At each stage of coffee production, from harvesting cherries to the production of roasted beans, there are meticulous steps taken to ensure that what ends up in the cup tastes great every time. This is the process of coffee quality control. To get some insight into why quality control in coffee production is so important and find out what it takes to actually do it, we chatted with Lavazza Australia's National Training Manager John, about what factors are involved, and what the Lavazza quality checking process looks like.
John compares the process behind coffee quality control to that of preparing a restaurant meal. Once you have a successful recipe that people like, “you can't just buy all random stuff all the time and expect it to taste the same”. “You’ve got to get consistency,” he says.
Just like different flour won’t make the same cake, differences along every step of a coffee bean’s cultivation and production can alter the taste and quality of its brew. Further, John says since coffee is a natural product, even if you are sourcing your beans from the same place year after year, outside factors can affect the end result.
Bean density, moisture content, bean size, colour and checking for defects are among the strict physical tests that can be placed on coffee once the cherries are stripped of their flesh. The cultivar, growing altitude, climate, soil chemistry, surrounding natural environment, harvesting and processing methods all play a role in how the coffee grows and contribute to how it will eventually taste.
As John says, consistency at every stage increases your chances of getting a consistent tasting blend time and time again.
Once the beans are harvested and carefully processed, they are then ready to start the long journey to the countries where they will be lucky enough to be roasted and enjoyed. Logistical conditions the green beans endure must also be carefully considered: the temperature, humidity, how they are stored and the time it takes to arrive at the roastery are all very important factors in coffee quality control at this stage.
An independent laboratory in Italy is also engaged to objectively conduct quality tests on different lots of Lavazza’s green beans. In Italy, there is no option but to meet or exceed these industry quality standards.
In light of how much coffee we go through at Lavazza every year, John says, “everything must go through rigorous and strict coffee quality control testing.” This is where cupping, a process of repeatedly tasting coffees for differences and impurities is used. At Lavazza, our professional coffee tasters are cupping every single day to ensure the sensory profile of the coffee we have purchased is exactly where we need it to be and no less. The beans also go through further tests which include: destoning, metal detector, densimetric and electronic selection, screening for size and manual selection.
Then, the moment of magic. The roaster takes the raw green coffee, specific for each blend and transforms it through a curated roast profile. In this stage, coffee undergoes huge chemical and physical transformations, where flavours and aromas are developed.
At Lavazza, assuring quality control in coffee production is always a priority. Even the packaging, purchased from certified providers, goes through 11 specific tests to make sure the beans stay at their best while on the way to their final destination. Finally, once the product is packaged and generously flushed with nitrogen, the first in first out policy helps to ensure quality is well protected until it arrives at the consumer.
The coffee soon arrives in the hands of the passionate Lavazza consumer who will take their chosen brewing device and make a coffee. This very last step is where quality control must also be respected to achieve excellent cup quality. Globally, the Lavazza Training Centre trains thousands of people annually to help educate them on how to make beautiful Lavazza espresso.