Q&A with Lucia Solis

Transcript (Speakers: Adam Marley & Lucia Solis):

Adam Marley (00:00:01):
Hey, everyone. Welcome back to another live Q&A with the roaster. This is another Q&A where we have a special guest. Today, we're going to be joined by Lucia Solis. She is a fermentation general coffee processing specialist, and she wouldn't call herself an expert. She's very, very strong on that, but I think most of us with our usage of the word absolutely would. She's absolutely amazing doing incredibly innovative stuff, which is already benefiting farmers in a really tangible way and us roasters and consumers, because the coffee that's being produced as a result of her work is incredibly delicious.

Adam Marley (00:00:45):
Along with her... We're just waiting for her to join now. I thought I'd give a little brief intro while we're waiting for her to tune in. She's connecting with us from Columbia. She's on a coffee farm in Columbia. We're hoping that the satellite communication works okay. Can everyone hear me okay on... Hey everyone who's joined. Can everyone hear me okay on these ones? On the headphones? I'm not going to keep talking until someone says something. Oh, Lucia. All right. She's joined. She'll, I guess try and connect. I'm sort of not very good at this now. She'll ask to be connected, I guess or do I... Here we go. She request, go live. Connecting satellite internet.

Lucia Solis (00:01:36):

Adam Marley (00:01:37):
Hey, Lucia. How are you? Can you hear me? Hello?

Lucia Solis (00:01:44):
Yes, I can. Can you hear me?

Adam Marley (00:01:46):
Yes. Yes, I can. Very well.

Lucia Solis (00:01:51):

Adam Marley (00:01:51):
How are you doing?

Lucia Solis (00:01:51):
We did it. Good. Good. I'm sorry, it's so dark. It's nighttime here. Unfortunately, there's a beautiful mountain view behind me and valleys and clouds, but [crosstalk 00:02:03].

Adam Marley (00:02:02):
We'll just have to use our imaginations.

Lucia Solis (00:02:06):

Adam Marley (00:02:09):
While I start everything up, I've already introduced you. I was kind of partway through my introduction. I had mentioned how you're a specialist in fermentation and general coffee processing. I mentioned how you do not refer to yourself as an expert. I really like your reasoning behind that as well. I think a lot of people should be maybe more careful about calling themselves experts on things. I really like your reasoning on that. Fermentation and processing specialist. The other thing I was about to mention in my introduction for those that aren't aware of Lucia at this point is that one of the things I love about your work and your podcast is that it's not just the technicalities. It's not just geeky. It's not just fermentation. You also go into the power dynamics between producers, roasters, buyers, consumers, the economics of the supply chain, talking about...

Adam Marley (00:03:00):
A lot of people, I think... We'd probably get into it in the questions. A lot of people think fermentation specialist with coffee and they think all the crazy boozy fruit really out there coffees don't necessarily think about homogeneity and consistency with... Just the base level, like raising that lowest level of the coffee higher for lots of producers, which is something I'm really excited about in your work. Yeah. That's the end of my introduction if there's anything you'd like to add before we get stuck into it. How is it on the farm?

Lucia Solis (00:03:37):
No. Yeah, I think that covers it. Yeah. Let's just get started. I like the questions that were sent over, so let's jump in.

Adam Marley (00:03:49):
Awesome. All right. Cool. For those that aren't aware, we had some questions sent in leading up to this and I sent those through to Lucia last night, my time. Today, your time. I think I'm still trying to get my head around that. So weird being at the end of the world and yes, we had some great questions sent it.

Lucia Solis (00:04:09):
I almost missed it. I thought it was my tomorrow. I'm just thrilled that I actually check my... I was really thinking my Tuesday, but it's still Monday for me.

Adam Marley (00:04:19):
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. No. Australia is in the future apart from New Zealand. New Zealand, the only people, Fred are in the future than us.

Lucia Solis (00:04:28):
Hi, Fred.

Adam Marley (00:04:31):
Well, Fred from Birdsnake just joined. Did you want to start with Fred's question maybe?

Lucia Solis (00:04:39):
I don't know. Fred owes me something. I think I may hold his question [inaudible 00:04:44]. I've been trying to get some information from him for a few years? No, go ahead. I like to answer his question.

Adam Marley (00:04:53):
Well, Fred, I feel like that's good faith. You probably should put the information here in the chat. Fred's question and for those that aren't aware, people should absolutely check out Birdsnake Chocolate. [inaudible 00:05:07] is doing some absolutely amazing stuff in cocoa, in chocolate. It's absolutely delicious. We resell it on our website simply because it's amazing. That's why we have it on the website because we're just like, "Other people have to experience this in Adelaide." Absolutely amazing chocolate. Fred's question that he sent in was, "I've seen a shift in the last five years where producers are all attempting anaerobic fermentation." I feel like you might have a comment on that word choice. "What's the deal? Is it a trend or here to stay?"

Lucia Solis (00:05:41):
There's so much in this question already. I think the operative word is attempting anaerobic fermentation. I think that's the thing that I stick on. Also, I'm not a forecaster. I don't know if it's a trend. I hope not. Personally, I hope that it's not a trend, but also if we're digging into the terminology, all fermentation is anaerobic. It's really hard to call something a trend that's been here the whole time, that coffee producers have been doing the whole time. What I mean by that is it's a little bit complicated because we're very slangy and fast and loose with our word in coffee because it's a young industry and it's like there's a vacuum. When there's a vacuum, there's a rush to fill it. I think in the rush to fill it, we have maybe tripped up over some things.

Lucia Solis (00:06:31):
For example, anaerobic fermentation, the process of fermentation where a yeast or a bacteria, a microbe breaks down, a sugar molecule, glucose, fructose to produce energy, that's what fermentation is. A microbe is breaking down a sugar source and creating different compounds. Carbon dioxide, alcohol, and then all of the fruity lovely things that we love and that metabolism doesn't require oxygen. Therefore, all fermentation is anaerobic by definition. Even if we have a natural that's out on a patio that is completely covered in oxygen, it's completely exposed the fermentation, that's happening on those cherries is anaerobic. If we have a honey that's out on a bed, that fermentation is anaerobic. If we have a washed coffee that is submerged in water, that is also anaerobic because the fermentation is different from the environment that it's happening in. It's both a really nonsense term, but what people mostly mean is at fermentation that happens in a low oxygen environment.

