Coffee cherries

Brewing the Future: My Koji Coffee Experiment at El Vergel Farms

Audrey Harrison
Home brewer

Hey there, dear coffee enthusiasts! It's Elias Bayter here, owner and coffee producer at El Vergel Farms. Today, I'm beyond excited to take you on a whirlwind adventure through our journey into Koji coffee fermentation. So, grab your favorite mug, brew yourself a cup of El Vergel coffee (Koji-style, of course), and let's dive right into this wild ride.

The Origin Story of Koji

You know, coffee has been my life's passion, but in 2018, something extraordinary happened that would forever change my perspective on what's possible in the world of coffee. A unique collaboration unfolded at our farm, driven by curiosity and a quest for coffee excellence. It involved a Finnish Barista Champion, a roaster from the USA, and a Koji gastronomy expert – a dream team, to say the least.

We decided to experiment with Koji fermentation. For those unfamiliar, Koji is a funky fungus with roots in Chinese and Japanese culture. Traditionally, it's used to work its magic on various ingredients, like soy sauce, miso, and rice vinegar, crafting those unique flavors we adore. This fungus doesn't just make food more digestible; it also extends its shelf life.

The Koji Coffee Fermentation Process

Now, picture this – a microscopic fungus that has been domesticated for nearly 9,000 years. Meet the star of our show, Koji-Kin. We grow it on steamed rice, and after 3 to 4 days of tender loving care at a toasty 42ºC, a mesmerizing white, cotton-like mycelium covers the rice, and it's time for the harvest. Koji is a powerhouse of catalytic enzymes, including amylase, which turns starch into simple sugars.

Here's where things get exciting: in the world of coffee, Koji doesn't just process; it transforms. Unlike other methods, Koji doesn't impose external flavors on our coffee. Instead, it coaxes the coffee beans themselves to generate new sugars. You can think of it as a coffee alchemist, conjuring up the impossible in terms of taste.


The Koji Coffee Experience

Now, let's talk about what matters – the coffee! After we've harvested Koji from the rice, we crush it into a fine powder. Meanwhile, our ripe coffee cherries are plucked from the trees. We carefully place the coffee beans in plastic containers, ensuring they don't stack up higher than 5 cm. Why, you ask? Well, Koji's all about aerobic fermentation, and a little air in the fruits is just what it craves.

Then comes the magical moment – we sprinkle the Koji spores evenly over the cherries. And here's the kicker: it's a patient process. We give Koji a minimum of 24 to 72 hours to weave its charm on the beans.

But wait, there's more! After the coffee cherries have had their Koji rendezvous, it's time to dry them in silos. Slow and steady is the name of the game, ensuring the temperature stays under 34ºC.


The Grand Reveal

Now, here's the real kicker – the taste. A cup of coffee fermented with Koji is like nothing else you've ever sipped. More body, more sweetness, and a long, lingering aftertaste. It's Koji's unique ability to coax those sugars out of the coffee that makes this experience truly special.

You're probably wondering, "What's the result?" Well, we're talking about a 1 to 2.5-point increase in cup quality. Our coffee now boasts a more pronounced body and complex flavors that'll dance on your taste buds like never before

So, there you have it, folks, the Koji coffee adventure at El Vergel Farms. It's a wild ride of science, experimentation, and the unending quest for the perfect cup. And let me tell you, the journey is just beginning. So, stay tuned for more tales from our coffee world – they're brewing as we speak!

Cheers to coffee innovation and the wonders of Koji!


Audrey Harrison

Team TAB
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I am a coffee aficionado based in Seattle. I have devoted my passion and expertise to perfecting the art of home coffee brewing. I became known for my exquisite pour-over and espresso creations. I source coffee beans from local roasters and explores ...