Experiments With Geisha Lot Separation — Brix, Cherry Morphology, Shade, and More

We received an email from our friends José and Ailenne Gallardo, of Finca Nuguo in Panama.

Already last year, the Gallardos were doing “extreme lot separation” by keeping each day’s lot separate and processing them all individually — whether by washing, by honey process, or by natural process.

These efforts paid off, of course. Finca Nuguo’s “Ju-Mix” geisha coffee won first place in the Best of Panama exotic washed category last year, coming out of nowhere as a previously unknown farm.

This year, José and Ailenne are narrowing things down even further. They are cupping the results as the harvest proceeds.

[OCN Concierge will be making a trip to visit Finca Nuguo and other Panama producers in March 2016. Click here if you would like us to procure a unique lot, designed specifically for you.]

Over Skype, José told us that he was surprised to find that the coffee with the highest Brix content did not necessarily correlate to the best-tasting coffee. Sweetness is very important, of course, but in such refined coffee with such great overall sweetness to begin with, it is not that surprising that the correlation between Brix and quality is not 1:1.

José writes:

Regarding the brix, in the picture P1060352 you can see three levels of ripeness (by eye it did look better than in the picture) lets call it “grape”, “red” and “pinton” I took the brix readings, with the following results

ripeness level                  brix readings

grape”                             17, 16, 14, 14, 14  (average 15)

“red”                                 12, 14, 12, 14, 11   (average 12.6)

“pinton”                            10, 13, 13, 12, 10   (average 11.6)

nuguo geisha ripeness brix

Only the first time I did got it in perfect order guided by the color, now there is some overlap (cherries with 13 brix in pinton color and cherries with 11 brix in “red” color) but the averages are in agreement with color level of ripeness.

Ailenne and José also performed a cupping of natural geishas from the Casa section of their farm, based on the shade levels and ripeness levels of the coffees. José reports to us these results:

Points.    Sun/shadow.  Ripeness.  
95.            Shadow.         Pinton.
93.25.      Shadow.          Red.
93.25.      Sun.                 Pinton.
93.           Shadow.          Over ripe.
92.5.        Sun.                  Red.
92.           Sun.                  Over ripe.
These points are average and are not calibrated, but Ailenne and I had shadow “pinton” (low ripeness) as the 1st position in this blind tasting

The geisha at Nuguo (as with many farms) is still stabilizing into recognizable strains. It’s not always easy to tell which is which, or how they ought to be categorized.

“Bronze tip” versus “Green tip” refers to the coloration at the ends of the leaves of each plant, especially the coloration of the newest growth each year. Some geisha plants exhibit bright green tips, and others show gold or metallic bronze looking tips (bronce in Spanish).

The Gallardos separated these out too:

Regarding the difference within what we think is “bronce tip” and what we think is “green tip” I taste 4 naturals from colubre and got the following
Points.  Sun/shadow.       Tip
94.75.     Shadow.              Bronce
94.5.        Shadow.             Green
94.25.       Sun.                   Bronce
93.75.       Sun.                  Green
Here, coffee under shadow yields higher points, but the tip doesn’t seem to be very relevant to my taste.  However, I still need Ailenne to taste this last 4 coffees.

Another morphological factor we are investigating is the effect of the bean shape on flavor. This is something we have been especially keen to learn for some time now, as you can read about in this post. There appears to be a correlation between shape and “wild” or “outlandish” flavor like that which has won the Best of Panama the last couple of years.

Here is the picture that José took of the bean shape categories he made, and his comment.

nuguo geisha separated by shape
Also, in the other picture you can see my best try to separate by shape: round (top line), elongated (middle line) and small (bottom line). If this experiment shows that elongated shape is better it will be really hard to get coffee for many pounds, because this grains are very few.
In about 3 weeks I should be able to taste the grains of today´s sampling.

As you can see, this is an ongoing process. Not every experiment will yield actionable results, but the Gallardos and Finca Nuguo are leaving no leaf unturned. This dedication and passion helps explain why the coffee has been such a world-beater.

We will continue to bring you the results of these tests and more in the future.

Prize-winning coffee from Nuguo is available here now.

[If you are interested in having special lots designed just for you by the Gallardos and other highly dedicated coffee farmers, let us know at OCN Concierge and we will begin working for you.]