Adam Marley (00:07:41):

Lucia Solis (00:07:43):
Again, this is where we get really loose and slangy. Then, we try to talk to scientists who have a very different vocabulary, a very different definition where fermentation is already defined. Sometimes in our attempt to sound more educated, we sound more ignorant. This is a place where it's moving too quickly. I hope that anaerobic fermentation gets a little bit maybe rebranded, like a different name. I don't have any problem with the process, which is fermenting with low oxygen fermentation, meaning whether you ferment under water, whether you ferment in a sealed bag or a tank with a valve, I think the process is fine, but the word choice in our language is really sloppy. I think that maybe that is a trend is being a little too fast and loose with our terminology. I hope that that is not a trend. I think lower oxygen fermentations are popular for a reason. They are producing really good results. I think that that is important to validate that people are having good results. Let's look into this, but let's be a little bit more careful with our word choice.

Adam Marley (00:09:00):
Yeah. Yeah. I love that response. I'm glad you added that bit at the end about the process itself, regardless of the naming choice that people are using that you're okay with that process because we've been experimenting with it in Uganda. I was a bit worried you being like, "No, I hate the name and the process is silly too." I was going to go, "Oh, okay. I won't mention it then." No, I think that's a great response. There you go. Thank you. All right. All right, Fred. Now, you won Lucia, so get on that.

Lucia Solis (00:09:36):
Yeah. Get on your side.

Adam Marley (00:09:39):
Two-way street. I think there was a great question from a customer of ours called Lloyd, which I tried to answer in one of our Q&A's a couple of weeks ago, but not the specialists. Probably didn't do a very good job. I thought maybe we could throw it in here as well, which I think links back to not the terminology part of that response, but the end part, the processing itself. The question is when do processing methods go too far? Is there a still point in a new processing methods when things like anaerobic maceration and other fermentation already play stresses on farmers? For the home court, when does the taste of the processing overtake the coffee's natural flavors and aromas? I think that one has heaps of stuff in it.

Lucia Solis (00:10:30):
Oh, so much. I love this question. Let's break it down. Ask me one thing at a time. The first part is when do processing or what is it? When does it go too far or can it?

Adam Marley (00:10:43):
Yeah. Yeah. At what point in new processing methods with things like carbonic maceration do things go too far?

Lucia Solis (00:10:55):
This may be a surprising answer, but I would say never. They never go too far because I don't think we should be judging them. I think it's really ridiculous to trying to create what is true coffee and what is adulterated or altered coffee. I was trying to think of an analogy in terms of... I don't don't know if this is a good one, but it's the only one I can think of in terms of women wearing makeup. It's like saying when does a woman wear too much makeup? I feel like it's none of your business. It's not up to you to decide if someone else is wearing enough makeup or too much. It's up to the woman herself to say, "This is how I feel good."

Lucia Solis (00:11:42):
There's not a more moral person who doesn't wear makeup to say like, "I'm natural," versus somebody who's wearing a lot of makeup. I think this is the way we need to think about processing that it's really to be determined by the person who's making the process, not by anybody on the outside and to try and untangle the morality of there is a true coffee. I choose not to wear makeup because I just don't, but that doesn't make me better than somebody who does and somebody who does, it may be because they're insecure. It may be because they're bored. It may be because they're just artistic and they really enjoy it. I think that asking a processing goes too far is the wrong question to be asking. That's why I would say never, because it's none of our business.

Adam Marley (00:12:33):

Lucia Solis (00:12:33):
However, people will still try to do that. The idea of tasting the varietal versus tasting the process and this tension between wanting to bring out flavors versus masking certain flavors, I also think that that's a really silly way to spend our time. I think that it's like trying to say, "Are you human? Are you know a bacteria?" Because we have more bacteria DNA in our body than human DNA. We have our gut microbiome. We have our skin microbiome. Trying to untangle things that are fundamentally intertwined just feels like there's better things to do with our time. There's more interesting questions to ask than to try and parse this out.

Lucia Solis (00:13:18):
I see a lot of people get lost down this road and I'm not seeing very urgent conversations about it. They're mostly filled with judgment with a lot of misinformation and a lot of it is cultural too. I think that, and again, it's like none of your business. If a producer has potentially a hybrid varietal that is not very strong in the cup and they want to do a very intense process to try and map some of that, they should be allowed to do that without being penalized for doing too much to their coffee. Same, if somebody has a very lovely geisha that they want to process a ton, still it's really none of your business how they treat their fruit. I think that it's just so frustrating that there's better conversations to have. I don't know if I answered the rest of that question.

Adam Marley (00:14:14):
No, I think you did. I think that's a really good answer that I think for me as well, because these conversations keep happening and stuff, it's the conversation du jour, and I feel like this is the new conversation where the really elite... This is the new conversation where the elitism can come in a little bit. It reminds me of five years ago where there was a lot of people, and I guess there still are who look down on naturals. Just ordinary naturals, just processing that's been done for 100 years tied into the culture, the first way of coffee, but apparently the flavor of the processing overtake the flavor of the coffee, which makes no sense because the flavor of the processing is part of the flavor of the coffee.

Adam Marley (00:14:56):
But I feel like that conversation's now shifted to this, and I have the same for me. I'm not the specialist, but very much curious about my opinion. I always have the same... Again, I feel like it's just a bit of a silly conversation to have, because for me, this conversation, it was with naturals. It's always, "Well, if it's delicious, who cares?" If there's a consumer out there that enjoys drinking that and a roaster that enjoys roasting it and both those people are happy to pay the farmer a premium because a really delicious experience, great. Next conversation. It just seems a bit ivory tower.

Lucia Solis (00:15:38):
I think it's something that we need to remember... Right. Part of our culture is we really like to police things, and that really comes from control.

Adam Marley (00:15:48):
Yes. Yeah. Yeah.

Lucia Solis (00:15:50):
Just remembering checking ourselves. It's like, "Oh, I'm trying to control something and maybe it's none of my business." Just to keep that in mind.

