Have you ever wondered what coffee processing is and what are the difference between washed or natural processed coffee?
Let us have a look at the different processes and how they can make a difference in the cup and why certain processes are used in different locations around the world.
The makeup of the coffee cherry can be broken down to 5 areas:
The Three Principal Processing Methods in Coffee
no layers are removed.
skin and pulp are removed, but some or all of the mucilage (Honey) remains.
skin, pulp, and mucilage are removed using water and fermentation. Also called Fully Washed. This is the conventional form of Arabica coffee processing used in most parts of the world.
This is the oldest method and probably the easiest of methods to explain, Basically the cherry gets picked off the tree and dried. This method is still used in Ethiopia and Brazil and sometimes in other coffee growing areas, especially when there is no water available. Drying can take up to four weeks, and it is very tricky to ensure that no mouldy or off flavors get into the beans. This works well in very dry climates or when supplemented by mechanical drying. Natural processed coffee keeps many of the fruit flavors in the beans. Coffees processed in this way is often full of fruit flavor and often brighter than other coffees. The pulp is removed mechanically after the cherries are dried by Dry Milling.
Honey process is currently very popular in Costa Rica and it has started to spread to all the other Central American countries. The mucilage of the coffee cherry is sticky and slimy, so it is sometimes called “honey”. During the Honey Process, coffee is dried with some or all of the mucilage remaining on the parchment encasing the seed. Coffee cherries are picked, sorted, depulped, and then moved to drying patios or beds for various periods of time. As there is a little bit of fermentation happening in the short amount of time it takes for the mucilage to dry, coffees processed in this way have significantly less acidity than Washed or Natural processed coffees.
Washed processed is generally the most popular form of coffee processing if there is water available at the location. This process uses a lot of water. Once the fruit is picked sorted and then de-pulped the seed is then washed in a fermentation tank/bath in a controlled manner. During this phase the seed creates enzymes which will breakdown the mucilage. This usually takes between 18-24 hours depending on the temperature and or the coffee value . Over fermentation of the seed results in a very distinctive flavor in the cup and not one you would want to experience. Once the coffee is washed the coffee is moved to the drying patios or drying beds depending on the location. Generally coffee that has been washed normally dries faster than the Natural or Honey processed coffee.