Kopi Luwak is an Indonesian coffee made with coffee beans that are retrieved from the feces of an animal called the civet, then washed, sun-dried, and lightly roasted. Civet coffee is one of the world's most sought after and most expensive coffees.
Is It A Weasel Or Cat? The Answer is Neither!
Civets are not related to weasels or cats, as some believe. The endangered Philippine civet species is classified as Paradoxorus Philippinensis.
In Sumatra the civet is in the family Viverridae. One of the most numerous types of civets on civet coffee farms is the Asian palm Civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus).
Pre-Digested Coffee Beans – A Quick Overview
As the coffee cherry pass through the animal's digestive tract, the outer fruit, or mucilage, is mostly digested. Then the beans are expelled, and coffee farmers collect and process them to sell locally or on the gourmet coffee market.
A very limited supply of civet coffee is available each year, and some claim that much of the coffee marketed as civet coffee is not. Wild-collected civet coffee is known for its smooth flavor profile and aroma, perhaps because civets tend to pick just the sweetest and ripest red coffee cherry (fruit) to feed upon.
Farm-raised civets may be fed hand-picked cherry so the coffee bean quality may also be different. Videos have emerged documenting caged civets with skin lesions and other maladies due to being fed only coffee beans in an attempt to harvest more coffee, leading to malnutrition and health problems. Aside from being cruel abuse, these coffees are generally inferior to the ones harvested from the wild due to a ruined digestive system.
Chemical Changes in Civet Coffee Beans
Research has shown that enzymes in the civet's digestive tract cause certain chemical processes to occur on the coffee beans' surface and also within the porous coffee beans.
Specific proteins that normally give coffee a bitter taste are broken down by the enzymes, resulting in a naturally less bitter coffee bean, thus less roasting is required, and this allows the coffee's notable highlights to shine through.
Processing of Kopi Luwak – Civet Coffee
Civet coffee farmers wash the coffee beans, dry them in the sun, and then give them a light roasting to preserve the coffee's complex flavors. This processing, as well as the civet's stomach enzymes, are said to eliminate any bacterial contaminants such as E. Coli.
Civet Coffee Farming Regions and Coffee Plant Varietals
Sumatra is the largest producer of Kopi Luwak and it is made primarily from Arabica coffee plants (the varietal Coffea arabica var. arabica). Some Sumatra coffee farms produce farmed civet coffee by constraining the civets within defined boundaries while other produce wild civet coffee.
Civet Coffees from Around the Globe
Civet Coffee is produced by various countries including:
More Informative Civet Coffee Information:
The Asian Palm Civet;
and Jacu Bird Coffee.
Kopi Luwak Coffee and Espresso Brewing Tips
To brew the perfect cup of coffee see our section on Brewing Civet Coffee and also our tips for Coffee Brewing in general. At the high prices of this coffee ($10-$20/cup), it becomes particularly important that all steps in the coffee making process are done properly to enjoy it to the maximum extent. Coffee beans should be fresh roasted no more than a week prior, and ground only minutes before being used. The correct grind should be used for whatever brewing method, and paper filters should never be used, which would remove the essential oils. Ensure your equipment is thoroughly cleaned prior to brewing. Water temperature and contact time should be measured as accurately as possible.
The Espresso Coffee Guide also provides detailed coffee taste profiles of all the best coffees from around the world.
To brew an amazing, hearty and aromatic shot of espresso see Pulling A Perfect Espresso Shot and How to make Lattes and Cappuccinos, then check out the detailed instructions in our Espresso Drink Recipes.
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