Adam Marley (00:15:58):
Yeah. No, I love that. Thank you for adding that. Yes. People need to pay a lot more attention to that because I think they hide behind purity in their analysis of the flavor of the coffee in order to dictate what process it, what producers should do and what consumers should like, telling people not to like naturals. But anyway, we won't mention Scott at this point talking about naturals. We'll just blow past that. I think he did a post every day where he said he liked the natural. For our other questions, did you have any preferences from the questions there? I'm worried about do we have... Oh, also I didn't even ask how much time you have. I'm conscientious it's around dinner time for you, so sign off whenever you need to, but I'm not sure...

Lucia Solis (00:16:47):
Yeah. Let's see how many we get too. I like the order that they were...

Adam Marley (00:16:52):
Oh, cool. All right. Well, great. That makes my life easier. I'll just run through them in that order. You mentioned to me before we started everything that you had some stuff that you wanted to continue the conversation on that isn't necessarily the questions that came in. Feel free to allot time to do that. Tell me, "No. No. No more questions. I want to talk about this stuff," because for everyone playing at home, this will be saved for our IGTV so that people can refer back to it in posterity, and share it with your coffee geek friends and everyone else. Going in order with the questions, "If you think it's relevant to ask Lucia's thoughts on how altitude and latitude affect the development of flavor compounds in coffee, like will the same microbes develop the same flavor compounds regardless of the altitude or latitude that the coffee was processed at?"

Lucia Solis (00:17:47):
This is another one where I think we get really stuck on some topics like altitude and it's everything... Most of the conversation up to this point has been about altitude and who can top other producers. Then, the conversation got a little bit more sophisticated when we talked about latitude and we're like, "Well, it's not just how high you are, but it's like how far away from the equator because climate matters." But I do think that it's a little bit of a distraction or a misdirection. The beginning part of that question, I feel like it's like when is something over processed? It's not the right lens to be looking at things or it's not of the most interesting one, I think to be looking at things.

Lucia Solis (00:18:32):
But the second part of that question where I was talking about, "Could we have the same fermentation in different places?" If it's a spontaneous wild fermentation, then absolutely not because if you're in a different location, then different things will be permanent there. Different yeast and bacteria will be concentrated in different environments. No, it's not possible to have the same fermentation in very different places because yeast and bacteria adapts to their environment, meaning the moisture content, however humid the environment is, how cold it is, how warm it is, but a way that we could get around that... The answer to this question is absolutely not, and then maybe yes just because if you use a commercially new strain, then you can dominate the fermentation with a known strain and you can take that to different places and you can have a very similar fermentation, but that doesn't necessarily mean that you would get the same flavor because you would still be starting with different raw material and you can apply that yeast in a different way.

Lucia Solis (00:19:42):
You can have the same yeast in two different locations, let's say a coffee farm in China and a coffee farm in Guatemala, but your hours of contact would be different. Maybe it would be a 12-hour fermentation or a 60-hour fermentation. Yeah. We can work around that, but it still wouldn't go to... I think that the fear that most people go to is all coffee's going to taste the same. There's going to be no more diversity and coffee's going to be boring and how awful that is. Yeah. I think that's the end of that question.

Adam Marley (00:20:21):
That was really anti-climatic. I was setting it up for, "Now, we're going to dive into that." It's just like, "We're going to leave that for another time."

Lucia Solis (00:20:30):
Well, I want to get you more of these because there's so many. I don't want to answer an hour with three questions.

Adam Marley (00:20:35):
Yeah. Yeah. Also, I feel like that that particular question, at least when I've encountered talking to people about it, because it is stemmed in fear. I feel like it reminds me of talking to people about their political... How they align politically. People just entrenched themselves further in their initial stance. I think the conversation's around... That probably need to happen. But at this stage, they're not super productive yet. I think we need to be talking about a little bit more. Yeah. I think you probably know what we're asking and all of that. Yeah.

Lucia Solis (00:21:11):
The thing that I stopped myself from saying like the buildup and the anti-climactic pause came from the idea of, I don't think it's possible for all of this coffee to taste the same, even if we do the exact same yeast with the exact same number of hours.

Adam Marley (00:21:27):
Of course not.

Lucia Solis (00:21:28):
It just can't.

Adam Marley (00:21:28):

Lucia Solis (00:21:29):
But even if it did, even if hypothetically magically, we were, I just feel like that's not worst thing to happen. You would get to this point where producers would be able to have consistent coffee that would taste great. Maybe you would have 95 different flavors versus 105. We're just so centering ourselves. We're so centering on like, "I want 113 different flavors and I want other people to not make a living and to have a really hard time with their coffee processing because I want certain flavors." I just think that it's a silly conversation to be having, and it wouldn't even happen. But even if it did, it's really not the worst thing in the world in terms of coffee's future.

Adam Marley (00:22:17):
Yeah. Yeah. I totally agree. I also think if people are worried about that... Again, it's about that direction. They're thinking about it from a demand signal point of view. They're going, "Oh, we don't want producers to be doing this because we don't want to buy those coffees." It's like, "Hey. Well, you don't get to say what producers are or aren't doing. You do get to decide if you buy the coffees or not." The producers can do those things and if they sell the coffees, great. If they don't sell the coffees, then they won't do it anymore. Guarantee, they're going to sell those coffees. There's going to be roasters out there that is just like, "Yeah. This tastes better. Here's more money than before."

Lucia Solis (00:22:51):

Adam Marley (00:22:53):
If you don't want to be one of those roasters, for whatever reason, that's your choice, but you don't get to decide what's available. You just get to decide if you'd buy it or not, which seems really simple to me. But anyway, moving on. Still going in order. If this one's too specific or too technical and you want to move on to the other more broad ones, then let me know. But this one was, and it was from me. This is selfish of me. This is the question I have. Hopefully, other people find it interesting as well. When considering spontaneous fermentation, so no inoculation, is there a point of diminishing returns or detriment where a flavor degrade with pushing time out really far if it's very cold? Are we able to just give the microbes more time to do their thing because it's quite cold or we'll be selecting for different microbes when it's that cold and maybe extending the time will lead to off flavors and that kind of thing?

Lucia Solis (00:23:54):
This is very, very technical, but I love this question because it's a very practical question if there's any producers that are listening. I think that there's absolutely diminishing returns and one of the things that I'm really pushing back against right now are incredibly long fermentations.

Adam Marley (00:24:11):

Lucia Solis (00:24:12):
I feel a little bit guilty that I've helped promote fermentation as the concept and that I've tried to bring awareness to the topic. Now, I feel like I've created a monster. I really don't like to see 100-hour, 400 hours, 600 hours.

