Anaerobic natural coffees

Discuss roast levels and profiles for espresso, equipment for roasting coffee.

#1: Post by mpdeem »

I just roasted and tried my first anaerobic natural coffee - a Colombian pink bourbon. Thee raw beans had this over powering balsalmic vinegar over fermented fruit aroma that gave me pause for thought.. During the first few minutes of roasting there was this soy sauce and ketchup aroma which eventually dissappated somewhat. I roasted the coffee in an air popper, to about city + level.

Still trying to get my head wrapped around this coffee so will limit my cupping impressions to the following: balsalmic vinegar, sangria, fermented heading towards wine type fruit. I found myself wanting to dilute the coffee as the vinager fermented notes were overpowering. While I didn't outright hate the profile, I did struggle to like it. There were elements that were interesting but I was having trouble reconciling them in a coffee setting. Normally I enjoy natural processed coffees...even the winey wilder versions but none ever had such intense vinagery fermentation notes.

After a few sips hot, i decided to let the coffee cool in the cup and brew another coffee - Roastmaster's fabelous Panama Elida natural Catuai. This was probably a mistake since the Elida Natural is one of my favorite coffees..a wonderful example of a well done Natural. I probaby should have gone with something more neutral and maybe washed. In any case the Elida natural seemed to only further highlight the negatives with which I was struggling in the anaerobic natural. I kept finding myself retreating back to the Elida and avoiding the anaerobic.

By the time I finished the Elida and returned regretfully to the anaerobic natural. the coffee had coolred considerably - below room temperature. Now there were subtle notes of rose petals and other florals emerging. While the balsalmic vinager notes were still there, at a cooler temperature they seemed less overpowering - enough so that I was able to finish the cup.

I am going to let the remainder of the roast rest 4-5 days before re-tasting, brewing next time using a lower coffee to water ratio and see how it goes. I have couple of other Colomibian anaerobics included a washed version that I might try next.

I would love to hear from other folks who are much more familiar with anaerobic processed coffees. Does the anaerobic process typically impart balsalmic, vinager, sangria type notes? I realize that these might be more specific to an anaerobic natural coffee.but how about anaerobic washed versions?

This might just be a case of me not like the anaerobic process taste profile hence why I have not mentioned the producer or vendor. I have never tasted anaerobic process coffees but so far I am really on the fence. I am hopefull that over time or after tasting more examples I might find an example that I like.

For example I remember when I first tasted a wet hulled Bali Blue Moon...back when I had just started roasting. I thought it was the most awful thing ever tasted, A few years later I discovered that I loved the natural version and was happy that I had not given up on Bali blue Moon. So hoping this is a similar case of just finding the right process combo, region, and/or producer for anaerobic processed coffees.

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#2: Post by another_jim »

You describe it very well. Anaerobic, as far as the taste is concerned, is a kind of natural processing on steroids. So the fermented fruits flavors are amplified, as are umami flavors. If you find naturals rustic, you'll hate anaerobic. If you find it's coffee trying to become wine, you'll love it.

A note on roasting: I have to say I prefer roasting the savory flavors so they are less like soy and more like oak barrel aging or toasted grains. This is a lot easier on a drum roaster than a popper -- but if you can add a minute or two to the roast before the first crack, you may get more grain, less soy.
Jim Schulman


#3: Post by Rickpatbrown »

I am not super well versed, but my experience has been that anaerobic processing can do some seriously crazy things. In a way, it's like flavored coffee. Depending on the bacteria/yeast, its food and growth conditions, you will get such different results, that it's hard to generalize the effects.

I've had some that I really liked (winey, sweet balsamic, watermelon) and some that I thought were undrinkable (cheesy koolaid, weird cinnamon).

On top of that, some are easy to roast and some are the most untamable beans I've ever come across.

I think that it's a powerful technique that could do really well in the hands of someone with the right vision. In general, I preferred aerobic process (ie. The good old fashion way). The flavors are less extreme and dont slap you around so much.

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#4: Post by Chert »

Especially if you are roasting the coffee light, don't drink it up fresh if you don't like the intensity of flavors you attribute to the process. Try again every 5-7 days even on into 4-5 weeks rest.
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#5: Post by olutheros »

I think it's really high risk-reward, sometimes you end up with these insane candy-flavored explosions (particularly from some Colombian ones I've had, for whatever reason) other times it's vinegar and fermented bean products like soy/miso/doenjang.

The problem to me is that vendors rarely fully disclose the latter processing issues and will heavily minimize them, if they admit them at all. Obviously we can all understand why, the producers took a chance on this product, as did the retailers, and they all need to sell it. But I feel like I really need to trust the retailer for it to be worth it for me to take a chance on one and I've been unhappy with them more than I've been happy with them.

Also, 'anaerobic' really can mean a lot of things, from "we put the cherry in a literal grainpro bag and let them sweatily ferment away for a week" to "very tightly controlled, temperature-regulated process with specialized equipment." As a result, there can be a lot of variance and it can be hard to identify commonalities in the "process" when some producers are essentially doing an unregulated ferment and hoping the flavor turns out good, while others have invested significant capital in regulating and controlling the ferment.


#6: Post by BoulderMike »

My experience has been similar. I purchased an Ethiopian Anaerobic Natural and found it to extremely strong smelling and tasting. Not enjoyable at all. I won't say the vendor but will just say that I will never purchase this type of coffee again.

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#7: Post by jbviau »

Yeah, I've been burned by enough anaerobics that I hesitate to dip a toe back into those waters. For example, I didn't sign up for the Scott Rao/Nomad cupping sampler (link) due to there being an anaerobic in the 4-pack; do I really need to plumb the depths of my dislike for how this type of processing usually makes coffee taste?
"It's not anecdotal evidence, it's artisanal data." -Matt Yglesias

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#8: Post by EvanOz85 »

Is this the one from Bodhi Leaf?

Ben Z.

#9: Post by Ben Z. »

As a huge fan of fermented food and drink, I am equally interested in both the positive and negative outcomes mentioned in this thread!

What should I order right now? I haven't roasted for years, but could dig out my equipment. Buying pre-roasted would be preferred.

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#10: Post by Chert » replying to Ben Z. »

I could be wrong, but anaerobic fermentation could be applied to coffees preliminary to washing away the mucilage or preliminary to drying the coffee in the natural. I took a look at the long list of Passenger (or is there no longer a location there?) has and most seem to be washed process, but they may have anaerobic fermentation.

I think the higher duration is where the coffee changes the most. For example. wush wush refreshing is less prominent of the effect than ethiopia wush wush super. Or maybe to be extra intense they need to be dried natural style. Roasters that offer such coffees that I am aware of are Hatch, Onyx, MyFriendsCoffee, Black and White (?). I would just choose a roaster you like and peruse their offerings.
LMWDP #198