Ethiopia Bensa Shantawene Anaerobic Fermentation
What to expect: buttery, smooth, fruit compote
Okay guys, let's talk anaerobic fermentation. Let's talk fermentation in general.
In the simplest terms, anaerobic fermentation is fermentation in an oxygen-free environment. Most commonly sugars are the substrate being fermented with the products including ethanol, which evaporates quickly during the drying process, carbon dioxide, hydrogen and notably lactic acid. Lactic acid is a key acid found in dairy products and contributes unsurprisingly to a mellowing, creamy, lactic property in coffees fermented anaerobically.
We consume TONS of fermented foods in our daily lives. from bread to pickles, beer, wine, yogurt, kimchi and my personal two main food groups: cheese & salami.
Many people don't know that coffee is in fact a fermented food as well!
After being harvested, coffee is generally put through a machine called a wet-mill, which sort of "squishes" the coffee seeds out of and away from the fruit. Though machinery and methods vary wildly around the world these machines generally use centrifugal motion to separate the products of dissimilar densities. The beans go one way and the skin goes another.
Are you ready? This is the fermentation part!
When my friend Joe makes beer at my local brewery he doesn't rely on the naturally occurring yeasts that exist in our environment. It's on our skin. It's on the grain he uses to make beer. It's even floating around in the air.
Instead, Joe introduces NEW yeast--specific yeast. Yeast he's worked with before and that will produce predictable results.
This is the same in any brewery, any bakery, any winery. Any.... Picklery?
There are instances when professionals in any of these industries will use naturally occurring yeasts and those projects or products are generally referred to with words like "wild" or "naturally fermented". Something to inform the consumer that... this ain't your grandmother's white bread.
Probably the best or most commonly seen example of wild yeast use is sourdough baking where instead of using yeast to help the dough rise the baker uses a starter, which is a little bit of dough with naturally occurring yeast strains contained therein.
But for the most part, these professionals are using commercially produced yeast strains that are consistent and predictable.
Coffee is the exception to this rule.
After producers retrieve their coffee from the wet-mill the coffee is fermented for a short time--generally between 6 & 48 hours, but sometimes longer--and traditionally this happens in large open basins. The coffee is then cleaned, dried to 11% moisture, bagged and shipped.
Anaerobic fermentation takes the place of the open basins in favor of some sort of sealed container and very often a specified yeast strain.
This methodology is still fairly new and isn't seen super widely. This is due to several factors. First, spoilage is a potential issue--someone needs their hand on the wheel as the fermentation process can vary based on external temperatures, humidity levels, etc.
It's also complex, especially for the many small-holding farmers out there, to find a method of sealing the coffee away from oxygen.
Finally it's a supply-&-demand thing. The anaerobically fermented coffees we've tasted have nearly all been outstanding. Even when they're not our favorite coffees ever, they're new, unique & different. We love that--we love innovation and daring & craft, and so when one of our favorite washing stations in all of the world attempted an anaerobic process on a coffee we know & love it was an easy sell.
We hope you try it. We hope you love it!