Mario Fernández of CQI talks flavour development at Knowledge Talks

Mario Fernández, Technical Director at the Coffee Quality Institute (CQI), has wrapped up the 12thinstalment of Toby’s Estate’s Knowledge Talks.

Mario travelled to Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne from 23 to 28 August, talking to audience members about different processing methods, microbial inoculation in coffee fermentation, the development of fruity characteristics in natural coffees, and CQI’s Q Processing program.

In his first visit to Australia, Mario challenged audience perspectives on how different processing methods affect the chemical composition of coffee.

“There are some flavours exclusive to some processing methods,” Mario said.  “Flavour comes from chemical compounds. If we change the chemical composition it will affect the flavour of the bean and end cup profile.”

In washed coffee, Mario said the impact on coffee flavour is obtain through microbial activity during fermentation, where microbial metabolites diffuse into the beans and are later transformed into flavour volatiles generated during bean roasting.

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He also discussed how different microbial groups can play a different role in flavour formation.

In washed process for example, lactic acid bacteria plays a role in accumulation of lactic acid, acetic acid and mannitol in the bean. In natural process, wild yeast produces gluconic acid and sugar alcohols, which acetic acid bacteria consumes, and in the natural process, alcohol from yeast takes part in fruity flavour formation.

“Innoculation alters the natural balance of microbial populations. The resulting flavour may be better, worse, or the same,” Mario said.

Mario talked about the role of fermentation and bacteria, and spoke about the advances in the understanding flavour formation in natural coffees, such as red fruit, winey, non-fruity, dried fruity, tropical fruity and fungal.

Through his role at CQI, Mario has also helped develop its new Q Processing Program, which aims to improve coffee quality, starting at ground level. Already 222 people have enrolled for the Q Processing courses. Sixty-one people have completed level one, and 118 professionals have completed level two. As much as the course is about investment in skills, Mario says it allows the industry at large to gather solid data to advance production procedures.

Mario Fernández of Coffee Quality Institute with the Toby’s Estate team at Knowledge Talks.

“There’s millions of people processing coffee around the world, but none of us when to university to learn the skill. Many of us don’t know what we’re doing,” he said. “The reason we have Q Professing is so that the ‘know-how’ can filter through to processing countries and cascade down the same way Q Graders have been adopted by industry professionals and baristas around the world,” Mario said.

In Colombia, Mario said CQI is currently working on a project to develop accessible processing training for up to 12,000 farmers who can’t read or write. The information will be condensed into a one-day, hands-on training session to help producers adapt to processing skills and methods, which can then be applied to any given country.

“Coffee is so complex. There is nothing consistent in coffee, so we really don’t know how something will work unless we give it a try,” Mario said.

“My approach to farmers is to get to know your farm better and get to know your output and machinery. Through CQI, we encourage students to think by themselves and consider their own conditions as deeply as possible.

Coffee always provides me wrong, and it will prove you wrong too.”

All proceeds from the ticket sales of Knowledge Talks will be donated to the Las Nubes Daycare and Afterschool-Learning Centre. The centre supports the education of over 40 children aged between three and 12 in the coffee community of Acatenango.

On a daily basis the centre provides much needed education, nutritional meals and a safe and nurturing environment while allowing the parents to continue working or to complete their education.

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