There’s A LOT of lingo in coffee processing. It can be very confusing! In the spirit of demystifying the world of coffee, we want to break down one term you may have heard: anaerobic processing, or anaerobic coffee. What the heck does it mean, you ask? Basically, the answer is *science.* An anaerobic coffee is one that is fermented without oxygen at some point, for any length of time.
Maybe you learned in 7th grade science class that fermentation is a natural process where microbes convert sugars into simpler things. All coffee undergoes some kind of fermentation. The cherry (which is the cute lil fruit that contains what we know as the coffee beans) contains a slimy mucilage protecting the seed. That slimy jacket contains the sugars that get broken down by whatever microbes exist in that climate. (Fun fact: this is part of why coffees from different regions have unique flavors – because all places have unique microbes!)
How that fermentation is harnessed and controlled determines a lot about the end product, and leads us to… more lingo. This is where the term “anaerobic” comes in. The presence (or lack) of oxygen impacts how fermentation goes down. Anaerobically fermented coffee is coffee that’s been fermented in a closed vessel without oxygen.
There are a lot of different ways this can look, but as long as there’s no oxygen, it’s anaerobic. The goal is a distinctly fruity, super interesting flavor profile pretty unlike any other process.
The way Carlos Pola does it (whose anaerobic coffee hit Onda shelves earlier this month) is by putting hand-picked cherries into big blue tanks void of oxygen for 72 hours of controlled fermentation. CO2 is released through one-way valves. Then the still-intact fermented cherries go onto raised beds (this is called “dry process,” where none of the cherry is removed before drying) where partial sun and open air dry the cherries for 2-3 weeks.
So that’s that. Now you can impress everyone with your fancy coffee knowledge. Be sure to grab a bag of Carlos’s anaerobic and see what you taste!