A Cup of Guatemala, Please!

By Martin Wölfl

Credit: Erol Hasic

Not all beans are the same. Guatemala is known for its excellent coffee. But what use is the best bean if people screw up its preparation. To avoid the pitfalls we have asked the international and Tyrolean Filter Coffee Champion 2019, Martin Wölfl, to share some tips with us. A professional barista and coffee freak he is hard to beat in terms of knowledge gathered on this caffeinated hot beverage. But let’s go one step back. Where do the beans for my coffee come from? 

Credit: Martin Wölfl

Credit: Martin Wölfl

From the roots to the cup

In early March 2020 Martin Wölfl travelled with Hardi Wild, owner of the “Wildkaffee-Rösterei” roasting shop in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany to Guatemala to visit the coffee growers and their plantations where Wildkaffee and the Balthasar-Kaffeebar have sourced their coffee for a long time. He was overwhelmed by the beauty of coffee plants. “Wildkaffee” roasts the coffee for the “Balthasar” coffee bar where Martin has worked as a barista since June 2017.

Since the main season for harvesting in Guatemala is from December to January, March is a suitable period for visiting the country. At that time, the coffee beans have already been dried and processed – ready for cupping. So virtually countless coffees of the current harvest can be cupped and tested according to quality criteria right at the plantations before they are purchased and shipped to Germany. During their trip to the land of coffee, among others the “Finca La Labor” in Guatemala City was visited, whose coffee is also used for the “Hausespresso Nr.11” at Balthasar-Kaffeebar. The Finca La Labor is located at an altitude of 1,520 m in Zone 18 of Guatemala City. Surrounded by 400,000 houses it is the last coffee farm still in existence right in the city. The Finca has been operated by the Montenegro family for over 80 years now and has been handed on from generation to generation. Francisco Quezada, or “Chespi” as his friends call him, forms part of the fifth generation.

At Finca La Labor only Arabica coffee is grown; these coffee plants can grow as high as 6 to 8 metres and with a caffeine content of between 0.8 – 3.5% this coffee is easily digestible. Coffee plants generate caffeine to deter, stun or even kill parasites. This is why their caffeine content decreases the higher the plants are grown since pests are less able to survive at higher altitudes. 

Quality feature: harvested by hand

Here coffee is exclusively harvested by hand. This method may be considerably more time-consuming but it is the only way to ensure that nothing but coffee cherries with the perfect ripeness are harvested and unripe cherries are allowed to ripen on the plant. Seven to ten days after the first harvest the ripened cherries are manually harvested in a second cycle. This process is then repeated until all coffee cherries have been harvested. After harvesting the pre-sorted coffee cherries are spread out on drying areas or raised beds in the sun. Turning them at regular intervals is an essential prerequisite for guaranteeing a uniform drying process. This takes 3 to 5 weeks before the silver skin and parchment can be mechanically separated from the green coffee beans. This process is technically referred to as “natural-drying”.

March is also the time of year when the coffee plants already start flowering again in some regions of Guatemala. If you gaze over the Finca during this period it looks as if the fields had just been covered in snow. The bright white flowers shimmer on innumerable coffee trees lining the mountains. These white blossoms, which smell of jasmine, form immediately after the first rainfalls most of the time and already give a hint at how successful the harvest will be. Each coffee flower will grow into a coffee cherry over the next few months.  

Credit: Martin Wölfl

This is where the trip ended

Due to the rapidly rising number of Corona infections in Germany we were forced to leave the country at a moment’s notice because Guatemala closed its borders. The coffee, however, has arrived safe and sound in Germany now and is ready for brewing. One method for preparing perfect coffee at home is described below. 

Unadulterated coffee experience at home

Martin Wölfl’s favourite way of making coffee is manually brewed filter coffee. Here, preparation is celebrated almost as a ceremony. The making itself has become truly a delight and something of a morning ritual for him.

What you need is a quality coffee specifically roasted for filter coffee. It is worthwhile coming over to Balthasar-Kaffeebar to obtain expert advice on the choice of coffee. The coffee range varies depending when and how much coffee is harvested, which makes a visit so exciting because there are always new coffee types to be discovered from different growing regions. Furthermore, coffee scales, a V-60 filter and an electric kettle are needed. This equipment is available at most specialty-coffee shops in Austria. And this is how it works:

20g freshly ground filter coffee
300ml water
93°C hot

Credit: Erol Hasic

Best is to always freshly grind the coffee! The longer ground coffee is exposed to oxygen, the more aroma it loses and, this, after all, should end up in the cup. The smell of coffee released by grinding is always truly a delight.

Once the coffee is ground and the water heated to approx. 93°C, you are good to go.

Insert a filter into the V-60. Rinse the filter and coffee pot with hot water. By rinsing you ensure that the filter and pot are heated and the filter paper taste does not end up in your coffee.

First pour approx. 60ml water in circular movements and allow some 30 to 40 seconds to “bloom”.

Then slowly and steadily pour the remaining 240ml water in circular movements or into the centre of the filter.

The whole brewing process should last about 2 and a half to 3 minutes.

Before drinking the coffee, swirl the pot well or stir the contents well with a spoon in order to mix the coffee layers.

Even though it is next to impossible to travel and visit such impressive regions of the world these days, we can bring the coffee experience right to our homes.  

Credit: Martin Wölfl

 

 

Information for professionals: 
The technical term for steeping is “blooming”. The coffee grounds are uniformly wetted with water. This allows the CO2 produced by roasting to escape and promotes more consistent brewing afterwards. It is worthwhile holding your nose as close to the coffee grounds as possible – if you want to enjoy the full aroma.

“So let’s make a lovely cup of coffee together and feel like we’re right there at the Finca. I wish you lots of fun coffee-making and a great coffee experience,” says Wölfl.

Read more by Martin Wölfl on Instagram.