Infused Coffee - What's the fuss with infused coffee?
Updated: Jan 26
Specialty coffee is constantly trying to improve coffee quality, serving sweeter and more delicious coffees to our customers and exploring how far we can go.
The last few years have changed the game. There is no roastery that doesn’t serve anaerob fermented coffee anymore. Of course these coffees aren’t the standard morning batch brew coffees, but they are a real treat and experience and often they can be a perfect bridge between the regular customer and the specialty coffee world. These coffees have such wild but often also understandable plum, pineapple, raisin or rum flavours due to the way they have been fermented. Now, combining this exciting new fermentation techniques with rare varieties, we have the trend of 2021 that will be represented strongly in the World Coffee Championships 2022 and eventually find their way to our local coffee shops. But this trend comes with a prize.
Rare beans with complicated fermentation techniques make an expensive product nearly unaffordable and the specialty knights will soon be the only lucky ones that will ever taste such coffee.
The idea behind experimental fermentation
This trend isn’t really the idea that stands behind the funky fermentation movement. It actually originates from the idea to create a stable cup profile that can be easily reproduced year after year and we can achieve that with keeping out oxygen as this is one of the main factors for uncontrollable wild fermentation. You can lift the cup score of a 83 points coffee to 88 and basically help the farmers to earn more money and produce more stable coffee.
In this field, many farmers have started experimenting; Sasa Sestic has implemented the Carbonic Maceration Technique that originates from wine making to the world of coffee farming, and we have now a huge variety of new and exciting flavours. Of course now many people think you need to use the most expensive beans to ferment excessively but the original idea was, making coffee better and helping farmers earn more money. These techniques also require special knowledge and skills so at the same time education about fermentation and microorganisms interacting with each other would spread.
Is there another way of improving the cup score?
Yes. Infusing green coffee during fermentation is another way of creating unique flavours within the coffee itself and is slowly finding its way to our shelves.
By adding either fruits or essential oils to the fermentation tanks, the coffee will infuse with these flavours, take on the added flavours and will taste very intense. Defects can be overpowered and a low scoring coffee could still taste really incredible and reach a better prize then without the process.
However, can we really compare those two techniques to each other?
What is the difference between infused coffee and experimental fermentation?
Both techniques have the same goal. Improve the cup quality and create definable complexe flavours. BUT what should be noted is that infusing coffees might be much easier than learning the difficult processing of anaerob or CM coffee. It can cut costs and that is exactly why processing should be so transparent. I have to know if the flavours have been created by using an additive or by fermentation only to pay a fair price.
What is the best coffee?
Here is where it gets interesting: both are great!
Last week I had the chance to try an infused coffee from Mokuska, a German roastery in Stuttgart and trust me, they have really great coffee. The beans I got are Colombian beans called Buenos Aires washed anaerobic and just smelled so intense when I opened the bag. The strong smell of Lychee was so clear that I immediately wanted to brew the coffee and the taste reinforced my first impression. Lychee, papaya, maracuja.
However, unlike any coffee I have ever had, the flavours were bold and didn’t change that much throughout my drinking experience. I messaged the roaster and asked if it was infused coffee and he said yes, it is infused with maracuja. I then took the coffee with me, brewed it without weighing and without a proper temperature gauge on my kettle, and it was always amazing. Fruity, delicious, no matter how badly I brewed it this coffee was a super star. I love it. I tried blending it and it did lift up any other coffee I added. It has worked.
This coffee is the perfect example of infused coffee that will just taste great afterwards and is easy to use even for non professionals. The first time I have ever had such an eye opening experience was when I tried my first CM coffee and it was just equally as impressive.
Read more about this infused coffee here - https://mokuska-caffe.de/
Why is there such a big debate about infused coffee?
It is the transparency of labeling your coffee. In any Barista course one of my main points that I want to teach people is, that it doesn’t matter what taste you like best, it is important that you know why and what. If you like Robusta, that is fine! But be aware that it is a different variety that has this charisterics and that if you buy a light roast arabica it will not be the same.
Also to people that are more in the specialty game: actively try different varieties and processes to understand the difference and why you like a washed over a natural or a funky fermented coffee. If we know why things taste the way they taste we can actively choose to buy products like this. If we don’t, because it is infused and not labeled, we are in a real stitch up situation because it's false advertising.
I believe that infused coffee can be really good, especially after tasting the one from Mokuska. It can be a great gateway to introduce crazy new sweet flavours to a wider range of customers that are easy and stable to brew. They can create an experience and that is what specialty coffee is about.
I am very excited if we can push the market so far that dark roasted coffee will finally be a relic from the past as the flavours created with infusing, anaerob or Carbonic maceration fermentation or the new koji mushroom fermentation trend are so sweet and so delicious that they could be our breakthrough to reach out to commodity coffee drinkers.
Interested in learning more, or have any questions? Get in touch!