Wilton Benitez of Granja Paraiso 92

Meet the mastermind behind the coffee processing technique called Thermal Shock and the most advanced farm in Colombia in terms of biotechnology

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Read our blog post on Thermal Shock

Wilton Benitez first developed his processing method labelled “Thermal Shock”, while he was in charge of R&D and production at Finca El Paraiso, before perfecting it and improving it in his very own project Granja Paraiso 92.

Read in this page the story of Wilton Benitez and the explanation of his Thermal Shock  process.

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Wilton Benitez of Granja Paraíso 92, the inventor of Thermal Shock

In 2019 his coffee set a new record for the international auction price of Colombian coffee. Since then, his coffees are making a big splash worldwide. His farm now accounts more than thirty awards and prizes in specialty coffee. For instance, in 2022 his Orange Bourbon won two gold medal at the Australian Coffee Awards, namely for Best Single-origin Espresso and for Best Micro Lot (2022 Results of the Australian International Coffee Awards)

Coffee producer. Innovator. Chemist. Alchemist by hobbie. Visionary. Roaster. Q processor. Non-certified cupper. The brain behind the world-known process Thermal Shock is not only the pioneer of applying this technique into coffee processing, but he is also one of the most forward looking minds in Colombian coffee.

The tireless Wilton can be found competing in an aeropress festival, growing bacterias at his laboratory or cupping in a national competition.

A one-of-a-kind coffee experience that blows everyone away. Not a coincidence some folks get trapped into the dark side of coffee after trying Granja Paraiso 92’s coffees.

Wilton’s coffees are characterised by an hyper-focused, vivid and subtle explosion of flavours that get everyone’s perplexed and excited about how coffee can taste. The coffee experience he brings to the table is supported by years of experience, research and a devotion that only true innovators have.

The coffee beans produced by Wilton seem to rescue all the aromas of the fruits and flowers of the diverse, volcanic and tropical region of Cauca. More than transforming coffee, Wilton creates unique coffee beans that have the capacity to bring out the full genetic potential of each plant.

Every day, new microorganisms are studied meticulously in his laboratory so he can keep pushing the boundaries of what is possible and makes everyone able to feel an explosion of happiness, the kind of happiness that we all need from time to time in life, the kind that is simple and profound around a cup of coffee.

Granja Paraiso 92, one of the most innovative and forward looking farms in Colombia

Located in the area of Piendamó, Cauca, Colombia at an altitude between 1700 and 1900 masl, Granja Paraiso 92 is a family farm that uses highly innovative farming systems such as terraces, drip irrigation, shading and laboratory nutrition count aimed to produce a unique coffee. Granja Paraiso 92 has a processing plant, a microbiology lab and a quality lab.

With more than 26+ years being a coffee grower and 16+ years of experience with specialty coffee, Wilton is able to produce coffees through different processes such as Washed, Natural, Honey as well Anaerobic coffees (both single and double fermentation).

With a lifetime of experience in the cupping, growing and production of specialty coffees, having the chance to chat with Wilton is an opportunity not to be missed!

Browse the coffee portfolio of Wilton Benitez Granja Paraiso 92 and order samples online

Orange Bourbon

Java

Pink Bourbon

Sidra

Typica

Gesha

Sudanrumé

Caturra

Red Bourbon

SL28

Processing and coffee quality

Recently, specialty coffee consumers demonstrated a growing interest in the exploration of new and increasingly exotic flavors, and their curiosity demands innovation on the part of the industry.

The quality of coffee depends on a wide array of factors, such as the variety grown, the environmental conditions in which the plants are cultivated, the agronomic management of the crop and the state of maturity of the cherries at the time of harvest.

Still, it is the processing method used in coffee production that largely determines the quality of the final beverage. Remember that coffee fermentation is not the same as processing, as you can read here, together with other things you might not know about coffee fermentation.

Experimental processes are relatively new but have promoted a constant improvement in the sensory characteristics of coffees. For instance, Lactic Acid Fermentation is recently growing to be the focus of coffee processes as research reveals it may be linked to certain important attributes of the coffee in the cup. Research shows that it is undoubtedly the key to achieve high quality and signature coffees with unique flavors.

Innovative methods require constant research, standardization and replicability in order to maintain the quality and traceability of the differentiated coffees required by the market. It is in these context that Wilton Benitez developed the thermal shock processing technique several years ago and has since devoted himself in continuously improving it and ensuring the replicability and consistency of the quality of his coffees throughout different harvests.

What is Thermal Shock and how does it work?

We asked Wilton to explain us his acclaimed thermal shock method, and in the following we summarize some of the key points that emerged from our conversation with him.

