As coffee cherries come from the field the same day that they are picked, they move into Aquiares’ wet mill. The farm produces fully washed coffees, honey processed coffees and naturals. This natural lot has been floated for density (with all floaters being removed) and then immediately moved to the farm's solar dryer patios (large greenhouse with ceramic floors) for pre-drying. After 2-3 days of pre-drying on the ceramic floors, they are moved to the farm’s raised beds, also in the covered greenhouse, where they slowly dry for around 10 days. Finally, the beans are placed in A mechanical drying in Guardiola for 1 day to complete the process.
Although Guardiolas are common in this wet, humid area of Costa Rica, the Robleos are always searching for new ways to innovate in processing and drying. For instance, they knew that drying was one of their main challenges in producing speciality coffee – particularly as they wanted to start producing honey and natural lots. According to Diego Robelo, “Everyone told us we were crazy. You are never going to make honeys and naturals in Turrialba. We decided to prove them wrong.”
The Robelos sourced a greenhouse from a neighbour in the region who had been producing roses and built drying beds according to specifications gleaned from other producers. After the first lots were dried in the greenhouse, thermometers and humidity gauges still showed a great deal of temperature fluctuation depending on time of day and weather. In order to create a constant and even temperature in the greenhouse they installed an airflow system connected to their guadiola system (used for commercial lots). Now, dry air of around 36 degrees Celsius circulates throughout the greenhouse, maintaining an even temperature. The new system works well, helps increase the drying capacity of the greenhouse and reduces variability in lots. Diego and his quality control team consider these steps just the first in perfecting processing at the farm.