Finca El Paraiso, as the name itself suggests, is the exceptional heaven of growing and processing coffee. Diego Bermudez is the man behind and a true genius, whose work is constantly filled with innovative ideas. Aside from him, his family shares a similar entrepreneurial, scientific and enthusiastic spirit.
“I believe in a reality that is eager to innovate and make an impact”.- Diego Samuel Bermudez Tapia
Finca El Paraiso is a family operation. Diego Samuel and his family have worked together to create a range of high-quality coffees with unparalleled consistency. The crew consists of 4 family members, and 8 employees, that focus on implementing technologies in all aspects of coffee production.
They follow the fertilization programs strictly according to the necessities of their trees and they have developed advanced fermentation, washing techniques and using self-collected micro-organisms. Diego has even developed his own environmentally friendly driers that work on a condensation principle.
“I dream of being a coffee grower, generating business, processing coffee, which is what I like to do best, sharing with family and workers the best moments on the farm and have much tranquility.” – Diego Samuel Bermudez Tapia
In 2008, Diego Samuel Bermúdez Tapia started a family project to grow coffee at El Paraíso farm, located in the Department of Cauca, municipality of Piendamo, in the village of Los Arados, thus beginning an adventure that would become his lifestyle. He began his learning process with the firm conviction of providing answers and solutions to the challenges faced by the coffee sector. He dedicated himself to improving, through innovation, incorporation of technologies, practices for the cultivation and processing of coffee with the objective of strengthening his foundation.
From 2015, Finca El Paraíso began to stand out and position itself as a producer of specialty coffee through participation in various regional and national competitions. as a family business dedicated to the cultivation, processing, production and marketing of high quality coffee. Finca El Paraiso counts 3ha but it also includes five farms in total, among which: Villa Rosita – 7 ha, Villa Esperanza – 10 ha of coffee area (25Ha total) and Villa Alejandro – 3 ha. All of them work under the name El Paraïso. Main variaties are Castillo, Pacamara, Geisha, Laurina.
Diego Bermudez is the true farmer of innovation whose approach is purely scientific. He was one of the firsts in Colombia to start experimenting with fermentation processes, by adding different types of microorganisms and yeasts. By now Diego has developed more than 10 replicable protocols (recipes), so he can produce his profiles on demand.
The basis for this is a strict regimen of almost industrial-style processing where cleanliness and a controlled environment are key. All cherries are washed thoroughly with filtered water to remove all microorganisms present on the skins. After that, he introduces his own recipes of microorganisms into the fermentation process based on an organic compound analysis done on the cherry contents. He then controls the level of fermentation by keeping track of temperature, PH, pressure and other environment variables.
To this point, it’s important to state that certain flavour compounds found in the coffee have not been added, rather they are intentionally formed during the fermentation process using already molecules from present compounds. Diego himself revealed to us during our latest conversation (November ‘21) – it would not be profitable to add such compounds that are already expensive in the market, more than the coffee itself. Based on his initial findings, Diego has created a focus on Castillo and Geisha for developing his post-harvest process.
- Two examples: Hexanol and Linalool are two compounds naturally found and difficult to synthesize (the latter is the specifically found in Geisha). However, they are also used for multiple commercial applications, such as in cosmetics or chemical industries. (Did you know that 500g of Hexanol costs 318 euros?).
There are different methods to approach controlled fermentation. The fermentation they are using at Finca El Paraiso is based on the culture medium (medio de cultivo). Depending on the type of nutrition and the metabolism of the cherry, it can develop different types of profiles (aromas) during the fermentation. Diego’s team focusses on controlling and adjusting the factors that might make inconsistent the cup profile.
The variables are endless and some of them are beyond control, for this reason, some profiles can be similar (like Red Plum and Lychee, even if cup profile, acidity and body are different).
The variables to adjust:
- (In)consistency within the coffee from producers;
- Quality of the cherries (main current difficulty);
- Price of the coffee (very expensive lately);
- Specific characteristics of the cherry.
Diego is currently working with the University of Antioquia on a long-term project to investigate how compounds are developing in the cherrries during fermentation and how to isolate them.
The farm has a temperate humid microclimate that is affected much by the winds from the pacific in the east that create regular temperature differences. Due to the high elevation (average; 1930 m.a.s.l.) the beans ripen slowly having more time to generate sugars as input for fermentation.
It’s relevant to mention, that although Diego shares a lot of information, he will not share all the secrets behind his craft. Not to mention that many details are developed on the basis of his local environment for processing.
The main process: Double fermentation at a low temperature with a thermal shock washing (cold and warm water)
- Harvesting of 95% ripe cherries, 5% pinto cherries (semi-ripe).
- First washing of the cherries with filtered water (traditional filtering system, a reverse osmosis filter and a UV-C filter) to reduce the microbial load.
- First phase of fermentation (& inoculation of microorganisms) – Anaerobic lactic fermentation (in cherries). It consists of 48 hours of fermentation in anaerobic bioreactors with pressure relief valve at a temperature of 18 Celsius degrees. It includes the use of selected microorganisms according to their sensory profile. (For the Candy Geisha, they use the Saccharomyces Carlsbergensis).
