Understanding and Improvement of Coffee Fermentation

Coffee is one of the largest commodities in the world. Many farmers, e.g. in Kenya, Africa, completely depend on the cultivation of coffee for their living. Unfortunately, coffee producers worldwide are facing a lot of issues. Not understanding fermentation of their own product, not being able to fully adapt to climate change and its consequences not only to harvest but also to processing, and not making a living income of coffee production. Kenyan coffee production specifically is trending downwards, seeing three decades of decline in coffee production and export. This Kenyan production and export decline is accompanied by a decrease in coffee quality with lower quality scores and a shorter shelf-life in flavour consistency, where the flavour ages more quickly. To alleviate this decline, local producers often resort to high risk experiments with fermentation to receive higher prices. Unfortunately, since these experiments are performed without knowledge, the resulting product is often of lower quality, or tastes of vinegar, and could potentially be a food safety risk.

This project is aimed at forming a consortium that will perform a feasibility study to elucidate the process of coffee fermentation and its influence on coffee quality. To this end, two site visits to a local coffee production area in Kenya, Africa are foreseen where fermentation samples will be taken for microbial analysis. The microbial data will be combined with a general analysis of flavour compounds and linked to coffee quality. This provisional insight will serve as the starting point for future work where the focus will be on directing coffee fermentation to ensure constant quality output. Constant coffee quality will enable a stable income for coffee farmers not only in Kenya, but the knowledge can be applied worldwide. In addition, less coffee will be lost due to failed quality parameters.