Luis Eduardo Campos has been working in coffee for 36 years. He was originally a member of a coop in Tarrazú that collapsed at the beginning of 2000s. 567 of the producer members decided to buy the coop debt and restart it in 2004, naming it Altura San Ramon. Luis was the director of Altura San Ramon for 11 years and it was during that time that he developed his unique anaerobic processes. In 2015, he established his own micro mill. He started buying just 300 bags of cherries per year but now 7,000 bags are delivered to the mill from over 300 producers, including Luis’ own farms. Specialty grades represent only 5% of the total volume.
Luis developed his anaerobic processes after observing the fermentation process of wines and guessing that using a similar method with coffee could develop deeper, more complex flavours. The process starts with mature coffee cherries that have a high sugar content – measured by a Brix meter – which can feed the anaerobic process. The variety is not the most important factor, but he has found that Yellow Catuai works well. Luis has three tanks for his anaerobic process, and the tanks are tightly packed – with the addition of mucilage (coffee pulp) from another lot – in order to avoid oxygen entering the process. Fermentation lasts between 22 and 24 hours, with the temperature kept just under 10°C. Fermentation must stop when the sugar in the mucilage has been eaten up, but before alcohol is produced. During the fermentation the release of CO2 exerts pressure on the grains, enhancing flavour. Temperature, pH and Brix measurements are the three most important factors in Luis’ anaerobic process. We asked him how long it took him to find the perfect recipe and his answer was: “I’m still working on it.”
After fermentation, the coffee is dried. As it is soaked in extra mucilage, it takes longer than usual to dry. It is spread in layers of 7cm and turned every 20 minutes for the first few days. Each of the three tanks can only produce two exportable bags of coffee per day, and the extra drying time and the turning increase labour costs. The result is a product that commands a premium.
Luis’ pursuit of new and innovative ways to improve his coffee production has also resulted in the development of the termico (thermic) process. This is where semi-washed coffee is heated with some of the mucilage left on the bean, resulting in caramelisation of the natural sugars. The result is a coffee with a lighter profile and a sweet and fruity flavour – reminiscent of fruit infusions. Luis also produces naturals and honeys.