Adam Marley (00:24:31):
It won't.

Lucia Solis (00:24:32):
I think that there's a lot. I think that's very diminishing returns just from a labor point of view and having the coffee be vulnerable for so long, but diminishing return also in terms of the flavor that you're hoping to get. One of the things to remember... I'll get there, you guys, but one of the things that I really do want to remind you guys of is that there's a really big misconception that natural process is sweeter, that there is some effect of the... Or even honey, that the mucilage, the sugar on the outside gets into the seed and those coffees are sweeter. That is not possible because the sucrose molecule is too physically large to get through the parchment, layers through the tissue layers into the seed. That doesn't happen.

Lucia Solis (00:25:26):
But even if it could, even if the molecule was the right size to get into the coffee seed, sugar is hypersonic. Sugar once is attracted to water. As coffee is drying, which is what a natural or a honey process is as sugar... Sorry. As coffee is drying, the water is getting out of the seed. Water is going away and it would defy the laws of physics if water was going out and sugar was going in against traffic. It would be like anti-gravity. It just cannot happen as water is going out.

Lucia Solis (00:26:02):
In terms of naturals and honeys, sugar is not going into the seed. However, because during that drying process, water is coming out, sugar inside like a glucose molecule that's much smaller could come out of the seed and actually done in the wet process. It's not that honeys and naturals are sweeter because sugar is going in. It's that honey and naturals are perceived to be sweeter because they are losing less sugar because they don't have as much of the water contact as washed coffee. In washed coffees, we do see a significantly reduced amount of glucose and fructose because they can come out of the seed because they have all of this water around to pull it out, and yet we still have to wash coffees that are incredibly sweet and very lovely. Sugar content is not the only thing that determines sweetness.

Lucia Solis (00:26:59):
The coffees that are washed that have fermentation where we can have a more vigorous fermentation, more yeast activity are compensated, so you have less sugar, but you're compensated by having more polysaccharides and more esters and you have more body and fruity compounds. If you have a coffee that has the flavor of honey and has a flavor of strawberries and something like that, and it has a lot of body, it doesn't need to have physical sugar because your brain fills in the blank. Your brain is like, "Oh, syrupy and fruity flavor. It must be a sweet coffee." Sugar is over empathized in the game.

Lucia Solis (00:27:41):
To your point, when we have these extended fermentations, we are losing some of that sugar. We're losing the glucose and fruit that is inside the seed. I do think that there's absolutely... Especially anything that's microbial, we can't think of a straight line. We have to think of a bell curve. We have to think of a little, "Okay. Then, we have a peak and then we definitely fall off the cliff." I would caution these incredibly long fermentations because at some point, you stop gaining from what the microbes are doing and you start losing the density of your seed. We've seen that as well when we look at some of these coffee, they are physically less dense.

Adam Marley (00:28:28):
Yeah. Yeah. That's interesting. Thank you. That's interesting because I have noticed sometimes with just anecdotal experience of just me and who else I'm cupping with, that small dataset that there does seem to be a trend with the really heavily fermented... Like really extended fermentation coffees that we've received, at least, what we've noticed is that sometimes they have an excessive amount... In a good way, a huge amount of fruity flavors, almost like boozy fruit's really common, the volumes turn up to 11 on those fruity flavors. But then, when you're cupping it and you're doing the proper SCA, CQI way of doing it and you are just going on taste, not on aroma when you're at that point and you're assessing sweetness. Sweetness is actually regularly... Like seems to be a bit diminished.

Adam Marley (00:29:20):
I actually think that maybe corresponds with the acidity... The acidity's usually also, we found quite diminished and a bit flabby. That's a terrible descriptor, but the acidity is not clean and bright. It's a bit flabby and it seems to correlate and it seems to go, "Okay." It's weird because your brain goes, "Well, there's heaps of fruity flavors," and you go, "Oh, but it's a bit hollow. It's actually not that sweet, and it's not that juicy." I think that in my opinion, at least, for my personal preferences, perhaps gone a little bit... Maybe they've gone a bit too far at that point and maximize those aromas, but at the expense of some of those other characteristics. I guess what else could have...

Lucia Solis (00:30:00):
Definitely. Got the expense of balance.

Adam Marley (00:30:02):
Yeah. Balance. Exactly. Yeah. Could I ask it like when you're saying really long fermentations, obviously it depends on temperature and environment and everything else, but are we thinking like is 60 hours a crazy long fermentation or is 100 hours plus crazy long?

Lucia Solis (00:30:23):
We need some amount of time for the compounds that are produced in the fermentation on the outside to penetrate the seed. Usually, I don't like getting less than 24 hours unless it's really hot. I've done less, but I like to... My starting point is 24 hours and then I'll go up to 36 or 48 and then above that, it's rare that you get that much more benefit and maintain the balance. Again, you still can and it's possible and I have tasted 100-hour fermentations that were lovely, but that again is really hard to do. If you're trying... For most people, most of the time in general, I think sticking to 36, 48 hours is plenty.

Adam Marley (00:31:11):
Yeah. Yeah. Okay. Cool. I think it's where you see most people just, just by tradition, sitting around that mark with just their spontaneous fermentations. It was interesting thing for me listening to your podcast. Oh, I haven't mentioned it yet. I'll mention it again, but everyone who isn't aware, Lucia has the best podcast on Spotify and everything else.

Lucia Solis (00:31:35):
Thank you.

Adam Marley (00:31:35):
Whether you're a coffee geek or not, you have to check it out. You have to subscribe, even if you're just interested in coffee, but if you're a professional, I feel like it's an obligation. It's your responsibility to listen to this stuff. If you're a consumer, it's just fun and interesting. It's one of those things where it would make you enjoy drinking coffee more when you know more about why it tastes the way it tastes, at least to me. But listening to your podcast, I don't know if it was the most recent one, but the one with the producer from Uganda, is it Dominique or Donna from the...

Lucia Solis (00:32:09):
I wanted to say Dana, because it's D-A-N-A, but I think she pronounces it Donna or...

Adam Marley (00:32:13):

Lucia Solis (00:32:13):
Yeah. Donna.

