A roaster’s guide to Sumatra Mandheling coffee

Nuvin Sithanen
June 29, 2023
An image of Sumatra Mandheling coffee in a kraft paper coffee bag, kraft paper coffee packaging, kraft coffee bags, Sumatra Mandheling coffee, custom-printed coffee bags for Sumatra Mandheling coffee

Sumatra, the sixth-largest island in the world, boasts an ideal climate and altitude for cultivating exceptional coffee. With elevations ranging from 2,500 to 5,000 feet above sea level, the highlands offer cool temperatures which are essential for the development of flavourful coffee beans. Plus, the lush rainforests of the Indonesian island provide the perfect balance of rainfall and sunlight, fostering optimal growing conditions for coffee.

One of the rarer coffees to come from Indonesia is Sumatra Mandheling coffee. It is best known for its smooth, rich, and heavy body, with low acidity and exotic flavours. However, it also has a reputation for its unique wet hulling processing method.

Understanding the nuances of this unique coffee will help you roast it better and offer a unique product to consumers. 

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Where does Sumatra Mandheling coffee come from?

Indonesia has a longstanding history of coffee production, dating back to the 17th century when the Dutch introduced the crop. Today, the island is the fourth-largest coffee producer globally, with Sumatra contributing much of this volume. Across Sumatra, one particularly prominent coffee is Sumatra Mandheling – a well-known coffee named for Sumatra’s Mandailing people, an ethnic group with ties to the island.

Sumatra Mandheling coffee stands out with its unique aromatics and distinctive flavour profile. When consumers open a bag of Sumatra Mandheling beans, they are greeted with an aroma that hints at earthiness, herbs, and a touch of sweetness. 

Sumatra Mandheling is generally speaking a bold and deep coffee, often characterised by notes of dark chocolate, cedarwood, and tobacco. You can also expect spice notes of cardamom, clove, and hints of tropical fruits, depending on the processing method and altitude of the farm.

Sumatra Mandheling coffee often presents a full-bodied experience, enveloping the palate with a rich and velvety texture. This coffee variety tends to exhibit low acidity, contributing to its smooth and mellow character. The absence of pronounced acidity allows the intricate flavours to shine, providing a satisfying and balanced cup.

An image of a coffee roaster roasting Sumatra Mandheling coffee in an artice on Sumatra Mandheling coffee

How processing affects the taste of Sumatra Mandheling coffee

When it comes to processing techniques, Sumatra Mandheling coffee offers remarkable diversity. While the washed process is commonly employed, the unique “Giling Basah” or semi-washed method is also prevalent in the region.

This semi-washed process, also known as wet hulling, involves removing the outer skin of the coffee cherry before drying the beans with some pulp still intact. This distinctive method contributes to the characteristic flavours of Sumatra Mandheling coffee.

When it comes to roasting Sumatra Mandheling coffee, there are some tips to keep in mind to ensure a successful and flavourful roast.

Note the bean density

Sumatra Mandheling coffee beans are known for their density, which requires a slightly longer roasting time compared to other coffees. The density affects how heat is absorbed and transferred within the bean, so it’s important to adjust the roasting parameters accordingly. Roasters should consider extending the overall roasting time to ensure that the heat penetrates the beans thoroughly and achieves an even roast.

Monitor moisture content

Notably, Sumatra Mandheling coffee beans may have a higher moisture content compared to other coffee varieties. This can impact the roasting process and potentially lead to unwanted flavours. It’s crucial to monitor the moisture content throughout the roasting process carefully to prevent any undesirable outcomes. Ensure the beans are adequately dried before roasting, and adjust the roasting time and temperature accordingly.

Size and sorting

It is important for roasters to pay attention to the size and sorting of these coffee beans. Sorting the beans by size can help achieve a more consistent roast, as beans of different sizes may roast at different rates. It’s recommended to sort the beans before roasting to ensure an even and balanced result.

Experiment with roast levels

Sumatra Mandheling coffee offers a range of flavour profiles across different roast levels. While a medium to medium-dark roast is the most common recommendation to bring out the best flavours, roasters should experiment with different roast levels to find their preferred balance of flavours. Lighter roasts may emphasise the coffee’s brighter and fruity notes, while darker roasts can enhance the bold and earthy characteristics.

Allow for proper degassing

Like all coffees after roasting, Sumatra Mandheling requires an adequate degassing period before it reaches its peak flavour. Allow the freshly roasted beans to rest for a recommended period of 24 to 48 hours before grinding and brewing. This degassing period allows the flavours to mellow and harmonise, resulting in a more satisfying cup of coffee.

An image of custom-printed coffee bags for Sumatra Mandheling coffee, customised coffee bags of Sumatra Mandheling coffee in an article on Sumatra Mandheling coffee

Highlighting the unique characteristics of Sumatra Mandheling

Thanks to its density, Sumatra Mandheling coffee requires a slightly longer roasting time compared to other coffees. This allows the heat to penetrate the beans thoroughly, ensuring an even roast. Additionally, monitoring the moisture content is crucial to prevent any undesirable flavours from developing during the roasting process. 

When it comes to the ideal roast profile, it is recommended to approach Sumatra Mandheling coffee with a medium to medium-dark roast. This roast level helps accentuate the coffee’s inherent characteristics while preserving its intriguing flavours. Medium-roasted Sumatra Mandheling can be enjoyed black, allowing the unique flavours to take centre stage. However, the richness and low acidity of this coffee make it an excellent choice for pairing with milk when desired.

By carefully considering the roasting process, roasters can unlock the unique flavours of Sumatra Mandheling and provide consumers with a unique coffee experience.

MTPak Coffee can help roasters and consumers embrace the distinctiveness of this coffee variety. We offer a range of 100% recyclable coffee packaging options that can be fully customised to reflect the remarkable roasts that showcase the captivating flavours of Sumatra. Roasters can choose from renewable materials such as kraft paper, rice paper, or multilayer LDPE packaging with an environmentally friendly PLA lining, all of which minimise waste and contribute to a circular economy.

Our design team is available to work directly with you or your marketing team to create the ideal coffee packaging for your brand. MTPak Coffee also offers low minimum order quantities (MOQs) to micro-roasters who are looking to remain agile while showcasing brand identity and a commitment to the environment.

For more information on sustainable custom-print coffee bags, contact our team.

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