Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Nature's Food Enhancers

Bread, cheese, kimchi, pepperoni, soy sauce, tapai, wine and yogurtsome of our favourite foods.  There’s a common link, and it’s none other than our friendly microbes!

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Imagine a world without microbes-assisted food.  Yes, cheese and kimchi wouldn’t taste as we know it!  Mind you, it’s not as simple as scooping a spoonful of microbes to get that tasty dish you like.  It requires a lot of work, patience and tender-loving care!

What actually happens?  Fermentation.  In food processing, it is the conversion of carbohydrates to alcohols and carbon dioxide or organic acids using yeasts, bacteria, or a combination of both.  This takes place under anaerobic (the absence of air or free oxygen) conditions. Fermentation usually implies that the action of microorganisms is desirable.

Now about coffee.  Do you know coffee cherries could be fermented to produce a distinct flavour?  No?  Let’s explore how it’s done.

Normally, after coffee cherries are picked, they are immediately processed either by the dry (natural) method, or the wet method.  Wet method involves fermentation. 

Source: Wikimedia Commons

In the wet method, the pulp is removed from the coffee cherry after harvesting and the beans are put in fermentation tanks filled with water. The goal here is to remove the layer of mucilage (called the parenchyma) that is still attached to the parchment skin on the bean. The fermentation causes this layer to break down and disappear. The beans are then rinsed and then dried.

Dried beans are then hulled, graded, sorted and sacked.  These beans are called "green coffee" and they're now ready to be sent off to be roasted. 

Source: Wikimedia Commons

“So what?” you may say!  There are coffee artisans who are taking fermentation a step further.  They actually select specific types of non-disease causing bacteria “to create precise flavour profiles batch after batch” [Carrie Arnold, The Daily Beast].

How does it work?  When the bacteria breaks down the cherry, it produces chemicals that has created a variety of flavours.  To get a particular flavor, all one needs to do is identify the bacteria and spray a solution of that bacteria directly onto green, unroasted coffee beans and leave it to ferment.  If a repeated flavour is required for another batch of the same type of coffee, the process is repeated with the same bacteria in the same conditions.

So, fancy a cup of bacteria-flavoured coffee?

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Shared by Azni Zainal Abidin
Guest Blogger

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