Check out last week’s blog for a run down on bean anatomy and definitions. Processed is a dirty word in food, but all coffee goes through a processing method to prepare the beans for roasting. The overall goal is to dry the moist cherry seed to 10% - 12% moisture, an idea moisture content for roasting. Traditionally this has been achieved through a natural processing method but over time and with the advancement of coffee technology new methods have emerged. Check out the chart below and then keep reading to learn more.
This is the most traditional processing method and is achieved by laying the harvested coffee cherries in large vats in the sun and allowing the fruit to bake off of the beans. This method tends to produce a more complex bean that is heavier in body, and because the fruit is left on the bean longer, the flavor of the coffee is more pronounced and the sweetness of the fruit transfers to the green seed. Naturally processed coffees are known for their rich body and sweet, wild berry flavors. Ex. Brazilian Arabica is almost all naturally processed creating a heavy bodied coffee idea for producing a great crema on espresso. Also, many Africans are naturals lending to their wild and pronounced flavors.
Semi Processed (Honey/Pulped Natural):
A more recent way of processing coffee, which in some ways is a combination of the major dry and wet methods. Can create a myriad of profiles and flavors. These coffees have become known as honey processed because of the sweet notes imparted to the bean due to this hybrid processing method. The method also gives the farmer great control over the ending notes in the cup because they can create their “secret recipe” for exactly how long to leave the fruit on the beans before washing.
Wet Method (Washed)
At least 50% of the world’s coffee is processed using the wet method. This new more advanced processing method delivers greater batch consistency and a cleaner, crisper coffee. Washed processed coffees are more common in regions that have more developed infrastructures because of the cost of machinery. Often coffee farmers will have exporters and importers or their local and national governments come alongside them to help build out washing stations and bolster economic development.
When shopping specialty coffee, it’s fun to get to know your processing methods. Next time you pick up a bag check out the label or ask your barista about your coffee’s processing method.