Monday, May 29, 2017

Festival Culminates with Lessons in Boosting Coffee Quality and Profits

During the final event of our 2017 festival, the Ka'u Coffee College, our speakers focused on methods to improve quality and profits, including plans to combat the coffee berry borer and studying the science of fermentation. Ka'u coffee farmers and coffee enthusiasts learned about the effort to reduce the coffee berry borer infestation by using predator insects, species of flat bark beetles that dine on the borer.

Andrea Kawabata, an Associate Extension Agent, and Jen Burt who works on the coffee berry borers challenge, both with University of Hawai'i College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, talked about the history and positive outlook and hard work of Ka'u coffee farmers in combating the coffee berry borer.

Dr. Peter Follett, a research entomologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, talked about ways to attract the flat bark beetle to coffee orchards. He displayed packets of pheromones - odiferous attractants that can be placed in an orchard to draw the flat bark beetle to populate the coffee farms and eat the borer. The bark beetle shows no interest and does not damage the coffee crop itself, he said. There are two flat bark beetle species already living in Hawai'i, which are particularly useful in fields where there are raisins or coffee cherry that has fallen to the ground, said Follett. Rather than depending on research institutions breeding the beetles and releasing them to farmers, he said it could be more efficient to attract those that are already living on farms and in the wild to the coffee orchards.

Dr. Shawm Steinman, owner of Daylight Mind Coffee Co. and Coffea Consulting, talked about the importance of fermentation process in determining coffee quality and coffee taste. Fermentation allows "critters" to remove the mucilage (the cherry) off the coffee bean. Yeast, bacteria and fungi all love devouring the coffee cherry, which is comprised of a lot of sugar and water.  The level of yeast and the chemical changes that come along with the bacteria and fungi all help determine taste. Fermentation is faster in warmer temperatures with the "critters" moving around and multiplying much faster. Steinman said that fermentation can be achieved with adding water to the process or without adding water. He said that it is very important to only use clean water for the fermentation process.

He noted that coffee taste is subjective and coffee farmers and drinkers have particular tastes they prefer. However, using dirty water or over fermenting can lead to mould. While desired coffee tastes vary widely, coffee that tastes like spoiled milk - or other foulness - are obviously recognized as coffee gone bad. Whether the chlorine in the water at Pahala, where many people use fermentation to process coffee in backyard operations, may or may not make a difference in taste, suggested Steinman. Since Pahala farmers have produced so many award winning coffees, he pointed out, chlorine in drinking water at the level used here doesn't seem to have hurt Ka'u coffee when processing with county water.

The coffee farmers also visited Miles Mayne's coffee farm in Wood Valley for a demonstration of using the Penagos wet mill for processing coffee.

Farmers discussed the 2017 Ho'olaulea (which took place the day before) as being the most successful to date in the number of people who attended and coffee sales by Ka'u coffee farmers.

Check back later to find out when to join us for 2018!

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