of washed coffee.
After the coffee has been pulped, it is placed in an empty tank to ferment for 8-36 hours depending on the varietal and temperature. During this process yeast and bacteria break down the sugars in the coffee and add to the complexity of the final cup.
Coffee beans are trucked out to the dry mill after the fermentation and are placed on drying beds for 14-26 days until 12%-11% moisture has been achieved. It is at this time the coffee is bagged in parchment and is placed in the bodega to rest for 45 days.