Brazil – Santa Lucia, Decaffeinated
Santa Lucia is located in Araxa in the state of Minas Gerais and with a total size of 5300 hectares, is one of the biggest farms in Brazil. More than 3000 hectares of the land are allocated for permanent natural forest reserves, which is three times more than the legal requirement under Brazilian law.
The farm was established in 1998 by ‘AC Café’ which is a family run business with a background in farming coffee, cattle and sheep. In 2011, they decided to separate the three arms of their business in order to improve the quality of the products produced. There are now two agronomists looking after the coffee, Piccian and Willem, who oversee all aspects of production.
The wet mill based on site is brand new and can separate beans into 7 stages of maturation. Santa Lucia also uses 2 mechanical pickers which are the only ones of their kind in the country. They are of French design and are used for olives and grapes as they are more efficient and are kinder to the trees, working on gentle shaking rather than the mechanical metal fingers seen elsewhere. These machines also mean fewer cherries drop to the floor which dramatically reduces the risk of Brocca (the small beetle which lays its eggs inside coffee cherries).
Once the cherries have been machine picked they are taken to the wet mill where they are processed according to maturation – e.g pulped natural or natural. There are 20 mechanical dryers on the farm and 96 silos to store the coffee. Coffee is dried on the patio for 24/30 hours before being put into a mechanical dryer for around 12 hours at 40 degrees Celsius. The coffee is then cupped from each dryer by the quality control team who separate it into lots based on this assessment.
Mundo Novo: This varietal originated in Brazil in the 1940’s and is a hybrid of typica and bourbon. It is high yielding, more resistant to disease and can be planted densely. The cherries are large and rounded and the beans display sweet characteristics.
The Sparkling Water Decafeination Process
This process was first discovered by a scientist called Kurt Zosel at the Max Planck Institute for Coal Research in 1967 as he was looking at new ways of separating mixtures of substances. In 1988, a German decaffeination company called CR3 developed this process for decaffeination whereby natural carbon dioxide (which comes from prehistoric underground lakes) is combined with water to create ‘sub-critical’ conditions which creates a highly solvent substance for caffeine in coffee. It is a gentle, natural and organically certified process and the good caffeine selectivity of the carbon dioxide guarantees a high retention level of other coffee components which contribute to taste and aroma.
The process is outlined below:
1. The green beans enter a ‘pre-treatment’ vessel where they are cleaned and moistened with water before being brought into contact with pressurised liquid carbon dioxide. When the green coffee beans absorb the water, they expand and the pores are opened resulting in the caffeine molecules becoming mobile.
2. After the water has been added, the beans are then brought into contact with the pressurised liquid carbon dioxide which combines with the water to essentially form sparkling water. The carbon dioxide circulates through the beans and acts like a magnet, drawing out the mobile caffeine molecules.
3. The sparkling water then enters an evaporator which precipitates the caffeine rich carbon dioxide out of the water. The now caffeine free water is pumped back into the vessel for a new cycle.
4. This cycle is repeated until the required residual caffeine level is reached. Once this has happened, the circulation of carbon dioxide is stopped and the green beans are discharged into a drier.
5. The decaffeinated coffee is then gently dried until it reaches its original moisture content, after which it is ready for roasting.
There are several benefits to using this process for decaffeination:
• The agent used for extracting the caffeine is entirely natural and the process can be classified as ‘organic’ due to the complete lack of chemicals used throughout. There is also no health risk by consuming coffee that has been decaffeinated in this way.
• The way the process works means the other compounds in the green bean are left untouched, meaning decaffeination has no effect on the flavour and aroma of the finished product. The carbon dioxide is very selective and doesn’t extract the carbohydrates and proteins in the green bean which contribute to flavour and aroma.
• The cell structure of the green bean and the finished roasted bean is unchanged which is of great advantage when working with speciality coffees.
• The by-products are 100% natural and recyclable.