Have you ever looked at your brew package and thought, what on earth’s name does dry, washed, honey, and pulped natural mean? Or maybe you spend moments thinking about which one is the best for you.
Three Major Type of Coffee Processing
There are three major ways of processing coffee 1st Natural, 2nd Honey, and 3rd Washed. Other than these three ways, there are several different alternative methods but, those are rare and mostly localized, for example, Indonesia’s Wet Hulling.
Washed coffee processing focuses only on the coffee beans. This process lets you taste what is inside the beans rather than what’s outside.
Honey or natural processing coffees require a good and flavorful coffee cherry. But the washed coffee process depends totally on the beans absorbing nutrients and sugars while going through the growing phase. So, the keys to washed coffee are ripeness, soil, weather, varietal, fermentation, drying, and washing.
Washed coffee proves, both farmers crafting and the science of coffee growing play a crucial part in the taste. Also, the place of manufacture and weather conditions affect washed coffee flavor.
The washed coffee process enhances the real characteristics of a single origin bean (a coffee grown in a single geographic area). Other coffee processes can’t bring out the flavors as washed coffee does. Numerous specialty coffees are processed using the washing method.
North Star Roasters says, “Washed Kenyan and Ethiopian coffees are incredible examples of the purity of flavor that can be persuaded if the coffee is processed accurately.”
Natural or dry processes are the basic approach that comes from Ethiopia. The coffee fruit is kept with the bean to dry without any disturbance. It does not require much investment, but climatic and drying of seed and the fruit in time can affect the flavor.
Over the period, natural processes are considered of low quality because they have flavor inconsistencies. This consideration is due to the turning brown or drying of unripe and ripe fruits in the natural processes.
Still, some people believe the natural coffee process has the best potential to bring out the most flavors in the brew. If the flavors are consistent, then many would argue that the natural process coffees are a worthy match for washed coffees in characteristics, notes, and clarity.
A well-picked beans and processed naturally can give amazing cupping notes & flavors to consumers.
Pulped/Honey Natural Coffee
A perfect honey processed coffee will make you think someone has added brown sugar and honey into your cup. The beans get sticky during the process, and that is why called honey processed. Many would agree this type of coffee comes between natural and washed coffee processes because it is fruity but less exaggerated than natural coffee. It has more acidity than washed coffee, having a high level of sweetness and a weird mouthfeel.
The honey processed coffee is mostly associated with Costa Rica. Recently, it has developed subcategories which are red, yellow, golden, white, and black honey. It shows how this type of process can have an impact on the profile and flavor of coffee altogether. It is a very scientific process to conduct. Mucilage (which has an influence on the sweetness and body of the coffee), is monitored perfectly and then controlled. So, the more level of mucilage on the bean, the more sweetness coffee has.
How To Decide the Process?
It is obvious that manufacturers will aim to produce profitable and tastiest coffee, but the environment might be their limit. Coffee depends on its surroundings than any other food.
Producers will analyze how much rainfall has occurred and accordingly decide whether to use natural, honey or washed methods. In case of heavy rain natural process is avoided because coffee cherries start to split. And if minimum rain has arrived then it is best to adapt the natural or honey process as no sugar will be wasted.
Some manufacturers will use a device “refractometer” to check the sugar content in their coffee farms. This helps to understand if the sugar levels are high enough for honey or natural processed coffee. They look for a high level of sugar for the washed process to get a sweet cup of coffee.
The Future of Coffee Process
Most countries will stick to a particular type of process to make coffee. For instance, Central America and Rwanda use washed process and Brazil uses the natural or honey method.
But this tradition is changing due to the high demand for specialty coffee. Many farmers are now onboard with trying to use other methods and techniques where environmental and climate factors are different. For example, some of Rwanda, Guatemala, and Nicaragua’s farms are changing to honey or natural processes. This step will create brand new flavors and profiles for their crops, increasing their value.
Now some are going on another level by experimenting with oxygen for fermentation, while some are focusing on catalysts to increase fermentation. Some producers are trying to understand the impact of the environment, and trying to reduce the usage of water. Modern machines and studies are helping to form unique coffee profiles.
Ben Weiner (President/CEO of Gold Mountain Coffee) says using different processing types “sometimes sell out even before they’re picked.” This tells us coffee processing will get more creative and innovative as time goes by.
Coffee processing is a topic that is not much talked about in the industry headlines or coffee discussions, but types of processing is what gives your cup of brew unique flavors and characteristics. So, in the future when you see honey processed or natural processed coffee, you will have a decent idea about it and what it stands for.