How to Select a Good Cascara?
Cascara, meaning ‘skin’ or ‘husk’ in Spanish, is the outer peel of the coffee cherry (berry). In biological terms, we can say that cascara contains exocarp and mesocarp. The mesocarp contains a lot of pectins and small sugars while exocarp contains mostly polyphenols. It was for a long time a by-product of coffee production. Today, cascara has an added value as food and food ingredient.
The classic use of this by-product is infusion in hot water, but you can now find it as flour. It can then be used in flour blends to add colour, fibres and caffeine.
So, cascara is becoming popular and we expect in the next few years a big increase of its consumption. Why? Simply because Starbucks is launching a cascara latte. They will make cascara a trendy product.
Now, the most important part of this brief article:
How can I choose a safe cascara ?
1. First of all, you MUST choose an organic certified cascara or prove that no contaminants such as pesticides are present.
2. Moulds are the most critical control point, so OTA analyses MUST be performed on each lot.
3. Storage conditions are important. Water content and relative humidity MUST be monitored during storage in the warehouses. Water activity would be a good analysis, but it is not so common in the coffee lab.
How can I choose a good organoleptic cascara ?
I have tried dozens of cascara from all the part of the world. The following considerations are only personal consideration and are probably only my truth. Nevertheless, I have tried to analyze objectively all these cascaras and correlate with the different processes.
Here are some points I found important for good organoleptic quality:
1. Whole coffee cherries were always better than the ground ones. It looks that whole cherries contains more sugars and infuse less polyphenols. Better balanced products were found with whole coffee cherries.
2. Cascaras from washed process were better judged than the natural process and even the honey process. The depulping step in washed process keeps more mucilage on the cherry skin than the honey process and natural process. This mucilage contains high sugar content and fermentation occurs rapidly. This fermentation creates a lot of fruity characteristics and gives the best flavour profile.
3. Cascaras from natural process contain a lot of parchment residues that gives unwanted tonalities during infusion.
To summarize, the best cascara should be the ones coming from organic certified coffee and well dried after washed process. Strong floral and fruity flavours must be present. No off-flavours must be perceived.
To give you an indication, the best cascaras I have tasted came from Central America (Honduras, El Salvador), but I am sure that everyone producing washed coffee can produce good cascara. They just need Good Manufacturing Practices that are not as trivial as everyone think.
I am really trying to push this product as it is a clever way to add value to coffee by-product.
Coffee and beverage expert, SCA Authorized trainer & certifier (Barista, Brewing and Roasting modules). Coffeologue training by Coffee Consulate in Mannheim. Consultant for coffee expertise for several international companies.
R&D and Quality manager, specialist in process optimization and global quality management (ISO22000, FSSC) with strong operational experience in Europe, Africa and Middle-East. Strong competences in project and team management (Black Belt Lean Six Sigma). I am working today in process optimization, starting with coffee pods/capsules production using DMAIC methodology. I am also very active for the overall training program within the SCA Swiss chapter.
My last successful project in the coffee industry is the creation of “L’Académie du Café” in Geneva where people can learn all aspects of the fantastic coffee world. All SCA modules, latte art and specific roasting and cuptasting trainings are now available. There is, today, a strong need to learn coffee like we learned wine and wine tasting in the past decade.
Expertises: Barista, Brewing, Roasting, Espresso, BlackBelt Lean Six Sigma, ISO22000:2005 FSSC, Beverage technology, Quality Assurance, Analytical chemistry, Sensory Analysis and Statistics, Quality Control, Coffee Technology, Flavour Microencapsulation.