Last Updated on January 6, 2021 by Novotaste
From sour dough to komchucha and kefir…fermentation is the latest buzzword in food. And now it has entered the coffee domain as well. Roasters all over the world are using fermentation techniques to unlock exotic flavours and notes in coffee. Now, what exactly is fermented coffee? Fermented coffee, also known as cultured coffee, refers to coffee that has been fermented not right after the harvest, when it’s still in cherry form, but after it’s been pulped and the husk has been removed, prior to the roast (green coffee). It’s a specially treated type of green coffee that, when roasted, grounded and brewed, yields aromas and flavours different (many would say better) from those of unfermented coffee. “Fermentation process is no stranger to coffee. A large portion of coffees produced have always been fermented around the world predominantly in plain water to allow its enzymes to break apart, develop sugars and to give a smooth mouth feel. However the coffee-loving community now has been experimenting using different strains of yeast/bacteria, different mediums besides water for soaking the beans, to help the beans imbibe different flavours and give more complex tasting notes to the same coffee we have grown for generations,” explains Tapaswini Purnesh, Director, Classic Coffees a company with coffee estates in Sakleshpur and Chikmagalur.
But just because it’s fermented, don’t expect the brew to be loaded with probiotics (the good bacteria that helps your digestive system) warns Abhinav Mathur, CEO of Something’s Brewing, a website with a curated collection of coffee brewing tools. “The fermentation process in coffee occurs before roasting the beans, so all the probiotics present after the fermentation is eliminated during the roast. However fermentation refines the sweetness, body, and acidity of the coffee and even adds a fruity note to it. No wonder it’s converting non-coffee drinkers into curious consumers.”
Barrel Aged Coffee
The latest to enter the fermented coffee bandwagon is barrel aged coffee where fresh, green coffee is placed inside barrels previously used to make whiskey, gin, rum, wine and other varieties of liquor. What started as a quirky experiment out of curiosity or convenience has turned into a full blown trend with roasters forging strategic collaboration with distilleries. “One of our most loved fermented coffees at Classic Coffee (Harley estate) has been our whisky barrel-aged coffee. We ferment the beans inside Amrut whisky barrels anywhere from 35 to 60 days, along with yeast made in-house. The moisture content inside the barrel is what aids in the fermentation process and gives the coffee a strong, heady, whisky aroma and flavours of Irish cream, green apple and other tropical fruits,” says Purnesh.
Blue Tokai have been engaging Sula wine barrels used for fermenting red wines like Rasa and Dindori to age specially selected coffee beans. “The beans sit in the oak barrels for a few months and absorb the remnants of the previous year’s wine batch. They are monitored closely for moisture retention and rotated weekly to ensure the beans have even contact with the wine-soaked wooden barrels. This process enhances the flavours of the beans and creates a whole new experience for the consumer, expanding our minds well beyond what we ever thought coffee could taste like,” says Namrata Asthana, Co-Founder of Blue Tokai Coffee Roasters.
Other alcohols used to give a boozy zing to coffee are rum and gin. “The rum ferment according to me is the most balanced among the barrel aged coffee blends. It’s a sweet tasting cup and that is not surprising as rum has the highest sugar content among the three alcohols. There are a few estates which are fermenting with fruits like watermelons and pineapples too,” says Mathur.
Barrel-aged coffee beans can be brewed hot or cold and sipped as is. “But they are best had black to experience all the flavours that the coffee has to offer and not dilute it with milk or sugar. Our preferred method of brewing is generally a pour-over, a cold brew is also great depending on the coffee,” says Purnesh. They can also be blended into fresh new cocktails, exploring new depths of distilled flavours.
Fruit Fermented Coffees
Not a whisky or wine fan? No problem, there’s orange juice fermented coffee just for you. Launched by Maverick & Farmer Coffee (founders of the Flying Squirrel Coffee) the ‘Orange you Curious’ coffee blend is a result of a unique barrel fermentation process where freshly pulped Arabica beans are fermented with orange juice for 24 hours. The natural yeasts present on the orange skins, as well as the coffee skins, work on the fruit sugars and produce a truly unique blend that’s very refreshing. They also make a Milk and Honey specialty coffee where the coffee beans are fermented with lactic acid bacteria (of milk from cows from their own farms). The coffee is then further processed using the honey sun-drying method. A double treat for sure! This creates a beautifully mellow coffee with some milk, toffee and muskmelon notes.
Ready to brew some fermented coffee? Here’s where you can order fermented coffee from:
Orange You Curious? Maverick & Farmer Coffee
Enjoy this fruity coffee black or with a tiny amount of milk. Cold-brewing is awesome too. For those who love a mellow, sweet-smoky lining to their favourite drink, can try their cold smoked coffee.
Wine Barrel Aged Coffee, Blue Tokai
If you love your cold brew, then this sweet, tart, and fruity drink is going to be your favourite. For all the hot brew lovers, there are single-serve easy pour sachets, which let you brew a cup of coffee by just pouring hot water.
Jaggery Fermented Coffee, KC Roasters By Koinonia
This unique coffee has been fermented in jaggery before being processed through washed parchment. The flavour notes have been further nuanced by roasting it Medium-Dark.
Fruit Bomb Coffee, Savor Works
This delightfully sweet coffee has a beautiful aftertaste of blackberry, apricot, raisins and toffee. Try it yourself.
Amrut Cask Aged Coffee, Classic Coffees
Grown at an elevation of about 3100 ft., above sea level, and aged in whisky barrels sourced from Amrut distillers this coffee comes with hints of Irish whiskey, green apple and tropical fruits.