Adam Marley (00:32:14):
Yeah. From The Coffee Gardens. Listening to her, I remember at one point, she mentions, "Oh, for us, when we were determining how long to ferment the coffee for, we have to take into account the workflow of the people, the workers and the growers and the farmers when people pick." It was exactly the situation, the intersection traders that we've had in Uganda, where we wanted to do... Our first year of the fermentation was 36 hours. We wanted to push that out to 48 hours to see if we could get a little bit more flavor from the fermentation into the final product, but then we can't because then the timing doesn't work when people are on site and when people are bringing in cherries. We have this choice of 36 hours or 60 hours. We have to work in this 18-hour or whatever that is blocks. This year...

Lucia Solis (00:33:07):

Adam Marley (00:33:08):
Yeah, exactly. This year, we were like, "Do we push 60 hours?" Seemed like a bridge too far. That seemed so risky to go from.... This year because of COVID, we had no way of doing an immediate feedback loop on the ground, which is we're privileged that we ordinarily can do that. That's most producers. Most producers aren't cupping their own coffee. You're asking them to potentially... A roasters coming going, "Do this, do that," for tons of coffee. Then, don't know if it's working until it's already dried. Yes, that was us. Right? We didn't go for 60 hours. We were too risk averse, so we stuck with 36 hours for this harvest because we're just like, "60 hours? That's twice as long." Right? Pretty much. It just seems like might be dangerous, but anyway, maybe it would've been amazing. We actually did [crosstalk 00:33:57].

Lucia Solis (00:33:57):
I would agree with you.

Adam Marley (00:33:57):
Okay. Good.

Lucia Solis (00:33:59):
Yeah. I would agree if it's a spontaneous fermentation, I would err towards the shorter window, because again, it's spontaneous and it's wild and you could have a really great result. The problem is it won't be consistent. You won't be able to repeat it if you like the result. It's like what's the end goal? Is the end goal to have more than one batch that is that way? Sometimes we have to maybe not hit that exact high point. Maybe you're not going to get an 87, but you would get an 87 one time and then an 82 versus every day getting an 85, and so you would pull back a little bit to get an 85.

Adam Marley (00:34:42):
Yeah. Which is always a preferable... Yeah.

Lucia Solis (00:34:43):
Then, you could reproduce that. I think that's one of those trade offs that not a lot of people consider, like we're always pushing and pushing and then you get that great flavor and then you cannot do it again. But the other thing I would mention is this is a really good use case for a commercial yeast. That how I like to use it sometimes is because... Let's say we do have a target that we want. We want to get hit 36 hours, but 36 hours of the fermentation ends up being 3:00 in the morning. There's no workers around at 3:00 in the morning. People aren't going to be there to wash and move the coffee. Then, you have to wait until 7:00, 8:00, 9:00, whenever they show up. During that time, now you're getting out of your window and you're changing the flavor.

Lucia Solis (00:35:29):
In order to buy yourself a buffer, having a commercial yeast strain that you can add to the tank, for me, it's like that safety. It's like insurance. It's saying like, "Yes. The coffee is ready at 36 hours," but it'll still hang out for another age without changing very much so that you can catch up with the workflow. That's another way where you can... The choices again are not just like a moral spontaneous and wild is a better fermentation than inoculating with something. Sometimes you need to take into consideration available labor and your condition.

Adam Marley (00:36:06):
Yeah. Yeah. I think that's the... Thank you. Yeah. That endpoint is really fantastic. What I straightaway jumped to is your episodes on [inaudible 00:36:14], I think people should absolutely check out those episodes, but it struck a chord with me because in this situation, if a farmer is higher up, if we're just talking specifically the specific situation, so we don't get too derailed on a tangent, but higher up the mountain and is much colder where they're processing their coffee. As a result, their fermentations aren't producing... Maybe for whatever reason, their time is constrained. There'd be many reasons. They can't do a 48-hour, 60-hour fermentation. If there was this coffee police that tell them they shouldn't use commercial yeast, because then that will ruin the purity of their coffee. Then, they might end up with a coffee, which has a lot... It might have maybe four points lower in the cup than their neighbor further down the mountain who's got better conditions for fermentation spontaneously.

Adam Marley (00:37:05):
Why is one farmer being punished because they happen to have their farm on a different part of the mountain? Those are the kind of things I think of when people are like, "No. You absolutely shouldn't use commercial yeast." I'm just like, "Then, people are being punished for things that are completely outside of their control," financially, not even in an immoral way, which is also the case, but just financially. If there's a way for them to, in their specific situation, improve the money that they can receive for their coffee by improving their cup score because their situation's different to that person and that person and that person situation, then great. Right. Anyway...

Lucia Solis (00:37:42):
Well, I think the other thing to remember in the nuance of the conversation is that there are... It's not a binary. It's not you have to use yeast for everything all of the time forever, where you never use it. These commercial yeast are not... I think that's another misconception that people have that once you start using some of these commercial yeasts, they're going to take over the native population and you're going to ruin what you have. That doesn't make sense because if you could do that... Just think about it financially from a company's point of view. If they could sell you one bag and then it would take over your native population, they would never sell you a second bag. There has to be some limiting amount of the effectiveness of this yeast. It's very safe to use it on your fermentation. It will die. It will not survive. It will not colonize your mill or your farm. Then, you can use it again and you can use it for a little bit of time to get through... Let's say you have a really terrible storm.

Adam Marley (00:38:49):
Cold weather.

Lucia Solis (00:38:50):
And you [inaudible 00:38:50] really cold weather, and you don't have sunshine for a long time or really wet condition, so things are tending towards mold. It's just a tool that you can take out, use to get you through a week or whatever, and then stop using it. Then, you can go back to whatever conditions that you had. I think that's another thing that it's not going to take over. I think of it like probiotics. When you're taking probiotic for your gut, you don't take one probiotic pill one time and your gut is changed. They don't survive that long. You have to continue to take a probiotic daily or you do it for a certain amount of time. It's sort of that thing too. I think they're a lot less dangerous. They're colonizing your mill, so just to keep that in mind.

Adam Marley (00:39:34):
Yeah. No, I think that's a really good point. I think also that answers a question that some people may have had, which was can you back slop the fermentations like you would a sourdough starter? Once you've done one, can you keep taking some of that and putting some of that water and then inoculating the next fermentation, that kind of thing? I think that probably answers that question with a no.

