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South America

South America:

By far the most prevalent growing region in the world, and add to that the close logistics of shipping to North America = this is the coffee that most Americans grew up on and are used to drinking. New customers always ask me, “Do you have a Colombia?”That is because 25 years ago you had two coffee choices in America: Brazil, and Colombia.Colombia was the better of the two, and to this day, many Americans associate Colombia as being “the good coffee.” In truth, South American coffee is ranked at the bottom of the worldwide list, but it does have its usefulness. Brazils and Perus are particularly useful to build an espresso blend around; they all tend to be a good choice for an inexpensive and decent French Roast, and since the Peru has a clean taste, it is a good choice for Flavored Coffees.Of course, you CAN stumble upon great coffees in any country, particularly when you consider special processing methods and small farm microlots. And a quality Colombian – while maybe not particularly interesting or special – is quite likely to appeal to the public at large.

 

Bolivia: This is an exception to South American coffee and actually does make nice drip coffee.The government and the farmers are hard to work with, and the overall crop is fairly small, which means you do not run into it regularly; but it is worth trying when you have the chance.Fair Trade Organic co-ops are the best bet.Try roasting it at verge of 2nd cracks.If too bright, try a little bit darker.Expect some nice grains, mild fruit, and overall pleasant mouthfeel with a clean aftertaste.

Brazil: Organic Brazil is hard to find, and conventional Brazil is one of the most pesticide-laden beans of them all.As a result, Organic Brazil tends to be way overpriced, while conventional Brazil is one of the cheapest coffees on the marketplace.  

Brazil is sold as washed process, pulped natural, and natural.  Typically washed process is the harshest, earthiest, and least complex.  The pulped natural has a softer taste and less acidity. The natural is cleanest tasting and most complex, and typically your best choice for both drip coffee and espresso.  All three kinds can be roasted with the same temperature end points and roast profiles.

Two regions readily available are Cerrado and Mogiana:

Brazil Cerrado: generally considered the lower quality Brazil.Generally less complex than the Mogiana and typically about 5 cents cheaper on the marketplace.

Brazil Alta Mogiana: a little more complexity.When you find a brazil with fruit notes, it’s usually this one.But the average Mogiana is nothing special.At the verge of 2nd cracks you have a fairly flat drip coffee with earthiness in the aftertaste and not a lot of character.At 20 seconds into the 2nds you have a great base to build your espresso blend from.At 50 seconds into the 2nd cracks, you have French Roast.At 60-70 seconds you have Italian Roast.

Colombia: A lot of generic Colombia on the market, simply graded by bean size. A 15 and 16 grade are the smaller size, classified “Excelso” and tends to be less complex.The 17 and 18 sizes are classified as “Supremo” which doesn’t mean Supreme, it means “Big”  Bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better, but in many cases it is. The bigger beans lend themselves to having less acidity and more complexity.But if you’re drinking coffee because you love coffee, stay away from generic Colombia. You want an estate Colombia, which is not necessarily easy to find, and not necessarily a bargain, but it’s your best bet for a nice drip coffee.  Better yet, a microlot from the estate, meaning, a small amount of the crop was carefully sorted and processed by hand and set apart as the best coffee the farm harvesated.  Generally speaking, you want to roast your Colombians to 2nd cracks at a minimum.At that level, a good Colombian will have a pleasant acidity, a traditional taste, and be very drinkable, though not memorable.A really nice Colombian at 2nd cracks will have hints of dark fruits and a sweet aftertaste, but this is the exception and not the norm.Colombian is not the best choice for espresso blends, but in a pinch it can substitute for the Brazil or Peru.For espresso, you want the bean to be 20 seconds into the 2nd cracks, and you’ll have a sweet shot and lots of crema, although not a lot of power.You can also drink it --or even better, blend it – at this level.For French Roast go ahead and take it the 50 seconds into rolling 2nd cracks.A pot of Colombian gets you a coffee that won’t wow anyone, but is nonetheless a solid mug of coffee most people would be willing to get a refill on.

Aside from special and rare lots, Colombian coffee is a washed process coffee.

Peru: It is important to buy Fair Trade certified or Farm-Direct Peru, as the conventional crops tend to be sold below fair-market pricing.The Organic certified Peru tends to sell on the market for a mere 30 cents higher than the non-certified crops, and there are dozens of certified co-ops and farms, so finding organic Peru is rarely a challenge.I have never had a Peru that wowed me, and while I’m sure one exists and I will someday find it, I have tasted a lot of Peruvian coffee without being knocked off my seat. With that said, as a general rule I prefer the average Peru over the average Brazil or Colombia.Peru coffee doesn’t have the earthiness you find in Brazils, and it doesn’t have the acidity of a Colombian.Because it is so “boring” it is a great coffee to add coffee flavoring oils to, at which point you want to roast it just shy of the start of 2nd cracks.Furthermore, it is just as solid as Brazil in espresso blends, at 20 seconds into the 2nd cracks.Peru makes one of the best French Roasts as well, with some of the more interesting lots adding a hint of caramel sweetness to dark roasts.

Peru is virtually always a washed process coffee.The mill it is processed at contributes to the quality of the coffee itself, as the more rudimentary mills will leave a dirty taste in the lighter roasts.

Most certified Peru is of comparable taste and quality.  A Peru will often be described as having lemon, walnut, and milk chocolate notes -- while these flavors are certainly present, they are very subtle -- a Peru requires some imagination when cupping.