A pocket guide to roasting Mocha Java coffee beans

Karmen Yoong
July 14, 2022
Roasting Mocha Java coffee beans

Created in the 17th century, Mocha Java is one of the world’s oldest coffee blends.

Mocha Java – also spelled “Moka Java” or “Mokka Java” – traditionally refers to a combination of Mocha beans from Yemen and Java beans from Indonesia.

Over time, however, the meaning of Mocha Java has become ambiguous. In particular, it became a term used colloquially by roasters to describe the flavours of the blend, rather than an indication of the ingredients used. Additionally, roasting Mocha Java coffee beans to create the ideal blend can be challenging, as it means roasting two different types of beans.

What’s more, the use of “mocha” as a word to describe a coffee beverage made with chocolate and espresso causes further confusion for customers. Nevertheless, Mocha Java blends continue to be widely offered by roasters and coffee shops around the world, thanks to its distinct and harmonious flavour experience.

Read on to learn more about roasting Mocha Java coffee beans in order to highlight the flavours throughout the blend.

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Pair of hands holding coffee cherries, showing how Mocha Java coffee beans look before roasting.

A brief history of Mocha Java coffee beans

The country of Yemen holds a special place in the history of coffee.

It is believed coffee originated from Ethiopia and was introduced to Yemen through Sufi monks. The monks often used the caffeine in coffee as a stimulant to aid concentration during religious rituals.

By the 15th century, coffee cultivation was widespread in Yemen and trading prospered in the region.

This led to the birth of Mocha coffee beans as we know today. The beans are named after the port of Mocha, al-Mukhā, where coffee was exported.

On the other hand, coffee was introduced to Indonesia by the Dutch in the 1600s. The first coffee plantations were established on the island of Java, and it is here where coffee became synonymous with Java.

Coffee production in Indonesia thrived and the country quickly became one of the largest coffee producers. The commercialisation of Indonesian coffee soon resulted in the dwindling dominance of Yemen in the trade market.

Notably, in 2020, Yemen produced an estimated 22,383 tonnes of coffee compared to the 773,409 tonnes produced in Indonesia. The port of Mocha and port of Java were common stops for trade ships travelling between Europe and Indonesia.

As coffee gained popularity in Europe, the commodity was loaded onto shipping vessels to cater to demand. Whether intentional or a simple accident, Mocha and Java beans were mixed, giving rise to the Mocha Java blend.

It is generally believed the beans were blended for flavour, as the heavy body of Indonesian Javan perfectly complements the fruity acidity of Yemen Mocha.

A cup of Mocha Java coffee post roasting

What are the characteristics of Mocha Java?

Yemen coffee is traditionally grown on terraces that have been carved into the mountainous region along the coast of the Red Sea.

Coffee beans are usually handpicked and sundried on rooftops or raised beds, with the cherry fully intact.

Typically, Yemen Mocha is characterised as wild, complex, and full-bodied. At the same time, it displays a wine-like acidity with a chocolate finish.

Mocha coffee tends to be marked as either Mattari or Sanani. Mattari is known for its heavy body and chocolate overtones, while Sanani is respected for its complexity and exotic pungency.

The connection between Yemen Mocha and the chocolate-flavoured coffee beverage found in many coffee shops is relatively inconclusive.

However, it is suggested that in the effort of imitating Yemeni coffee, many coffee houses added chocolate to their offerings – creating the term “mocha”.

The Indonesian counterpart, Java, is a washed coffee that is clean, full-bodied, and tends to exhibit earthy qualities.

When combined with Mocha beans, the blend provides customers with a unique flavour experience. Particularly, the intense and wild flavours of Yemen Mocha mixes well with the clean, smooth Java coffee, resulting in a well balanced, yet complex, final cup.

Traditionally, Mocha Java coffee beans comprise one part Yemen Mocha coffee to two parts Indonesian Java coffee.

That said, political unrest and geographical constraints have caused the Yemen coffee sector to shrink. As a result, this blend ratio is becoming increasingly rare.

With more coffee from other regions becoming available, many roasters have changed the ingredients and proportions of the blend, while keeping the “Mocha Java” name.

Modern Mocha Java blends typically comprise Ethiopian and Sumatran coffee. Specifically, the dry-processed Ethiopian Harrar exhibits the same wine and fruit-like acidity of Yemen Mocha, while the wet-processed Sumatran coffee shares similarities with Java beans.

An image demonstration of roasting Mocha Java coffee beans

Roasting Mocha Java coffee beans

The process of roasting coffee can be affected by many different variables.

These include the intrinsic properties of the green bean as well as external factors such as ambient temperature.

Therefore, when it comes to roasting Mocha Java coffee beans, there are additional factors roasters must take into consideration, as each component of the blend will react differently under heat.

Essentially, there are two different approaches to roasting coffee blends.

The components can be roasted individually before being combined, which is known as post-blending. Alternatively, all the components can be roasted in one batch, which is known as pre-blending.

While the decision to pre-blend or post-blend is typically reliant on the size of a roaster’s operation, the type of roast profile depends on the desired result.

For example, a medium roasted Yemen coffee results in a balanced cup with fruity qualities, while stretching the roast further will enhance its chocolate notes.

It is important to note the roast degree of Yemen Mocha may have a significant effect on the characteristics in the cup. Typically, roasters use between 25% and 50% Yemen Mocha in blends, increasing the percentage during darker roasts and decreasing with lighter ones. 

Due to the limited supply of Yemen coffee, a true Mocha Java blend can be expensive and difficult to come by.

As a result, more roasters are choosing to use other beans as a substitute. If this is the case, they should take time to experiment with the blending and roasting process, to ensure the traditional flavours of Mocha Java coffee beans comes through.

An image of coffee produced by roasting Mocha Java coffee beans next to a black and yellow multilayer kraft paper coffee bag.

Efficient packaging plays an essential part in preserving the characteristics and freshness of Mocha Java. This is particularly true for coffee blends with variable degassing rates: the speed at which carbon dioxide (CO2) is released from the roasted beans. 

As a result, equipping coffee bags with a degassing valve is critical. This allows CO2 to be released without letting oxygen into the packaging.

As a roaster, having a deep understanding of the coffee that you work with, as well as investing in high-quality packaging, can help guarantee the best experience for your customers. When it comes to roasting Mocha Java coffee beans, roasters will want to ensure the flavours are consistent and perfectly preserved through to the last cup.

At MTPak Coffee, we offer a range of sustainable coffee bags that will showcase your talent for roasting Mocha Java coffee beans. Our line of packaging is made from renewable materials, such as kraft paper, rice paper, low-density polyethylene (LDPE) and lined with environmentally-friendly polylactic acid (PLA), and will ensure your beans are protected and the flavours preserved.

We are able to custom design and digitally print coffee packaging with just a 40-hour turnaround and 24-hour shipping time.

We also offer a perfect solution for micro-roasters by providing low minimum order quantities (MOQ) on both recyclable and traditional options.

Furthermore, we offer compostable, BPA-free degassing valves that can be added to the pouches to prolong the shelf life of your coffee.

For more information on sustainable coffee packaging, contact our team.

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