Lucia Solis (00:39:59):
Well, kind of. Yeah. I hope it does, but just to be more clear is keeping a mother culture is very possible in other industries. I think in coffee right now, it's not possible because of what we're asking of the yeast. For example, in a sourdough, I know that you can have a sourdough for decades or maybe 100 years you've had this family sourdough and you've been able to keep a mother culture and you feed it and you're still making the same bread. Well, what you're asking of that yeast to do is predominantly [inaudible 00:40:33], create gas bubbles, carbon dioxide, and the yeast can do that. That's its primary metabolism, but what we want for coffee is its secondary metabolism. The primary metabolism is alcohol and carbon dioxide. The secondary metabolism is all of the fruity esters and thiols and polysaccharides that come out of, again, the beneficial aromatic compounds.

Lucia Solis (00:41:01):
That only happens if the yeast has adequate nutrition, if it's been rehydrated properly, if it's really happy, but it will do its primary function. It will still continue to remove the mucilage and have carbon dioxide. You can have a decade's old long sourdough, because you're not asking very much of it. You're just like, "Just produce bubbles." Yes. There's waiver involved, lot less strenuous than coffee. For coffee mother cultures, the yeast will continue to remove the mucilage. You can keep a mother culture for 100 years and it will remove the mucilage, but that's not what we want the yeast for. We want the yeast to produce those fruity flavors. That only has certain generation that it can do that. The same way, if we think about a coffee plant, do we keep coffee plants for 200 years?

Lucia Solis (00:41:49):
No. Because they get tired, fruit quality goes down. If you kept a coffee plant, you can keep it alive for a very long time if all you want is green leaves, but if you want good quality fruit, there's only so many generations that the plant could produce fruit and then you have to move on and replant it. However long that is, that's variable, whether 15 years, 40 years, whatever, but we know that the fruit will tire out before the leaves and the vegetation does. The same way with yeast. You can keep a yeast mother culture, but after 30 generations, it's not going to produce the flavors that you're... The reason why you decided to keep it.

Lucia Solis (00:42:29):
This is why I prefer to use a fresh batch and those 30 generations, depending on the yeast, those could happen in a week or those could happen in a day. They will regenerate at a different rate depending on their identity. Again, that's really difficult to know in advance. Sometimes if you want to be economical and keep a mother culture, that's an option, but just know that the compromise is consistency. For me, the whole point of using yeast is to have consistent coffee.

Adam Marley (00:43:00):

Lucia Solis (00:43:00):
Could you go out of your way to create something that would be really [inaudible 00:43:05]?

Adam Marley (00:43:10):
Yeah. Yeah. No, that's a really good point. No, thank you for writing that nuance as opposed to just, "No, don't do it." I like when people explain why as opposed to just going, "No. Bad producer. Don't." Thank you. That's a great answer. Now, we've got 20 minutes left. I'm going to keep an eye on the... Well, regardless of your time, I'm not sure when you need to head off, but we've got 20 minutes before Instagram will cut us off. Keep in mind the stuff that you wanted to talk about and let me know when to stop asking questions. We've done pretty well. We've got through a lot of them. I'm happy with that.

Lucia Solis (00:43:46):

Adam Marley (00:43:46):
Hopefully, it's been interesting for everyone. I'm going to be going back and rewatching all of it to make sure I didn't miss anything. This is another one I threw in. This is one of those things that I really like listening to your podcast, how it's not just you used to bacteria and stuff. Then, it's just like... Sometimes out of the blue, for me, it delves into this kind of things. While I have you here, while I'm lucky enough to have... Thank you for taking the time, really appreciate it. While we've got your time here, I wanted to get your opinion on questions like this. How can we leverage the increasing awareness of coffee processing choices to empower producers as opposed to innovative techniques becoming a demand from roasters that is seen as hard to ignore? I'm thinking here, like the really crazy fermentations which require equipment, investment, and a lot of risk potentially.

Lucia Solis (00:44:46):
You may have listened to the episode where I have a lot of discomfort around the word empower. I think that it's very misused.

Adam Marley (00:44:54):
Oh, [inaudible 00:44:55].

Lucia Solis (00:44:54):
I think that empower should really be used in a reflective sense like, "I empower myself by reading books," or, "I empowered myself by listening to a podcast and gaining information." I think it's a really weird use to say to empower someone else, because that implies that you have power and you are giving it to them. In that sense, it's still sort of... I have the power and I'm up here and I need to give it to you and you're down there versus talking about equals. I think that a lot of that terminology is still rooted in that imperialistic mentality-

Adam Marley (00:45:31):
Colonial... Yeah.

Lucia Solis (00:45:32):
... that producers need to be saved, that it's our job as consumers, as buyers, as roasters to save coffee producers. I think that that mentality, it's tricky because it seems very generous and it seems very nice, but it's still rooted in the centering of like, "How I'm going to save you in terms of charity?" I don't think there's a lot of dignity in that in terms of looking at producers as people who are able to empower themselves. I think a lot of the conversation is around, "How can we roasters be better?" Which I think is a great question to ask. But part of it is I think maybe by backing off, doing less. It's like, "What should we be asking for?"

Lucia Solis (00:46:22):
We understand that this is not a good thing to ask for, so what could we ask for? From working with producers, I just wish roasters would ask less. Don't try to find the right thing to ask for. Just back off and buy coffee that you like and patronizing. I think that one of the things that is a little bit messy in this conversation is roasters, I think would like to pay more because we understand there's a price crisis with coffee, that coffee is not being paid, the cost of production, that a lot of producers are in debt and the more coffee they produce, the less money they have. We're like, "This is bad. We don't like this. What do we do?" Part of it is like, "Well, if they just give us better coffee, then we could pay them more." There's still this like, "They need to change. They need to do something else for us to be able to pay them more of a livable wage," when they don't need to do anything. We haven't been paying enough for coffee at the beginning.

Adam Marley (00:47:23):
To begin with. Yeah.

Lucia Solis (00:47:25):
They could do nothing and we should just pay them and maybe pay them back issues. Yeah. I think it's the wrong question. It's like, "How do you change your business around, so that you can pay more for the coffee that you're already buying?" I think we've gotten away with a lot for a long time and there's still this mentality of, "We want coffee to change. We want things to be better, but I still want to stay comfortable. I don't want to do anything that makes me uncomfortable. I just want things to be better and different." I think that part of that is having that uncomfortable realization of we've been taking advantage for a long time, not on purpose, not because people are evil, just that was the system. That was set up and we didn't know, and now we know.

