Inside Thoughts | Infused Coffees with Matteo D'Ottavio
Infused coffees. What are they? Where do they belong in an industry that prides itself on authenticity? What does the future hold for them within the world of speciality coffee? Through this series of blog posts we explore this topic of debate by asking some leading industry experts and observers on their thoughts and opinions.
Before we dig in, it's probably best to identify what we mean by infused coffees. When we speak about infusion we are talking about the addition of wine yeasts and fruit pulp that is added to fermentation tanks during processing at origin. This addition to the anaerobic fermentation process allows producers to further manipulate the flavours that are associated with specific varieties and origins. While this has been commonplace for producers within different industries for many decades it is something that is relatively new to specialty coffee.
Matteo D'Ottavio - SCA UK Brewers Cup Champion 2020
HHCo - What are your personal views and experiences of infused anaerobic fermented coffees?
MD - I have a very open mind when we talk about infusion and/or fermentation in coffee, I had very good experiences in the past, in the present and I’m sure I will have in the future.
HHCo - What do you feel is the long term value created by infused coffee for the speciality coffee industry?
MD - I think it’s a very early stage for the processing and that there is room from improvement in terms of consistency. I also think that the SCA should step up and put in place some regulation to give more transparency on the coffee produced in this way to protect producers and consumers.
HHCo - Do you feel that infused coffees change access and audience to speciality coffee and if so, how?
MD - I think infusion could help producers to reach the specialty coffee market even when they had a harvest not really satisfying, especially in periods where it is difficult to predict climate. This kind of processing also can help commercial grade coffee (just below 80 points score) to reach the 82/83 points to be classified as “specialty”, that will give the possibility to the producers to sell the coffee for a higher price. This will push others (producers) to improve their processing stage with more technology and research in place. Also if there is control and consistency the infusion process can be apply to a large quantity of coffee and this will give easier access to consumers to enjoy the product at a reasonable price.
HHCo - Where do you see parallels in other industries and how does this impact speciality coffee?
MD - We can see a lot of similarity in the beer industry and also the wine industry. Recently the coffee industry is using the same or similar technologies to process the beans, the majority of producers are a bit behind with the quality of facilities and also knowledge about infusion/fermentation, this can implicate lack of consistency, maybe one lot is very good and the other not so much. But it’s good that producers are interested in experimentation and also to help each other to grow and get better in this matter. Anyway, as I already wrote above, the SCA should create regulations to protect the industry.
HHCo - How do you feel infused coffees impact Cup of Excellence and can these coffees exist within the same categories?
MD - If I’m not mistaken, infused coffee are not allowed in COE, maybe in the future there will be a separate award or their own category for infused coffee.