Every step of coffee processing is important, from growing coffee all the way to shipping it, but particular care must be paid to the drying stage. Wet coffee is a notoriously finicky beast, apt to quickly develop sour, fermented flavours if not quickly and uniformly dried.
At Hacienda La Esmeralda, this task is accomplished with a combination of traditional patio drying and electric Guardiola driers. Which technique gets used depends on the specific coffee being dried, how much space is available on patios and in driers, and what the weather is like during drying.
Guardiola is the preferred drying method whenever the coffee lot size allows it. Our Guardiola can only handle big amounts of coffee. A Guardiola is a horizontal rotator drum that allows a constant warm air flow around the beans, eliminating moisture. In Hacienda La Esmeralda, a biomass furnace is used as a heat source. Drying coffee in a Guardiola ensures consistency, as it allows us to have more control over quality because drying no longer depends on weather conditions.
Patio drying is the preferred method for microlots due to the fact that small sizes of coffee lots can’t go into the Guardiola. During patio drying, coffee is laid on the patio to be dried by the reflection of the sun. These coffees are spread in thin layers and rotated regularly to ensure an even drying.
After being laid out on the patio, the beans will dry for anywhere from 3 to 7 days depending on the sunlight and weather conditions. Starting at 7AM, the beans are turned over by workers to ensure even drying. The goal is 11% humidity, which the mill manager is able to target to an impressive degree of accuracy using a “bite test” of the drying beans, though more precise measurements are used for calibration and special lots.