First of all, Wilton tells us that thermal shock is not a processing method in itself, as can be for instance the usual triad of Natural, Washed and Honey coffees, whose differences we have already explained in our blog post here.

Rather, thermal shock is one more step in the processing of coffee. Thermal shock, as the name suggests, consists of exposing the coffee mass to a succession of high and low temperatures.

Wilton explains that this can be considered similar to the blanching process used in the seafood and vegetable industries, or even in the fermentation process of vanilla.

The process has two phases. The first can be carried out in two ways that both require hot water. One option is using steam to expose the beans at higher temperature; the other one consists of immersing the grains in boiling water. The former has the drawback that it requires the use of specialized machinery with the related increasing costs and investment; the latter must be carried out in controlled conditions (temperature and duration of the process) to avoid burning the beans.

Subsequently, the second phase consists of lowering the temperature of the coffee mass, which is achieved by immersing the coffee in cold water, which can be achieved either with ice or with water at room temperature.

The resulting effect of this process is that the coffee mass is sterilized and homogenized, which prepares it for the subsequent inoculation of specific microorganisms in the fermentation phase. In this way, fermentation and the propagation of desirable microorganisms are encouraged. Additionally, this process ensures high quality as well as replicability of the process.

Thermal shock vs. Other processing methods and its impact on the attributes in the cup

According to Wilton, this technique is just the initial stage of the following processing method and differs from others to the extent that thermal shock permits to improve the subsequent fermentation of the coffee, since the molecules that are the precursors of the aromas and flavours are modified with the temperatures.

Thermal shock causes certain groups of bacteria to be either encouraged or eliminated, and after this stage the coffee grower can continue with the actual process (aerobic or anaerobic) that she normally uses on his farm. The shock inactivates or destroys enzymes such as catalase, peroxidase and pectinase that can hinder the life length of the bean. An indicator of a well-performed thermal shock process is obtained by laboratory analysis showing that these enzymes have disappeared.

By eliminating the action of these enzymes, the beans can retain their natural conditions for much longer as a consequence of the reduction of the oxidation processes, which in turn increases the shelf life of the coffee beans.

Another enhancement is the elimination of the chemical residue in the beans to minimum levels versus the high chemical load that comes from the field during its cultivation phase due to the use of fertilizers and other agricultural inputs.

Regarding the specific aromas and flavours that this technique can develop in the cup, Wilton highlights the exotic fruit and caramel flavors, greater sweetness and less astringency that can arise. However, he stresses, this always depends on the cultivar that is being process as well as the initial quality of the cherries.

His incredible experience is demonstrated by the fact that he is able to grow more than 20 different varietals, each one with a different processing protocol adapted for each variety and growing conditions. If you haven’t done it already, register now into our digital sourcing platform in order to browse Wilton’s coffees and order some samples of his excellent coffees.

What is needed to carry out Thermal Shock and what’s The Algorithm?

As we stated above, Wilton’s thermal shock recipe varies according to the specific cultivar that is being processed as well as the subsequent processing that will be applied, for instance whether it will a single or double fermentation.

As an example, however, here is a reference protocol that uses quite advanced technologies for a pulped coffee:

  1. Classification of the cherry by density and size
  2. Sterilization with ozone and ultraviolet (UV) rays
  3. First fermentation in cherry with selected microorganisms or bacteria are inoculated. Fermentation times and microbes are customized for each process and cultivar. For instance, the added microorganisms can be the same yeasts used in the fermentation of lager beer, wine, or they can be own strains cultivated on purpose in laboratory
  4. Pulping
  5. Second fermentation with the use of bioreactors under controlled and traceable conditions until the determined conditions of pH, Brix degrees and electrical conductivity are met, based on the reading of the densimeter
  6. Beans washing & Thermal shock (hot water then cold water)
  7. Removal of intracellular oxygen in the kernel will occur as a secondary effect of the thermal shock, which will produce an increase in density
  8. Uniform mechanical drying with temperature-controlled ecological equipment and recovery of released water
Granja Paraiso 92 Sterilization Ultra Violet

UV Sterilization. Courtesy: Wilton Benitez, Granja Paraiso 92.

Granja Paraiso 92 Classification of beans

Beans classification. Courtesy: Wilton Benitez, Granja Paraiso 92.

Granja Paraiso 92 Controlled Fermentation in bioreactors

Bioreactor for controlled fermentation. Courtesy: Wilton Benitez.

Granja Paraiso 92 Mechanical drying machine

Ecological mechanical drying. Courtesy: Wilton Benitez, Granja Paraiso 92.

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Read more on Thermal Shock in our blog post

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