In Pursuit of the Perfect Cup

True Essence Foods Flavor Balancing™ Enhances Coffee Bean Value and Increases Cupping Scores

The companies responsible for bringing the world its favorite beverage face significant challenges. Shifting growing conditions due to climate change, post-pandemic labor shortages, and worldwide price and supply volatility are disrupting the coffee industry in new and formidable ways. And while customers’ palates become more discriminating, profit margins grow tighter.

The fiscal squeeze has been felt across the entire value chain. Coffee retailers have passed on price hikes to customers to stay solvent, but raising the cost of a latte isn’t a long-term solution, yet the thirst for coffee remains strong. In the U.S. alone, people drink 1.87 cups per day.

According to 2022 USDA data, the more coveted arabica accounted for 54% of coffee being produced annually, with robusta trailing at 43%. But climate change is making the production of arabica more difficult for farmers, compared to the aptly named robusta, which is more resilient to the threat of disease and heat.

So what can be done? How can the coffee industry stay competitive as they recover from a global pandemic and manage climate change on top of their typical business challenges?

At True Essence Foods, the solution lies in enhancing the beans’ desirable flavors and aromas making them more valuable and marketable through our proprietary solution, Flavor Balancing™. This non-additive process actually improves the quality of coffee beans by enhancing positive flavor notes and removing undesirable ones.

As a result, coffee industry professionals — from growers tending plants to brokers and roasters — have more control over the quality and value of their products.

The Flavor Balancing coffee study

Running the test

Flavor Balancing is designed to remove off-flavors that emerge as the result of fermentation. The rapid, mechanical process can be applied to any fermented product, resulting in an enhanced flavor profile while leaving the character intact. In early 2023, to validate the effect of Flavor Balancing on the flavor profile of various coffee products, we invited three third-party Q graders from Coffee Enterprises, Coffee Lab and PodPack to test 330 coffee samples using Flavor Balancing.

The 330 samples represented:

  • Five coffee origins: Vietnam, Brazil, Colombia, Peru and Mexico
  • Commercial and specialty-grade beans
  • Both green and roasted beans
  • 10 different Flavor Balancing process conditions, plus control

The same test was repeated for each of the three independent certified Q graders.

Analyzing the results

The Q graders’ cupping scores were markedly positive. Desirable characteristics advanced across all varieties, achieving an average increase of 1.7 points per variety. In addition, the Flavor Balanced beans had fewer off-flavors.

One of the most exciting results came when Flavor Balancing was applied to a typically bitter robusta from Vietnam. Its score shot up by a whopping 4.25 points, and flavors notes included increased sweetness, body and acidity compared to the control group.

Q graders reported the following cupping notes when they tested the robusta:

  •  “The dirty and earthy flavors normal for a robusta are being toned down resulting in a better grade of overall flavor.”
  • “Cocoa notes. Loses typical Robusta aroma. Smooth high bitter/sweet, full body. Baker’s chocolate notes.”
  • “Samples had a pleasant presence of vanilla that was not noted in the control.”
  • “The sample had minor attribute differences and greater [sweetness].”

Plus, a Colombian variety whose control bean scored below 80 scored above 80 once it was Flavor Balanced. In essence, Flavor Balancing elevated the bean from commercial status to specialty-grade quality.

“The dirty and earthy flavors normal for a robusta are being toned down resulting in a better grade of overall flavor.”

Major benefits for the coffee industry

What these kinds of results can mean for players in the coffee industry is greater sustainability, less volatility, greater profitability and a competitive edge.

Consider how Flavor Balancing can expand the possibilities for robusta beans, which are easier to grow and less expensive to purchase than arabica. Because Flavor Balancing can make robusta beans taste better, blended coffees can have a greater proportion of robusta beans, relative to the current Blend After Roasting (BAR) approach, while maintaining flavor quality. Therefore, coffee innovators can develop new products. This new way of thinking about and using robusta has the potential to give farmers more flexibility in what they grow and decrease the cost to produce marketable coffee products.

Flavor Balancing has value for artisanal roasters as well, who can use the technology to fine tune their recipes according to the flavor they want a bean variety to achieve on a weekly or even daily basis. By adjusting their Flavor Balancing recipes, they can modify sweetness, acidity or body as needed while they decrease any existing off-flavors.

One such roaster is Jillion Potter, Co-Founder of Helm Coffee in Indianapolis. She has experimented with Flavor Balancing in the processing of Helm’s canned nitro coffee.

“True Essence has an opportunity for innovation at the farm level, working with farmers to save harvests affected by pests and harsh weather conditions. The technology can take these beans and give farmers the opportunity to still sell a product and make a living,” Potter says.  

Indeed, Flavor Balancing can essentially rescue beans that would otherwise be devalued or discarded altogether. The technology paves a way for more sustainable production practices.

Get started with Flavor Balancing

While attempts to manage and optimize coffee qualities such as sweetness, acidity and body have fallen short in the past, Flavor Balancing is poised to break down this barrier to better flavor.

What this new technology can bring to the coffee industry is less volatility and a greater competitive edge. Through Flavor Balancing, bean quality improves, the value of the bean increases, and control over these variables can be better managed.

Coffee industry innovators are seeking new ways to manage the dynamic changes they face on a daily basis. Flavor Balancing can be part of their plans.

Learn how Flavor Balancing can benefit you by letting us process a sample of your beans. Contact us to learn more and get started.

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