Seed to Cup Project: Experimenting with Kauai Coffee

Seed to Cup Project: Experimenting with Kauai Coffee

The warm Pacific sun, rich volcanic earth and abundant rain on Kauai make our island an ideal place to grow and produce outstanding coffee. As the sole producer of more than half of the coffee grown in the United States our focus is growing, roasting and delivering locally-grown, high quality Hawaiian coffee from our Estate to your family.

As a relative newcomer to the global coffee stage, we’re able to experiment and push the boundaries of flavor and processing to uncover all of the possibilities specialty coffee has to offer. Since 2016 Kauai Coffee roast masters have been on an incredible journey of research and discovery to bring you the next level of unique creations and specialty Hawaiian coffee from Kauai with the Seed to Cup Project. Travel back in time with us over the last three years to take a closer look at their research in our Seed to Cup series and find out what unique Kauai Coffee creations are on the horizon and could be in your cup soon.

[caption id="attachment_2472" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]harvested kauai coffee cherries being unloaded from the truck for processing Harvested Kauai Coffee cherries unloading from truck for processing[/caption]

An Idea Emerges

In 2016, Kauai Coffee Roast Master and Licensed Arabica Q grader, Mike Shimatsu, was on a judging panel for a Taste Discovery Workshop on Maui. The workshop offered Maui Coffee farmers the opportunity to submit their coffees to a professional tasting panel and have them roasted, cupped and scored to identify flavor attributes based on varietal, origin, elevation and growing conditions

Results of the workshop indicated that coffees grown at lower elevations scored just as well as the coffees grown at higher elevations and in some instances scored even higher. These results were surprising and exciting because coffee grown at higher altitudes has a slower maturation process that allows time for complex sugars to develop and for the bean to become denser. Because Kauai is located at a low elevation, these results inspired Mike and the Kauai Coffee team to create the Seed to Cup Project and attempt to create specialty coffee and flavor nuances never before tried on Kauai.

The Learning Curve

Mike and the team handmade 3x5 screens to dry the coffee they would be experimenting with and borrowed hand-pulpers and five-gallon buckets to ferment on a smaller scale. Seed to Cup research started with seven projects consisting of various varietals, processing methods and fermentation times. It was a busy season marked by scientific data collection and the artistry and unpredictability of using a honey process instead of a wet-processing method we use to remove the mucilage from coffee beans on a larger scale.

[caption id="attachment_2470" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]Kauai Coffee beans drying in container racks Kauai Coffee beans drying rack[/caption]

2016 Seed to Cup Project Variations

Varietals: Red Catuai, Acaia, Yellow Bourbon
Process: Red Honey, Yellow Honey, Natural
Fermentation Time: 27, 43, 44, 65, 74 (hours)

Natural, Honey and Wet Process

At Kauai Coffee, we typically use a wet process to separate the coffee cherries after harvest for pulping and then remove the skin and sticky mucilage (fleshy fruit inside the skin) that remains with a hydrowash before drying. For the Seed to Cup Project, Mike and the team are experimenting with honey and natural processes. A natural process coffee leaves the cherry intact while drying and mechanically removes the bean from the cherry when dry.

Honey processing, on the other hand, is somewhere in between the wet process and natural process. The cherry skin is removed from the fruit but the fleshy mucilage is left intact during the drying process. Yellow honey processing means less mucilage was left on the bean while red and black honey processing suggests more. Each method imparts distinct flavor characteristics to coffee which is why our roasters have been experimenting with the different techniques during the Seed to Cup project.

[caption id="attachment_2451" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]kauai coffee employees examining dried coffee beans Kauai Coffee staff inspecting green beans[/caption]

2017 and 2018 Seed to Cup Project Variations

Varietals: Mundo Novo, KBM, Acaia, Yellow Catuai, Red Catuai, Icatu, Mokka hybrid x Margogype, Red Catuai x Mokka hybrid
Process: Honey, Naturals, Fruits
Fermentation Time: 43 hours – wet & dry
Drying: Sun Dry – screens, patio
Yeast: Intenso, VIN13, CIMA

Varietals: K3, Mundo Novo, Yellow Bourbon, Mokka, Yellow Catuai, Red Catuai/SL28 hybrid
Process: Hand-picked/dry ferment, machine harvest/dry ferment, machine harvest/wet ferment
Fermentation Time: 44 hours
Fermentation Vessel: 55-gallon barrels, stainless steel tank
Drying: Sun Dry – screens, patio
Yeast: CIMA, Intenso, VIN13, OA23, 58W3
Attributes: coffee blossom, blueberry, honey, plum, apricot, spice, molasses, cocoa, coriander

[caption id="attachment_2473" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]kauai coffee staff packaging Estate reserve 100% kauai coffee Kauai Coffee employees packaging Estate Reserve coffee[/caption]

Early Results

Results of the first round of Seed to Cup trials in 2016 were interesting but very small scale. The project continued to evolve through the 2017 and 2018 harvests with more fermenting, drying and processing variables added to the research process. Limited quantities of the Seed to Cup batches have been made available for tasting and purchase at the Kauai Coffee Visitors Center when available, and the biggest take away from the research to date has been the discovery that using these different methods allows the team to create and alter flavor nuances not previously present in Kauai Coffee.

The Seed to Cup project will continue in 2019 with the goal of developing a separate processing mill that will allow production of these specialty coffees at a larger scale. Follow the Seed to Cup series and sign-up for the Kauai Coffee Newsletter updates and new releases.

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