Adam Marley (00:48:13):
Well, some people.

Lucia Solis (00:48:13):
Some people.

Adam Marley (00:48:13):
Some people.

Lucia Solis (00:48:19):
Yeah. I think that it's the wrong question to say like, "What more can producers do to get themselves out of this hole?"

Adam Marley (00:48:26):

Lucia Solis (00:48:26):
It's like, "They didn't put themselves there. They should do less. They should do...." That's a lot of... I think the misconception with my work is that I'm a fermentation designer. I work with producers. I like fermentation. I like to do more, but I really don't like complicated protocols. I try to make things as easy as possible. I try to reduce step like the lazy approach. I'm like, "How can we do the bare minimum? The smallest dose possible to get to a certain outcome?" I really don't like designing elaborate protocols because I don't think that's what's going to save coffee. To your point earlier in your introduction, I'm not interested in raising the ceiling. I'm interested in bringing the floor up. I like to work with coffees that are 78, 79, 80, and getting them over that hump. I'm not interested in turning your 87-point into a 90 plus coffee. That's not where I want to work. There are other people that do that and I'm glad they're doing that, but that's not what I'm interested in.

Adam Marley (00:49:33):
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I'm glad you reiterated that. Yeah. See, this is why I asked the question. I love that response. That wasn't the response I was thinking would come either. I think that patronizing is perfect. That little comment that came in is patronizing. It is a carryover of colonialism effectively as is the price in my opinion like this average price. That's one of the things that a lot of people have sometimes with us, like with Monastery, ripped me a little bit about how much effort we put into marketing. My response to that is if we market the coffee better, we can sell it for more and we can pay more for it. That's the whole point. It is not the producer's responsibility to be producing crazy CM coffees and stuff, and so we can pay them more.

Adam Marley (00:50:20):
We should sell the coffee better. We should get consumers willing to pay more for it because they should because it deserves more money. Then, just nothing else changes. The quality's the same and the producer receive more money like this, but the way we achieve that is by communicating that to consumers. It's just like, "Yeah. Coffee's really cheap. It shouldn't be. You've been getting away with it for 100 years." But no longer, it can't keep going like that. I think the empower... I really liked your comment there on the usage of empower. I think we need more terminology and better usage of terminology, which is more clear. Also, that terminology being developed and established with people that aren't just white men in consuming countries because that's going to color those word choices. Yeah. That power dynamic is true, and it's obvious in that word choice. Thank you for pointing that out. That's very true.

Lucia Solis (00:51:27):
I do want to say something about... Your question is really like, "What can roasters do to be helpful?"

Adam Marley (00:51:33):

Lucia Solis (00:51:34):
I think a really helpful question would be, "What is the cost of production? Do you know what it cost to produce that coffee?" A lot of producers don't know their cost of production. That is a helpful place to start to say, "How do we find that out? Who is doing this work?" I know Azahar is doing some of that work because it's really difficult to... It's very region dependent. Then, I think it's also cultural. I think a lot of the times, if you're looking at labor costs, you'd say, "Okay." A farmer could say, "I have X amount number of employees," but maybe they don't count themselves, or they don't count their family as part of that equation. There's some cultural things there as well, but I think it's not what should we be paying for coffee? It's like we don't even know what this costs in most of the world. I would like to see more of an effort in really good data, really good feedback from a bunch of people to say, "This is what it costs to produce coffee in this part of Mexico versus this part versus China versus Brazil."

Adam Marley (00:52:37):
Yeah. I can't remember what the acronym stands for, but there's COSA. I dropped off on paying attention to the information that they're putting out, but I think it was like center for something sustainability in agriculture. I can't remember. I clued onto it after an SCA, a Re:co Symposium talk from, I think the GM or one of the people there. I think that was their focus was... I think it's an NGO. I'm saying I think a lot, because it was a long time ago that I was checking them out, but that was their focus was working with producers in multiple different places to try and help them work out what actually are their cost of production. That was something that they were focusing on, but there needs to be more than just one group of people working on it like that.

Adam Marley (00:53:26):
Yeah. I think going back to answering the question, what can roasters do? But also, one, check themselves and two, tell other roasters to check themselves. It's like holding your colleagues accountable, pointing out when they're being patronizing and colonial. Everyone that's watching this, you have free reign to do that to me whenever I do it, please. I'm going to do it. Please make sure you tell me when I'm doing it. Another question was... We've got six minutes. We've got six minutes. Did you want to talk about those things, or do you want to keep going through the questions?

Lucia Solis (00:54:12):
I totally forgot what it was. [inaudible 00:54:12] to me answering the last question. It's totally okay.

Adam Marley (00:54:12):
Okay. Interrupt when it comes. You can just ignore me and I'll softball question, just so you can be concentrating on trying to remember those, but if you had... This is a little bit gimmicky, but I thought it might be really useful for producers that are watching that find this video. If you had one tip... Obviously, we're going to have to generalize a little bit here, because we're not taking into account specific situations. If you had one tip for producers, millers, beneficiaries to implement tomorrow to improve consistency and/or quality, what would it be?

Lucia Solis (00:54:54):
I actually do. This is a really easy answer that I can generalize and say in every single beneficial that I've ever visited, it's never been clean enough to my standards of coffee being a food product and treated like a food product. Whenever I go into a mill, I could do a bit of an audit and usually there's a lot of room for improvement in terms of if they have concrete tanks, just piling them, that make it easier to clean. If it's completely open air, putting up some walls, putting up nets, so that we prevent leaves, dirt-

Adam Marley (00:55:34):

Lucia Solis (00:55:34):
Birds, insects, anything flying in. The biggest tip to improve your quality, I would say is stop letting animals into this facility. I see so many romanticized pictures of farm dogs and cat, and just all of these things that are adorable pictures, but we're not giving coffee the dignity of a food product that we eat. I think this is actually... I remember the thing that I wanted to say. One of the things that I didn't get to mention in the other IG Live with Scott Rao was that I think that we have this disconnect where we're being so precise in roasting and so precise in brewing and really looking at the particle sides and water temperature and extraction curves and roast curves and all of that stuff, but when it comes to the raw material, we're very imprecise.

