If you've been following Airship for bit, you've probably heard about a Pacamara Anaerobic before. In 2021, we brought in an experimental microlot from Mario Valliente, Sr. of Cafe Colomba in the Santa Ana region of El Salvador.
Airship has steadily been enjoying coffees from Mario, Sr. for a decade. He is not afraid of pushing boundaries in post harvest processing (one of our favorite aspects of crop production) and continues to exceed our expectations year after year. This specific coffee is a brilliant example of a synergetic relationship between an intriguing coffee variety and a unique post-harvest process that results in a cup you'll need to share.
So now that you know a little bit of the backstory, let's dive into what those two words and why, together, they create a thrilling cup of coffee.
What does ANAEROBIC mean and how does it relate to coffee? By definition, anaerobic simply means requiring the absence of oxygen. Much of the fermentation process within a coffee cherry is already oxygen free, however, anaerobic fermentation relates to the environment around the coffee fruit also being without oxygen.
Merely hours after being picked these coffee cherries are loaded into 50 gallon metal drums and sealed with only a small valve for carbon dioxide (the byproduct of the fermentation process) to escape without allowing oxygen to be introduced. By taking oxygen out of the equation, we're able to slow down the process and allow for a wider spectrum of flavors to develop. For a culinary comparison, it’s similar to making sauerkraut or kimchi! Different from a washed fermentation that can span 12-24 hours, this anaerobic fermentation was active for 90 hours.
What is Pacamara and why is it special? The Pacamara variety is an intraspecific hybrid developed out of a breeding program housed at El Salvador's Institute for Coffee Research that started back in the 1950s. The two parents of its partial namesake, "PACA - MARA", are Pacas and Maragogipe. Both are mutations. The Pacas variety, a natural mutation of the Bourbon variety, was discovered on the San Rafael farm in Santa Ana and is prized for its shorter size and increased productivity. Whereas Maragogipe, a mutation of Typica, was sought after for its large bean size and excellent cup quality. After more than thirty years of artificially cross breeding selections and evaluating the progeny for desirable traits, the selected lines were combined to obtain the Pacamara variety, an exotic combination of productivity in the field and quality in the cup.
Historically, Pacamara has been processed as a fully washed coffee that results in a clean, yet savory and sometimes spicy profile. Flavor notes of jalapeno pepper jelly are not uncommon. A few years ago we decided to experiment with a natural process and it’s safe to say it was incredibly successful. (If you know, you know.) The sun-dried natural process highlighted the deep sweetness & complexity within the hybrid variety. We decided to take this a step further with an anaerobic natural process.
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