No 5

The Coffee Drying Process is another Key for the High Quality of Colombian Coffee.

June, 2012

Analysis

The Coffee Drying Process is another Key for the High Quality of Colombian Coffee.

Solar drying is the most used method by Colombian producers and is considered a traditional practice. In addition to being economical and environmentally friendly, it ensures a high percentage of the quality standards required by the FNC. This is another example of the efforts made by the coffee farmers to produce high quality coffee.


Over 96% of the country’s coffee growers have coffee plantations of less than 5 hectares and the average size of the coffee plantations in the country is just over 1.6 hectares. This structure and these peculiarities of the Colombian coffee agriculture, and the widespread quality oriented practices transferred by the extension service to growers for the production, harvest and post-harvest, are factors that contribute to maintain Colombian Coffee’s quality tradition.

The coffee drying process is a key step in the value chain due to its high influence on the quality of the beans. It is estimated that 5 good quality beans are needed to prepare an espresso coffee; these requirements impact the processes throughout the coffee supply chain in Colombia. From a technical standpoint, inadequate practices during the coffee drying process can cause 10 of the 14 defects established by the quality standards applied to Colombian Coffee. These parameters also require 10 to 12% of moisture content in the beans, in order to ensure the established quality to market excelso coffee.

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Sun drying is an economical and environmentally friendly method for meeting or exceeding the minimum quality standards for Colombian Coffee. It is the most commonly used by small farmers in Colombia, who produce about 70% of the national harvest.

The main objective during the coffee drying process is to prevent the proliferation of microorganisms and enzymatic activity that can damage the bean during storage. After drying the bean, it turns into dry parchment coffee which is then transported to the cooperatives’ purchase points and then goes on to the next phases of the commercialization process that make up the value chain.

The Colombian Coffee Growers Federation (FNC), in their interest to ensure quality in the various links of the value chain, introduced and launched a series of tools for the implementation and measuring of the coffee drying process. These tools are easy to use by small producers; the gravimet method stands out among them as a methodology for measuring the moisture content, and also, the parabolic dryers developed by the FNC’s Coffee Research Center —Cenicafé.

A fundamental part of the support of the FNC to producers has been the transfer of knowledge conducted by Cenicafé.  Thinking of the benefit of the farmer, Cenicafé developed a method to measure the moisture content of sun-dried coffee on the farms in a reliable way. In the past, growers have used methods of measuring moisture content based on the color and firmness of the coffee beans. These methods can induce the farmer to market his coffee outside the ideal ranges. When selling a coffee that is not within the range of 10% - 12%, the farmer can suffer economic losses if the moisture level is below 10% (because of less weight when selling it) or there might be cup problems if humidity is above 12%. That is why the gravimet method provides a detailed methodology that indicates the ideal time for the farmer to market the bean accessing the greatest economic potential, while maintaining the high quality of Colombian Coffee.

An innovative tool for solar drying in small coffee farm is the parabolic solar dryer, which is a system that has significantly reduced the time spent drying by reducing the volume of air contained within the dryer. The parabolic system developed by Cenicafé optimizes the use of solar energy and air and is also an easy to construct and operate tool which reduces maintenance costs.

If the drying process and the supervising of the process are done correctly the physical, sensory and safety attributes associated with the quality of Colombian Coffee will be kept. By maintaining this high standard of quality, a better economic benefit can be provided to the more than 563,000 families living of coffee production in Colombia.

You are invited to learn more about our coffee family and our products, visiting the COLOMBIAN COFFEE INSIGHTS sections on the top of this page.