Lucia Solis (00:56:29):
I think about it like in the math concept of significant figures, it's like if we said two plus two is four, but we're saying two plus two is 4.0017813. You can't be more precise in your least precise number. We can't get way more precise over here. We're not, in the beginning, that we're doing with the beneficial, we're saying, "Oh, that's just the two," but then we're going way out here to 10 significant figures. I think that that is big hypocrisy that we have. We think that we can overcorrect if we just have the perfect brew or the perfect roast, and then the mill doesn't matter that much. I think that's changing a little bit, but I still think a lot of people think that way. I would recommend to all producers to take a look at your facility and say, "Is there more walls that I can put up a better lighting? Is there refinishing the floor? More drainage? Re-tiling your tank?"

Lucia Solis (00:57:28):
I'm a big fan of tile and plastic. I'm not a huge fan of stainless steel. I know that's very popular to use beer tanks or even wine tanks or fermentations or holding coffee. I don't like it because yes, it's easier to clean. Yes, I would rather you have a stainless steel tank than one made out of wood, but if you can do plastic, I think that would be better. Plastic has better thermal connectivity or... Sorry, a better insulator, whereas metal, you can lose a lot of heat. Our fermentations would change temperature more often. Then, sometimes when the material is so shiny, I've seen people get brand new tanks and think that there's something magical about the material and then they don't spend as much time cleaning it.

Adam Marley (00:58:13):
And not clean them.

Lucia Solis (00:58:15):
I would rather you have like a junky concrete tank that you can pressure wash-

Adam Marley (00:58:21):
That you clean. Yeah.

Lucia Solis (00:58:22):
... than a stainless steel tank that you never clean. Cleanliness is really overlooked, not just from the food product, but because every time the cherries or the parchment comes in contact with these surfaces, you're inoculating it with whatever's there and you don't know what it is. Those are huge sources of variability. It's really hard to replicate. A lot of times, when producer says, "We made this really great coffee. We got this incredible score. We loved it. We replicated. We did everything exactly the same and we couldn't get the same result the second time." The biggest point, I'm like, "Well, let's look at your tanks. Let's look at your cleanliness. Let's look at the water that you're using," because those are really big barriers to reproducibility.

Adam Marley (00:59:06):
Yeah. Yeah. I think that's a great takeaway tip. I like how it's simple, but also not something that people are going to want to hear. No one likes cleaning, but it's like, "Sorry, you have to do it." It's like, "You have to do it."

Lucia Solis (00:59:24):
It's the most boring thing. Most of the time, people are like, "Yeah. What do I do?" I'm like, "You need walls. Let's put some walls up. That would be excellent."

Adam Marley (00:59:33):
Yeah. Yeah. I like that. That's a perfect single tip to improve quality and consistency from day one. We have one minute left, it looks like before Instagram's going to cut us off. If you do remember what those other things were, then throw them in the comment section for people so they can refer back to, but I just want to say-

Lucia Solis (00:59:56):
No, I think we're good.

Adam Marley (00:59:58):
Yeah. Okay. Cool. I just want to say on behalf of myself and everyone else that is watching this now and going to be able to watch it in the future or refer back to it, thank you so much for your time, Lucia and your knowledge. This was an amazing experience. I'm not kidding when I said I'm going to go back and re-watch everything to make sure I didn't miss anything because I feel like it's just like an hour of concentrated, useful practical knowledge in lots of different areas. Yeah. Thank you so much. I can't say thank you enough for that. The coffee community, in general, I think is benefiting from having access to your experiences and your viewpoints on these things, and of course, your expertise and knowledge. I'd like to... Some housekeeping stuff for people, This will be on Monastery Coffee's IGTV.

Adam Marley (01:00:43):
If people can refer back to it whenever they want, they can share it with their friends. I also highly encourage people to, of course, start listening to... Subscribe to Lucia's podcast, Making Coffee. It's absolutely amazing. It's my go-to podcast. I'd like to say it's enjoyable to listen to. It's not just about the information, but it's actually enjoyable to listen to as well. Because sometimes, there's some really good information in podcasts and you're like, "Oh, my God. I can't listen to this," because it's just drowning on or something, but it's always interesting. They're the perfect length. They're the right level of detail. Love them. Then, also for people who want to get more... Lucia and I mentioned it briefly, she did a IGTV like this with Scott Rao a couple of weeks ago, I think. That is on Scott's profile.

Adam Marley (01:01:30):
There's going to be some stuff in there that we didn't cover here. If people want to learn more stuff, then check that one out. But for people that want to get a little bit deeper, then I suggest going onto Lucia's website, luxia.coffee. That's L-U-X-I-A, .coffee and there's... I think you've got three videos now up there, don't you? You've got the cuppers, producers and webs and germs.

Lucia Solis (01:01:52):
And one is [crosstalk 01:01:52].

Adam Marley (01:01:52):
Yeah. Yeah. Basically, they're like lectures. They're a little bit more technical and detailed and for anyone, I think the cuppers one... Anyone who's representing the work of other people in the coffee industry should be watching that. The producers one, I found incredibly useful, incredibly interesting. Yeah. I highly recommend those videos for people to go and watch. You buy them, because Lucy's information is worth paying money for. Her knowledge is valuable. It wouldn't be available if it wasn't for people valuing it. I hope to encourage more of that, but yeah. Thank you. Thank you, Lucia.

Lucia Solis (01:02:33):
Thank you.

Adam Marley (01:02:35):

Lucia Solis (01:02:36):
[crosstalk 01:02:36]. It was fun.

Adam Marley (01:02:36):
Yeah. Yeah. It was fun for me. It was great. I was just learning and I'll be in touch about...

Lucia Solis (01:02:45):
I know you're still hoping to go to Australia one day. Fingers crossed.

Adam Marley (01:02:49):
Yeah. Yeah. I'll be in the future. Yeah.

Lucia Solis (01:02:51):
You'll be in the future.

Adam Marley (01:02:53):
Yeah. Our borders will be opening soon enough hopefully. Then, yeah. I'll be in touch privately about stuff for Uganda for our next harvest. Absolutely.

Lucia Solis (01:03:02):
Sounds good.

Adam Marley (01:03:04):
Yeah. All right.

Lucia Solis (01:03:06):

Adam Marley (01:03:06):
Nice to see you. Bye, and bye everyone. Thanks for tuning in.