Kenyan Coffee Processing

Cup after cup, specialty coffees from Kenya offer remarkable clarity of flavor, clean sweetness, and a vibrant acidity. This is due to several factors – including soil content, a commitment at the individual-level to quality, and curated varietals of coffee cherry – but we’ll expand here on the unique processing method.

After picking ripe coffee cherry, fruit is quickly delivered to central processing locations, where underripe and overripes are sorted out to be processed with lower-quality graded lots. Cherries are pulped by squeezing through screens that separate the pulp from the interior seed/coffee bean. The seeds are then fermented in ceramic tile tanks full of clean spring water for 24-hours. Up until this point, this would be considered processing of exceptional quality in any country – but the Kenyan method goes further.

After 24-hours, coffee is agitated thoroughly, then fermented a second 24-hours. After this second day, the fermented water and remaining coffee pulp on the bean are washed off with clean water and soaked again overnight. This step is thought to encourage the coffee bean to germinate again, which contributes to extra sweetness and complexity. The beans are then sorted by screen size – classified as “AA” for the largest (though not necessarily “best”) beans, and “AB” for the everything else. Finally, the beans are slowly dried over raised beds over 1-3 weeks under supervision. Upon reaching optimal moisture levels for export (11.5 – 12%), beans rest in conditioning bins until heading to the dry mill. This last step has recently been adopted in origins across the world.

Coffees from Kenya can display a sharpness of acidity like grapefruit rind, herbal notes, and sweet cherry tomato, but the best lots when well-roasted offer notes of black currant, winey acidity, and complex fruits from sweet citrus to tropical and stone fruits.