Coffee: Nicaragua Finca Los Congos, the effect of processing on Flavor

Perhaps you remember way back when in November of 2011 when we released the coffees of the Manzano Project.  These 3 lots of coffees were all from Finca El Manzano, El Salvador, all 100% Bourbon, but processed in 3 different ways: wet (or washed), natural (or dry), and honey (or pulped natural).  We served all three as an espresso flight or an aeropress flight.

Wet processing is the typical method employed by the Latin American coffee producing countries where the fruit of the coffee cherry is removed and the coffee is washed of its pulp before drying on the patio. Natural processed coffee is a method where the coffee cherry is left whole and set out to dry before the fruit is milled off of the coffee seeds. This method is traditionally used in Africa, in regions where water is scarce and therefore used sparingly in coffee processing.  Honey process is a happy medium between the two where the fruit is removed, but the pulp is left on the coffee while it dries.

It stands to reason that each of these processes impart different qualities in the cup.  Wet processed coffee produces the cleanest cup, with the flavors inherent in the varietal most clearly detectable without the flavor imparted by the residual fruit.  Naturally processed coffee tends to taste literally fruity because of those residual fruits.  Coffee processed this way also tends to have a bigger, rounder mouthfeel and increased sweetness. (On an aside: it’s no secret that we at Case Study are lovers of the naturally processed coffees as evidenced by the their permanent presence in our coffee repertoire and in our Deviation Blend) Honey processed coffees tend to have the satisfying mouthfeel and sweetness of the naturally processed coffees, but lack the flavors imparted by the fruit itself.

The coffee community was so excited for this Manzano project because we finally had the ability to taste the effects of processing on the same exact coffee varietal, from the same country, and from the same farm.  What a unique experience!

Well, we are fortunate enough to have a similar experience in the shops today with the coffees from Finca Los Congos, Nicaragua.  All the shops currently have both the washed and the natural processed versions of 100% Pacamara varietal from this amazing farm.  Not only that, but the Paguaga family also provided the cascara (dried coffee cherry) from this exact coffee for us to enjoy as well.  Pacamara is one of my favorite varietals, and this producer’s version is spectacular - nutty, herbaceous, citrusy. The natural processed version has the added fruit flavors of black plum and currant, with a sweet/dry walnut finish.  

What a treat, too, to taste the actual fruit that imparted these flavors in the cascara now available in all the shops.  If you’ve had our Perla Negra cascara from Costa Rica, this Los Congos cascara displays a cleaner, sweeter apple in the cup without the tannic aftertaste present in the Perla Negra.

Nicaragua Finca Los Congos Pacamara.  From left to right: washed process, natural process, and cascara.

Nicaragua Finca Los Congos Pacamara.  From left to right: washed process, natural process, and cascara.

There were only 30 bags of the natural Pacamara produced this year, one of which landed with us.  While we may only have 3 weeks left with this spectacular coffee, we look forward to locking up much more of this coffee next year.

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