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Emerging trends in processing

From the January 2019 issue.

Actors all along the value chain are innovating at the coffee processing level to improve production efficiencies, cup quality and their bottom lines. GCR explores the impact of new techniques and whether the risk is worth it.

Processing trendsFor a long time, roasting got all the attention. From high-end machines to precise temperatures and variations of brown hues, it was roasters’ way to craft the perfect cup of coffee. Then the barista’s role became more romanticised as they leveraged endless brewing contraptions and specialty coffee. Perhaps even finished with meticulous latte art.

Now, a key stage much further up the value chain is getting much needed attention as producers explore new and modified processing methods and technologies, and the individuals introducing and implementing them become masters of processing.

The emerging trends are happening in two “paradigms”, says Mario Fernandez, Technical Director at the Coffee Quality Institute (CQI) – coffee as a commodity and coffee as a specialty product. So depending on the paradigm, the global industry is seeing a variety of new trends, shifts, and innovations in processing that are being driven by relative factors.

“There are two things a coffee producer strives for: better quality and greater efficiency,” adds Carlos Brando, Director of coffee industry consultancy P&A Marketing, which is very active in processing. “If you can achieve both together, great, but you may have to choose one direction.”

He says where producers decide to focus their attention is largely dictated by the particular growing region, productivity volumes, and production costs. Coffee-growing regions with rugged terrain, high altitudes and, thus, higher production costs may not have access to the mainstream market. Conversely, a country with sizable farms and production can concentrate on the commodity market. Other countries, still, can access both.

As such, in the high-volume, low-cost market, “the trends we are seeing deal with technology and a more efficient way to process coffee using that technology”, Fernandez tells Global Coffee Report. “If you’re immersed in this paradigm, you’re not as interested in impacting flavour as much as you are interested in improving efficiency and costs.”

One such technology is optic coffee cherry sorters. While coffee sorters are not new to the industry, using them to sort harvested coffee cherries by ripeness is a newer approach, according to CQI. They are currently being used in Brazil, China, and Colombia. In high-volume regions like those that leverage nonselective picking, the technology allows producers to sort the coffee prior to processing. Rather than ending up with blends of different ripeness levels that ultimately result in commodity-market quality, producers can sort the cherries and process them for different markets.

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