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The Real Smell of Kona Coffee
8 November 2010


Bloom There's nothing quite like the smell of freshly roasted coffee.  Even people that don't drink coffee can appreciate the pleasant aroma.  One interesting study showed that just the smell of coffee can ease stress caused by sleep deprivation.  When they say "the smell of coffee" they mean the smell of freshly roasted coffee.  As a Kona coffee farmer I can assure you that coffee has several other smells too, some of which are not so pleasant.

Every spring in Kona the coffee trees blossom with delicate white flowers.  These blooms have the fragrance of jasmine and are quite pleasant.  So coffee starts out smelling great.  We all know that it ends up smelling pretty good too.  It's some of the steps in between that aren't so nice.

For most of its life, a coffee bean simply smells like any other plant.  When it's dried, but not yet roasted, coffee has a distinct smell.  Still quite subtle, kind of like cardboard.  I think the burlap bags the coffee is stored in have a stronger smell.

The only time coffee smells bad is after pulping.  As soon as they are picked, the coffee beans are pulped to remove the outer fruit layer.  Like any fruit, this layer is full of sugars and can rot quite easily.  The freshly picked coffee cherries smell fine, even sweet, but that doesn't last long.  As soon as the discarded pulp starts to ferment and rot, that's when the stink can get bad.

Mucilage I am quite familiar with the smell of fermenting coffee.  We ferment the coffee on purpose to help clean the beans.  Removing the sugars helps prevent mold, fungus and other pests.  After a good washing, the bean are then dried and stored until ready for roasting.

The coffee we ferment on purpose doesn't smell so bad.  At least I don't think so but maybe because to me, that's the smell of money.  Where the stink gets bad is the pile of discarded pulp.

I use a manure spreader to put the pulp back out in the fields.  That helps reduce the need for fertilizer.  More importantly, it helps gets rid of the rotting smell.  I always wash all the equipment too.  It helps but it is impossible to get rid of the smell completely.

I smell like fermenting coffee right now.  I've smelled this way for several weeks now and I'll probably smell like this for several weeks to come.  Sure, I shower but that never lasts long.  The very next day I'll smell like fermenting coffee all over again.

I don't really mind.  Like I said, it's the smell of money.  Sure, I'd prefer for my money to smell like roasted coffee but that's up to you.  I won't smell like roasted coffee unless you buy some coffee.  Go ahead, help out a stinky farmer and click here to buy some Kona Earth coffee.


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