Gakuyu-ini Coffee Factory is a 35 year old coffee factory in Central Province, Kirinyaga District in Kenya. The factory serves small-holder farmers from Githiru, Gituba and Gichugu Divisions and is a part of over fifty year old Thirikwa Farmers Co-operative Society Ltd. Thirikwa Coop has over 1600 members from which around 40% are women. Due to it’s large size the coop has built two extra collection centres for Gakuyu-ini factory. This has helped a great deal in reaching the more remote farms.
The farms reach altitudes around 1700 m.a.s.l. and cultivate mostly SL28 & 34 as well as some Ruiru11. The area collects most of its water supply between March-May when the long rains fall. There’s two harvest times with early harvest running from April to June and late harvest from October-December. During harvest times farmers hand pick the coffee cherries carefully when they reach the desired level of ripeness.
The farmers then deliver their cherries to the factory or the collection centres. Here the first step is sorting the and cleaning. A trained team separates the cherries according to their ripeness and color before moving them on to pulping. After pulping coffee cherries need to ferment for about 24 hours before washing and second fermentation cycle. All this is followed by another washing cycle and soaking before the squeaky clean beans hit the skin drying beds for one morning and from there to raised drying beds for about 8 to 12 days. The drying process is carefully controlled. Beans are covered for the night to avoid humidity and protected with shade nets during the hottest periods. Due to this impeccable standard of processing, flavor profiles of Kenyan coffees are as perceptible as anything we know.
Gakuyu-ini factory is making several initiatives in order to respond to raising awareness on the need to conserve the environment. Such as waste water soak pits that let the waste water to percolate back into the soil, usage of compost manure and planting new trees on their farms. The farmers pay a lot of attention to cultivation methods and try to avoid inorganic fertilisers by applying compost and farmyard manure.
Screen Sizing in Kenya
Grading Kenyan coffee beans is done by separating and rating them by bean size as well as shape, collar and density. This is all done with the general assumption being that bigger coffee beans are higher in quality.
There’s all together 13 grades for Kenyan coffee. But only 4 in which coffee most likely has the potential of being considered specialty; AA, AB, PB and E. AA grade consists of beans with no defects and no visual marks and the screen size of 18-19 mm. Consequently AB has the screen size of 16-17mm. PB means peaberry with one single coffee bean within the cherry rather than the usual two half beans. E (Elephant) graded beans consist of the largest Kenyan beans meeting the screen size of 20mm and have a genetic visual defect causing two beans to join in one cherry. When these beans part during processing there is a noticeable ear on each bean.