Coffee beans grown on the Indonesian island of Sumatra produce a low-acid, mild-flavored coffee thanks to the wet-hulling production process.
In this review, we compare the three best Sumatran coffee beans to help you brew a delicious cup of coffee that is easy on the stomach.
Best Sumatran Coffee
Volcanica Sumatra Mandheling
Volcanica’s Sumatra Mandheling variety is medium roasted for plenty of full, mild flavor. This coffee variety is fair trade certified and rainforest alliance certified, so you can be certain you are purchasing a sustainable product.
Where is Sumatra coffee from? Sumatra Mandheling is grown in the high forests of Indonesia. This shade grown coffee crop was begun in the early 19th century as an understory crop in the high tropical rainforests.
Mandheling refers to the tribal name of the people that originally harvested the coffee.
Mandheling produces an earthy brew with a hint of sweetness. Because Sumatran coffee has such a low acid content, the deeper flavors of the coffee bean become more pronounced.
It should be noted that fresh roasted coffee beans have their own sweet, nutty flavor, and the wet-hulling process lets this flavor shine through.
The wet-hulling process is critical to the unique flavor of Sumatran coffee and specific to the region. While many coffee growers dry the bean first, this can be a challenge in Sumatra due to the Indonesian climate and the location of the coffee trees.
High in the tropical areas of Indonesia, getting consistent sunlight to beans and maintaining a low enough humidity level to enable the beans to dry can be nearly impossible.
Related | Best Flavored Coffee Beans
Sumatra Gayo Peaberry Coffee
Volcanica Gayo Peaberry beans are certified organic and as a fair trade product offer a living wage to the coffee producer.
They’re available in a medium roast and can be purchased in a variety of formats including whole bean as well as grinds from espresso to French Press.
Be prepared for a rich flavor with a hint of clove and cardamom.
At the northern tip of Sumatra, the Gayo Peaberry bean grows in the cloud canopy of the Ache province. These coffee trees thrive at between 4500 and 6000 feet above sea level.
These beans, grown in the rich moisture found in extreme high humidity, offer a stronger acidity at the heart of the bean.
If you enjoy a strong bite in your coffee but can no longer tolerate the acidity found in dry-hulled coffee beans, this product may be for you.
The flavor comes from the soil and the skin removal process. Because the coffee is processed in the region where the bean is picked, the wet-hulling process is used almost exclusively in this region of high humidity and constant moisture.
The rich volcanic soils and extremely moist conditions of the region result in a plump coffee bean, and the wet-hulling process preserves the rich, fruity flavor prior to roasting.
Sumatran Mocha Java Coffee Blend
This blend offers coffee fans the chance to enjoy the sharp and bitter tang of dry-hulled coffee with a hint of fruity sweetness found in Sumatran coffee.
The Mocha Java Coffee Blend as offered by Out of the Grey Coffee is a blend of beans grown in Ethiopia and Sumatra.
These beans are each processed in the region they’re picked, so the dry-hulled Ethiopian coffee beans with a strong coffee-flavored edge and the wet-hulled Sumatran beans, loaded with mild fruit flavor are combined before roasting.
This 100% organic bean blend is medium roasted to bring out the best flavor of both bean varieties. You can purchase this coffee in whole bean as well as a wide variety of grinds, from French Press to drip all the way to espresso and a very fine Turkish coffee grind.
The first coffee commercially produced was grown and dried in the region now known as Yemen at the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula.
The second commercial coffee center was developed by the Dutch on the islands of Indonesia. When you drink Mocha Java Coffee Blend, you’re drinking history as well as the best of both worlds.
Roasting and Brewing Sumatran Coffee
Because Sumatran coffee stays wetter for a longer period of time before roasting, it can handle a darker roasting process and keep a mild flavor.
Sumatra coffee characteristics are extremely specific to the wet-hulling process; if these beans are quickly removed from the coffee plantation and dried in the Arabian style under hot sunlight in low humidity, the taste is very different.
This moisture content can be problematic for some coffee drinkers. For those of us accustomed to coffee blends made from Arabica beans grown in a variety of regions, Sumatran coffee may taste earthy or have a spicy finish. Others find a hint of mushroom in the aroma.
If you enjoy coffee but need to reduce the amount of acid in your coffee intake, consider blending Sumatran ground coffee into your favorite regular coffee and see what flavors come to the top.
What Does Wet-Hulled Mean?
Sumatran beans are generally processed or hulled in small batches by the grower. When the beans are picked, they’re washed to remove the skin of the berry (Giling Basah process).
This washing softens the outer layers of the bean and makes the removal process easier. This process also reduces the bite or acidic edge of coffee flavor once the beans are dried and roasted.
Dry hulling is done by drying the beans before washing so the skin is crumbly and can be manually removed. Wet-hulling is generally cheaper and reduces the manual labor required to remove the hull of the bean.
As regionally specific coffees become available to coffee fans all over the world, there are bound to be some varieties that don’t agree with your palate. However, tastes change, and coffee is easy to blend and mix.
Those concerned with fair trade practices or consumers with a desire to use organic products can feel secure in the safety of Sumatran coffees as a way to drink healthy and walk a bit more lightly on the earth.