Coffee Processing - Washed, Natural, Honey Sun Dried

Posted by Ashish Dabreo on

What does coffee processing mean, and what kind of processing produces the flavours that you may like.

In the food industry, ‘processed’ doesn’t always have a good ring to it. Foods that are heavily processed are considered furtherest to natural foods and hence sort of indicate a fair amount of loss in nutritional value as well as are assumed to include artificial substances (good or bad).
However, when it comes to coffee, the word ‘processed’ means something completely different, and most certainly doesn’t not imply anything unpleasant. 'Coffee processing' simply means changing the structure of coffee from its fruit form to the dry seed (or the green bean) form. The dry seeds or coffee green beans are then eventually sent out of the coffee farm where they make their way to roasteries to be roasted to produce the dark brown roasted coffee beans that we are all so familiar with, but that story is for a another post. When you are looking to buy coffee online , its always an advantage to know what each type of processing means in terms of flavour, taste and body. 
coffee processing washed vs natural coffee
The coffee cherry is made up of an outer skin, a fruity pulp beneath it, and then a layer or two of harder skin and then at the (fairly large) core is the seed, or the green bean. The seed is made up of two halves and each of these halves is one coffee bean.
A slightly more technical version of the above paragraph (please skip if you are just a keen coffee drinker) -  the coffee cherry has an outer Exocarp (skin), the Mesocarp which is the pulpy mucilage, the Endocarp which is the parchment, the Epidermis which is the silver skin, and then there Endosperm, which is the seed or the ‘bean’. 
cross section of a coffee cherry
‘Processing’ in coffee simply means cutting through all this carp (pun, when you see one :) ) and getting to the precious seed or bean. This means removing the skin, the fruity pulp and the parchment to reveal the coffee bean that is then ready to be roasted, ground, brewed and absolutely loved.
Now this process of getting to the green bean can be done in multiple ways. In this article we will be briefly describing the 2 most common methods of processing that are used the world over, and one that isn’t as common, but which we at Maverick & Farmer follow at our estates in Coorg.

1. Natural Processing. 

This is the oldest and most widely used method of processing coffee. It simply involves leaving the entire coffee cherry, once harvested, to dry out for a few weeks in the sun, on large brick patios.
coffee cherry natural processed stage 1
Once dried, the fruit shrivels up and the outer skin and fruity pulp turns into a sort of a powdery husk. These dried coffee cherries are then milled to remove the outer dried substance to reveal the dense green bean within. 
natural processed coffee or dry process coffee buy online
What does Natural Processed roasted coffee taste like?
Coffees that are Natural Processed tend to taste fruiter, bolder and if done right, can have some very interesting fermented notes. Stone fruit, cherry, different berries etc. are the more common tasting notes found in natural processed coffees. 
Try Natural Processed coffees if you like:
Richer coffee-coffee notes. A heavier body. Like your coffee with milk. Like fruitier coffees. Our Natural processed coffees (or coffee that contains natural processed beans) are : Parama, Tall Dark Handsome, Cold Brew Dark & Fruity

2. Washed Coffees / Wet process coffee.

In this method of processing, the ripe coffee cherries once harvested are put into a pulping machine (think of it as a sort of a large washing machine that bashes the coffee fruit around until it breaks through the outer fruity bits) and skin and the pulp is taken off. The parts of the coffee fruit that don’t break apart during this time in the pulper are the denser and hardier green seeds (green beans) and a layer of mucilage that surrounds the seeds. 
washed arabica coffee
The mucilage is allowed to break down through a fermentation process (that may take up to 24 hours) and the coffee beans are then washed and sun-dried on raised beds for 7 - 14 days, depending on weather conditions. 
washed roasted arabica coffee
These dried coffee beans still have a layer of parchment surrounding them, and this is taken off through a simple hulling process. 
coorg coffee estate coffee plantation
What does Washed Coffee taste like?
Washed process roasted coffee has a lot more clarity in terms of the intrinsic flavour of the coffee beans. Tasting notes that are present due to the origin of the coffee plants, the species, the soil conditions, altitude etc are all allowed to shine through without anything holding them back. These roasted coffee beans are lighter on the palate due to it’s lower body. In some cases washed coffees may still have fruity notes, but not ferment-y ones. 
Try Washed / wet process coffee if you like:
To brew using a pour over filter ( or any similar manual brewing method). If you like your coffee black or with minimal whitener. If you like single origin coffee.  Our washed coffees (or blends that contain washed coffee) are Parama, Say Hello to Mellow, Rohan Bopanna Masterblend, Cold Brew Light & Bright, Sattva, Clouds In My Coffee 

3. Honey sun dried / Pulp sun dried process. 

This is a sort of a hybrid of the above two processes and often when executed well, can produce dramatic results. In this process, once the coffee cherries are harvested they are put in the pulping machine, but not all the fruity pulp is taken off. A lot of this pulp which has a rich fruitiness and a concentration of sugars is left on the coffee bean. pulp sun dried coffee
The deliciously gooey mess is then ‘poured’ onto a brick drying yard and allowed to dry naturally for a few weeks. Constant raking is required to ensure that no unnecessary fermentation or fungal growth occurs. 
What happens during this process is that the various flavour notes, and the fruitiness from the pulp are absorbed by the green bean. 
honey sun dried coffee honey sun-dried coffee
Once the coffee is dried out to a moisture content of 10 - 13%, the green beans are hulled to remove the outer honey-brown parchment and  are then ready to be bagged.
What does honey sun dried coffee taste like?
Fruity, bold, syrupy. Origin tasting notes and those attributed to the species and variant can still come through in the cup. The sweetness of honey sun dried coffee is very prominent. 
Try honey sun dried coffee if you like:
Bold flavours and lots of sweetness. Cold brew coffee. Unique, mild fermented notes. Our Honey Sun Dried coffees (or coffees that contain Honey Sun Dried beans) are Sunkissed, Parama, Cold Brew Dark & Fruity, Cold Brew New Orleans Style .

 


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