- Second phase of fermentation – Aerobic fermentation (with pulped cherries). This phase consists of adding the yeast culture medium to the mucilage and passing it to an aerobic phase in a rotary fermenter for its homogenization. The fermentation medium contains different flavour precursors and aromas generated mainly by the microorganisms. This phase lasts for 48 hours and occurs at 21 degrees Celsius.
- Thermal Shock Washing first with hot water (40 Celsius degrees) and then cold water (12 Celsius degrees). This allows the membranes and pores of the coffee beans to expand rapidly and fix the fermentation compounds around the coffee beans (those secondary aromas developed in the different phases of fermentation of the culture medium). (Fun fact: the term “Thermal Shock” has been coined by Diego himself).
- Controlled drying process to guarantee the final quality of the coffee. This phase lasts 34 hours, with air recirculation at a temperature of 35 Celsius degrees and relative humidity of 25%, until the grain reaches a humidity of between 10% and 11%. (Some compounds generated in the fermentation phases and present in the coffee genetically are highly volatile or thermolabile). Therefore, it is essential to carry out a careful drying process with the coffee seeds. For this task, the company has developed its own technology for drying in an inert atmosphere at low temperatures.
The Geisha varieties adapted to the Cauca region are characterized by a delicate, citric and aromatic profile. The perfect climatic conditions, the altitude, the terroir and the intense rains throughout the year, are key factors to develop a brilliant profile that highlights the quality of this variety.
Process: Washed with a special type of fermentation
Fermentation: Double, anaerobic at low temperature
Microorganisms used: Saccharomyces Carlsbergensis
Technique: Washed with thermal shock (using warm and cold water)
The main process is very similar to the one described above. The first steps of the process include cleaning and disinfection of the cherries with ozone to reduce any unwanted microbiological load. The cherries are then transferred to stainless steel fermenters with CO2 to displace oxygen and so, preventing the oxidation of the coffee compounds present in the pulp. The first fermentation occurs at 18 Celsius degrees at 20psi and last 36h, during which the added yeast Saccharomyces Carlsbergensis generates different esters (whose smell is similar to pineapple). Finca El Paraiso has a collection of isolated and selected microorganisms according to their sensory profile in fermentation.
Prior to the inoculation of microorganisms in the coffee masses, a phase called biocatalysis of precursors occurs. It consists of generating the biochemical conditions of cellular stress to generate the biosynthesis of more aromatic fermentation compounds, such as esters, aldehydes, alcohols among other compounds. These reactions last 36h and occur in stirred tank bioreactors in fed-batch operation with mucilage feeding.
The second fermentation occurs with pulped coffee. This phase consists of adding the yeast culture medium in the mucilage (250 mL of culture medium per kilogram of coffee) and switching to an aerobic phase (in a rotary fermenter for an optimal homogenization). These secondary metabolites remain mainly in the leachates since the parchment and the silver film that cover the coffee beans are difficult to penetrate. So, after fermentation, washing with a thermal shock technique allows the membranes and pores of the coffee beans to expand rapidly to fix fermentation compounds around the coffee beans. This also prevents the coffee to lose them during the washing process. The last phase consists of a controlled drying at a low temperature with dehumidifying systems.
Exceptional quality requires immense effort and knowledge! The Coffee Quest is more than willing to compensate the producers’ effort with a higher price. At the core of every relationship with farmers stand transparency and trust. In our recent talk with Diego (January 2023), we were happy to see his progress and satisfaction with our collaboration.
“What we really like partnering up, working with you is a peace of mind, which is something very important. We trust each other and that’s significant as well.” – Diego Samuel Bermudez Tapia
On a farm which has Science is written all over it, they are tackling the environmental issue with the same innovative approach. Diego encourages environmental leadership in areas such as water resources, pollution prevention, and soil management.
Other relevant topics for Diego and his staff are soil productivity management and surface erosion through the planting of native and nitrogen-fixing plants. Moreover through soil and leaf analysis every two years they are able to assess overall ecosystem health, protect wildlife and maintain a natural reserve for native and wild flora and fauna.
- Residual water treatment: Through the help of a local company, Finca El Paraiso has built a close water circuit system with a low energy consumption. With the ability to process 25ml/l, this industrial plant demineralizes the water first and cleans it, so that this non-polluting water is used for cleaning the machines.
- Prototype of a filter for drinkable water: Diego has developed a prototype of a filter that is able to change the structure of the water. Thanks to it, they are now able not only to make water drinkable but also to standardize better the fermentation process.
- Pulp treatment: El Paraïso has standardized a process for composting, using organic minerals to convert the pulp into fertilizer for the soil. On the other hand, the pulp with good selection becomes “Cascara”, a by-product that can be used for human consumption (Ice tea, sodas, hot tea, baking flour etc.) or as cattle feed as its compounds are full of proteins. Moreover, they are also finishing another facility to process the pulp.
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