To Soak Or Not To Soak?
To soak or not to soak? That is the question.
Soaking is a sub-variation of the washed process; and although it itself has many sub-variations the basic concept remains the same. Once the coffee has been washed, instead of going directly to the patios, it is soaked in clean water roughly overnight and is then moved to the patios to dry. Although it involves much more work to perform soaked coffees in comparison to the regular washed coffees; the benefits are almost certainly worth the extra work. The benefits are mainly the cleaner cup it produces, extended shelf life of the coffee and a much more vibrant acidity. This vibrant acidity can show a resemblence to East African washed coffees. Many countries in East Africa employ soaked methods for their washed coffees, and may be a possible explenation as to why the profiles can be similar.
(Left Image shows a soaked Pacamara drying)
The main benefit of the soaked coffees is undoubtedly the extended shelf life. While naturals, may last 6-8 months at best, soaked coffees can easily last 12 months. However, soaked coffees can taste quite ‘closed’ and flat a few months after shipment, but as time goes by and the coffee ages, the characteristics and acidity of the coffee can open up. When they do open up however, they reveal a very interesting and unique profile, uncommon to Central America. This may prove to be a bit more difficult to buy Soaked coffees at origin, as the potential and profile of the coffees may not be fully clear until a few months later when the coffee has already been shipped.
During my last trip to Las Cruces, I was offered by the quality control team to cup a few coffees they had laid out for me. As I got to the end of a few rounds, the QC manager asked me how I liked one of the Soaked Pacamaras he had laid out. I said I had liked it just fine, it was nice, very bright and clean. He then revealed that the Soaked Pacamara was an old crop, from the last harvest. The fact that thee coffee was so 'solid' well rounded, bright and clean would have never revealed to me that it was an old crop coffee.
(Left Picture shows, a tub of washed coffee being soaked with water, to undergo the soaked process)
The quality and profile of the soaked coffee, was even universal amongst different varieties. All three varieties (Caturra, Bourbon, Pacamara) that I tried stood out on the table, not just for their delicate body, but for their complex citric acidity. Ranging from softer to more intense critics, it was common to find Mandarin, Orange and Clementine in the cup. This profile is quite different from the typical Washed Bourbon profile of heavier bodies with a softer more balanced acidity.
These coffees can make an excellent addition to any roaster’s lineup. They’re approachable but also quite different from traditional washed coffees from Central America. Their unique profile and extended shelf life, can help roasters plan further ahead into the future. Their unique profile serves best on single origin filter offerings and filter blends, as filter methods better allow their complexity and acidity to show.