Saturday, June 2 – Day 5: Dry Mill, Coffee Cupping, and Jardín Central Square
Blog by Soledad Escribano
Another beautiful and sunny day in Jardín! After a good sleep the first night in our communal home and a complete Colombian breakfast prepared by Doña Teresa, the owner of the house, driver Oscar picked us up in the Jeep to transport us to today’s learning experience.
Thirty minutes by car separate Jardín from the dry mill “La Pradera”. So far this week we had the opportunity to visit the wet mill and the central co-op commercial center, today we experience the last missing piece of the whole process — the dry mill — where the picked, washed, de-pulped beans are dried, en masse.
Traditionally farmers did their own milling and drying, but now this process is done more efficiently and exactingly by specialized employees at the mill so that experts can guarantee the highest quality coffee beans with the least imperfections as this is the point of the process where the most damage to beans can occur.
When we arrived at the large plant, we saw Dry Mill employees charging huge bags of coffee beans into trucks in a very coordinated, assembly line process. Stacked floor to ceiling in the dark, dry warehouse was more than 1 Million kilos of coffee. (Only 3% of it was fit enough for distinction as Nespresso beans!)
In a few words I will explain the work done in this mill:
The process of drying used here is ancient, simple, and economical. The de-pulped coffee is laid out on a concrete floor in a green house, that keeps a temperature between 50° and 55°C (it was really hot in there!) for 4 or 5 days, while an employee constantly rakes the beans to avoid spoilage. The result is called “café pergamino.”
The next step is called treshing. Each bag of coffee arrives with some incidental, miscellaneous materials mixed in such as stones, leaves, insects or even animal bones. The obviously must be separated and removed from the beans. Once the non-coffee material is weeded out, a machine separates the grain from the husk of the bean. Finally, the bean goes through a polishing process to remove the parchment waste that may remain after the above process.
Last but not least is the classification and selection process. This is a critical stage because here the clean but defective beans (like the black over dried ones, or those eaten by insects, or affected by crop plagues) are removed. It is important to undergo rigorous quality control throughout the process, since a single defective bean can spoil the entire harvest. This process is done by a meticulous computerized sorting machine that takes photos and blows out beans based on size, density, and color. After the computerized scan comes the human inspection. In general larger grains produce better tasting cups of coffee and those are the ones that Nespresso wants for its high quality, rich-tasting coffee.
To end our visit an Italian expert in qualifying and characterizing coffee, invited us to be part of another coffee cupping. We discussed sorting and roasting of beans as well as the distinctions made amongst coffee notes, acidity and balanced flavor. After an enlightening afternoon, we loaded back in the Jeep, astonished again at the extent to which coffee farmers and specialized mill employees pour over each and every bean to ensure that Nespresso coffee tastes as perfect as the beans used to brew it.
Later that night, back in Jardín, the group took “la garrucha” — a cableway from one landing to the top of the mountain — where we could appreciate the town of Jardín from above, illuminated by the light of a full moon, giving us an extraordinary view. We rode the cable car back down to the other side and ended the evening enjoying a team dinner with Abelardo Agudelo of Café Export.