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Malic Fermentation With Carlos Pola

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Together with Carlos Pola, a producer with an appetite for innovation, we’ve been experimenting with different fermentation processes and the results have been hugely exciting.

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Malic fermentation is relatively new method of coffee processing. It involves adding malic acid, akin to those found in green apples to the water solution during the processing stage of production. It enables the acids that are already present, to take a forefront, boosting their impact on flavour.

We used to sit for hours with Carlos, talking about different experimental processing methods. We spoke for about 6 months discussing the details. How much acid should we add? How long should we ferment it for? What kind of acid should we use? How would it impact on the final flavour? Carlos also reached out to a university in El Salvador and spoke to a student whose study focused on fermentation. The student advised that understanding and controlling the acid to water was imperative for controlling flavour, and that as this student put, they simply couldn’t just “placed acid in the tanks”.

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Following this, Carlos and his family began to conduct a few experiments on small quantities of coffee to learn how the acid affected the cup. It’s a long fact-finding mission. Ferment, monitor, taste, tweak and repeat. They researched similarities between flavours and colours, and how processing can be used to evoke lighter or darker shades. The best results of their efforts were bagged up and first sampled by our Head of Coffee, during a visit to the farm in February 2018.

We tasted the results of both malic and tartaric acid experiments at the farm, before settling on the malic process attributed to a red pacamara varietal. We loved the flavour and crispness of green apple in the coffee, banded by this unique fermentation method. This coffee became San Antonio, which we proudly released later that summer in the UK and are now showcasing again.

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