Friday, January 18, 2013

Beneficio processes first coffee of 2012-2013 harvest

A chilly rain fell on La Unión yesterday afternoon as we gathered under the newly-built beneficio roof, wearing sweaters and raincoats and jumping up and down, partly to stay warm and partly out of excitement. We looked up in anticipation at every truck that passed: we were waiting for Alfredo Ponce to arrive with this year's first coffee for processing at the beneficio.

Everything was in place, and daylight was beginning to slip away. Then, at 5:30, a truck carrying coffee came up the new road to the beneficio. Alfredo jumped out of the truck and greeted us with a smile. We unloaded the bags and found them full of gorgeous, ripe coffee. It was time for the first run of our new sorting equipment, system for moving coffee, and fermentation tanks.

An hour an a half later, we finished processing. Alfredo, who processed coffee at our beneficio last year as well, stayed to see the new sorting mechanisms and other changes we'd made for this year. Despite being tired and wet after processing, we were very happy that the new density and size-sorting mechanisms worked beautifully and that coffee flowed through the system much better than last year. We still have small changes to make, but we are excited to have started processing coffee and we are looking forward to the next few months!

Here are a few pictures from the afternoon:

Alfredo Ponce (in orange) helps unload coffee at the beneficio.

The coffee, mostly of the variety IHCAFE 90, waits to move to the de-pulping machine after the floating cherries were skimmed off and the water drained.

We removed floating coffee and sent it to another tank to be collected separately. 

Alfredo brought us 25 gallons (about 750 lbs.) of coffee cherries from his farm, which is at an altitude of about 1,475 meters.

Alfredo watches his coffee go through the de-pulping and size-sorting machine.

A locally-made sorting machine separates de-pulped coffee from damaged coffee.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Beneficio updates nearly complete

We are very excited about the improvements and additions we've made to our coffee beneficio this year, and soon we will be receiving coffee from this harvest for processing. Below are photos of the construction over the last few weeks.

Martir spreads cement on the outer walls of the biosand filter for the upper water tank. This will provide filtered water for use in fermenting, washing and sorting coffee.

Gilberto helps sort stones of various sizes to be used in the biosand filter, while the rest of the stones make up the road leading to the beneficio for trucks carrying coffee.

Our coffee processing center receives a roof of teja – clay tiles – to protect the tanks, coffee, and those who are working, from rain and direct sun. 

The fermentation tanks have gotten a beautiful – and practical – makeover with a new drainage system and tiles lining the tanks. The drainage system will facilitate washing of coffee, and the tiles are designed to improve coffee quality by being easy to clean and resistant to wear.

The receiving tanks have been redesigned to use less water during sorting and moving of coffee. These tanks, as well as the correteo, have been painted to protect them from sun damage and help keep them clean.

We have three solar dryers up, and one more on the way, to provide more space for drying coffee in a protected environment.

The vermiculture has received a drainage system to allow excess water to drain from the area where coffee pulp will be turned into organic fertilizer. The worms and the microorganisms are ready for coffee pulp!

Our new sorting equipment was custom built by a local coffee equipment maker. It will separate out improperly de-pulped coffee from the rest. One more piece of sorting equipment is still being built and we will add this to the process soon.