Before 2001 in Costa Rica, all producers delivered their cherries to large industrial cooperatives.Although they controlled the agricultural part of production, they had no say over how their coffees were produced afterwards. Things changed after 2001. Two producers, Finca La Candelia and the Barrantes family (Cafetalera Herbazu) set up the first independent washing station in Costa Rica. This move opened the door for more independent producers to transform their productions.
Cordillera del Fuego is the name of this independent micro mill, located in the West Valley, Tarrazu area. This private beneficio, managed by 2 associates, produces approximately 8000 bags/year. Luis Camposwas the pioneer of new coffee preparation processes. Even though today anaerobic and thermal processes are on the rise, at the time, embarking on this new path represented a major risk taking because this type of coffee was brand new on the market.
Luis Campos supports producers in these preparation methods within the beneficio Cordillera del Fuego for highly differentiating coffees. This represents approximately 25 batches/year.
Fernando Cordero owns the 10-hectare El Alumbre de Tarrazu farm which he manages with his father and 3 siblings. His family is one of 10 families that process their coffee at the Cordillera de Fuego Micro Mill run by Luis Campos. Luis Campos is a pioneer of new coffee preparation processes and the originator of the thermal fermentation method, and although these processes are becoming increasingly popular today, at the time, embarking on this new path represented a major risk because this type of coffee was brand new on the market.
For many years, the Cordillera de Fuego treatment plant has implemented projects aimed at reducing its water consumption, as well as ensuring the operation of its facilities partly through photovoltaic panels. The fact that the scarcity of water increases the costs of washed coffees and makes it difficult to produce, ensures that the interest in natural processed coffees is increasing day by day. This has led to the creation of innovative processing methods in Micro Mills and has brought Costa Rican coffee to the fore.
The thermal fermentation process refers to the shocking of coffee at a very high temperature (70C) and high pressure for a short time at the beginning of the fermentation process to caramelise the sugars in the mucilage. This process takes place in pressure and temperature resistant stainless steel tanks. The mucilage (cherry pulp), which is a residue from the washed and semi-washed processes, is collected by the pulper. It is mainly composed of sugars and pectic substances and is the basis of the fermentation process. This substance, also called GEL, is added to the batch of coffee to be fermented (in addition to its own mucilage) and it is this combination of the two (mucilage + coffee) that is heated to 70 degrees. The grains then undergo a long period of fermentation (84 hours), so that these caramelised aromas penetrate to the heart of the bean. Once the fermentation is complete, the coffee is dried in the sun. The result of this process reveals a very special cinnamon profile, and the unique aromas and flavours of the coffee itself become evident.