Processing Coffe : Natural, Washed, and Honey

Processing coffee involves the extraction of beans from the fruit. Over the years, three main methods have become dominant: Natural (or dry process), Washed (or wet processed), and Honey (or pulped natural). Each method imparts a unique flavor to the final cup, and roasters carefully select and blend beans processed in different ways to achieve their desired flavor profiles.

The success of coffee processing is crucial for a quality roast. Even with perfect growing and harvesting conditions, poorly processed beans can compromise the final roast's quality. Processing is a technical and time-consuming task, and any mistakes can devalue the coffee.

Now, let's delve into the three main processing methods and explore what they entail and which might suit your tastes!

Natural Processing Method of Coffee:

This ancient and traditional method involves harvesting cherries at peak ripeness. The fruit remains on the bean during drying, which occurs naturally under the sun. After drying, the skin and dried fruit flesh are removed, and the green coffee beans are stored before export. While this method has received criticism for potential flavor inconsistency, when done correctly, it can produce amazing and flavorful coffees. The beans' flavor is often sweet and fruity, making them suitable for stand-alone enjoyment or blending for a layered cup.

Washed Method:

In contrast to the natural method, the washed process is a wet method that removes the fruit entirely before drying. Ripe coffee cherries are placed in a freshwater tank, and after 24 to 72 hours, the fruit flesh is removed using a de-pulper machine. The washed beans are then spread out to dry, either under the sun or mechanically. This method focuses entirely on the bean's flavor, which comes from the sugars and nutrients retained during its growth. The washed process can result in brighter flavors and is praised for its consistency and pleasant acidity.

Honey Process:

The honey process is a middle ground between the natural and washed methods. Named for the sticky nature of the beans during processing, this method can result in a cup with honey or brown sugar notes. Cherries are de-pulped, and the amount of flesh left on the bean is chosen based on the desired flavor. The drying process, which aims to avoid fermentation and maintain consistency, follows. The Honey process offers a nuanced sweetness and higher notes, combining elements of both natural and washed methods.