D612: caring about coffee

D612: caring about coffee

Roasting high-quality beans with maximum transparency

Fri 03 May 2024 3:55 PM

It’s 10am, and Lucien Trapanese is extracting coffee in his D612 laboratory off Porta al Prato. Grapefruit, rhubarb, tomato leaf and a natural sweetness come across in the Kenyan brew made using a filter dampened with hot water. There’s no lingering aftertaste. Like herbal tea, the coffee is a delight to drink, leaving the mouth feeling cleansed.

“When you go into a bar in Italy, everyone’s making the same sort of face because espresso is so extracted and so astringent,” comments Lucien. “For me, espresso isn’t a morning drink that sets you up for the day. It’s something you drink from 11am onwards. Filter coffee like this, on the other hand, is a joy to wake up to.

Lucien founded D612 in 2017, naming his micro-business after Florence’s code on land registry reports. “I’d worked for roasteries and coffee shops in Italy and other countries. The aim was to roast really high-quality coffee in the most transparent way possible. That means buying from plantations where we know how growers work as well as treating coffee ethically, never burning the beans or overdoing the roasting. We try to bring out all the natural potential.”

It’s no flash-in-the-pan idea. “We do specialty coffee not because it’s cool, but because there are thousands of people behind every cup. The coffee we drink at a traditional bar has been bought at stock exchange prices and the exploitation is enormous. Coffee is the second largest commodity in the world after oil.

Not only is the price of coffee subject to the swings and arrows of the financial markets, it also faces the challenges of the climate crisis. “In order to be good, coffee has to be grown at altitude and undergo a range of temperatures. In recent years, we’re having to grow higher and higher. The issue is that the demand is growing and production is on the wane. Some countries prefer to encourage the planting of other crops, given that coffee takes longer to become productive.” Lorenzo Caldarelli, who works with Lucien to further the D612 project, adds, “Arabica is a very fragile plant, especially in terms of mould and bacteria, whereas Robusta is far more water-resistant.”

Lucien Trapanese
Lorenzo Caldarelli

There’s no denying that specialty coffee is having a moment with more and more bars focusing on quality beans. “What’s important is training the next generation of baristas as a profession,” remarks Lorenzo. “It’s about giving people an opportunity and also giving the raw materials an opportunity at the same time. I attended the Cordon Bleu school in Florence, specializing in cooking and later coffee, which was the basis of my final dissertation. Mine’s a rather academic approach.” Lucien explains how he fell in love with the beverage. “I had a summer job in a quality coffee shop when I was 17 or 18. After leaving high school, I started to do tastings and roastery visits, but the real growth spurt came when I spent a year in London. In 2013-14, there were already 300 or so specialty coffee shops and 25 roasteries.” Both Lucien and Lorenzo met while working for Ditta Artigianale and credit the company for raising the bar in Florence.

Give & Take is the guys’ baseline specialty coffee. A single-origin from Brazil, it’s harmoniously rounded, with chocolate and almond notes. “All of our other coffees are seasonal. Generally speaking, coffee is harvested once a year, with the exception of Colombia, where they pick twice. Brazilian coffee arrives in Italy in December, Colombia in March and then Rwanda and Kenya in May and June. Specialty coffee follows the coffee calendar.”

It’s worth remembering that, like any seasonal product, coffee has a limited shelf life. “If you drink coffee a year after it’s been picked, the flavour is far less pronounced. The fresher the coffee, the better it is. Right now, the coffee is super fresh, which also means it can almost be too complex, rich and acidic. We have to wait 20 days or so. The best time to drink your coffee is a month and a half after being roasted.”

Roasting takes hours of work and research. “We have to decide how much gas and air to use and how much roasting each coffee needs. More roasting might mean bringing out the body a bit more, less roasting enhances the acidity. Roasting is key to the process, but the coffee has to be good to begin with.”

While the D612 laboratory is open by appointment for tastings, to see where the roasting magic happens and an in-depth chat about coffee, Lucien and Lorenzo have plans to open properly as a coffee shop this summer. “We’d like to open between 9am and midday during the week, sell our coffee and explain what we do.”

Try D612 specialty coffee in Florence at their lab in via Cittadella 2R, at Simbiosi (via de’ Ginori 64), Melaleuca (lungarno delle Grazie 18), Brac (via dei Vagellai 18R), Manly The Office (via Pisana 48R) and Tè Autunno (via delle Belle Donne 17R).

Lorenzo Caldarelli + Lucien Trapanese at D612’s roastery in via Cittadella. Ph. Giacomo Badiani

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