IKAWA Roasting: How to roast natural processed coffee

How to roast natural processed coffee

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 and show you how to roast natural processed coffee.  However, we took it one step further and choose a farm that not only produces naturally processed coffees but also varying levels of honey processed coffees and some washed. This way, we could see how this profile holds up to varying levels of processes.

Cumbres del Poas specialty coffee farm in Costa Rica

Cumbres del Poas

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.  The multiple number of fincas that surround the mill are owned by Oscar’s brothers and sisters. The Chacon family produces the highest quality, environmentally friendly washed, natural, and honey processed coffees that are praised throughout the industry.

This praise did not come overnight.  The Chacon family worked hard to get to where they are today.  When Oscar was 18, his father passed away and left him with 5 hectares of land.  Oscar 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 built their own micro mill.  They did not know if it would world work out and at first were only producing 25 exportable bags.  Their commitment paid off, however, as they now produce around 2000 bags!

Pioneers of Natural & Honey Processed Coffees

The industry considers them to be 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 continue to process their harvest and pay their pickers, they proceeded with the natural process.  This traditionally was only 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.

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.  The Chacon’s believe that organic agriculture is the key to reducing poverty, and promoting cultural, economic, social and environmental development.  They use natural resources without destroying them.  They produce a product that comes from a healthy environment so that more people can live a healthy life.

Francisca and Oscar Chacon at Cumbres del Poas specialty coffee farm in Costa Rica
Francisca and Oscar Chacon

But wait, what is natural or honey processed coffee?

Natural processing is when a coffee cherry is dried in its entirety.  Once it is dried, it is then depulped to remove the cherry mucilage and skin. The resulting coffee typically yields an intense fruit forward cup.  This is because the flavors and sugars of the coffee cherry are absorbed by the beans.  Read more about natural processing here.

This is in contrast to washed coffees, where the coffee bean is depulped and separated from the cherry.  It is then washed in clean water before it is dried.  Read more about washed processing here.

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.  Read more about honey processing here.

This results in varying levels of fruit flavors and sweetness:

Black honey (most mucilage)

Red honey

Yellow honey

White honey (least mucilage)

Honey processed specialty coffee at Cumbres del Poas specialty coffee farm in Costa Rica

An example of honey processed coffee during the drying stage.

Cumbres del Poas defines their honey process differently

Types of honey processed specialty coffee from Cumbres del Poas in Costa Rica

This is an example of how terminology can mean various things region to region and farm to farm.

Ikawa Roast Analysis

When learning how to roast natural processed coffee 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 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.

The Roast

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:

Cumbres del Poas honey specialty coffee roast profile

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%

[1] 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.

Cupping Information

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 its 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.  Overall, 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.

This profile also worked nicely on the Natural Ethiopian Yirgacheffe Banko Gotiti on the table, bringing out notes of raspberry, apricot, tangerine and a hint of mint.

Specialty coffee on raised beds at Cumbres del Poas in Costa Rica
Specialty coffee cherries drying at Cumbres del Poas in Costa Rica

So now you know how to roast natural processed coffee…

So now you know how to roast natural processed coffee.  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!

If you’d like any more information about these coffees, please contact us.