There is a general notion that processed culinary ingredients are harmful to consume but we sometimes forget that there are certain ingredients that we cant consume if they don’t go through the processing procedure. Honey, coffee, oil, and nuts are some of the most common examples. Coffee is a product of coffee cherries and can’t be consumed without the processing method. The purpose of coffee processing for farmers is to separate the bean from the coffee cherry while maintaining the profitability of the crop. Some processing methods necessitate more time, investment, and natural resources than others, therefore selecting the best processing method for a coffee farmer or producer can be a critical decision. There are three basic coffee processing types but nowadays farmers are experimenting with processing methods as well.
The removal of the layers that surround the coffee bean is known as coffee processing. Skin, fruit, mucilage, and parchment are the layers that make up a coffee cherry. After the cherries have been plucked, they must be processed to remove these layers.
Washed or Wet Coffee Processing:
This technique is all about bringing out the bean’s natural flavors. Each layer of the coffee cherry is removed before it is dried in the washed coffee process. Because the cherry is pulped from the coffee beans by a machine that removes the outer layer of skin, wet or washed process coffees concentrate on the beans’ natural flavor. The bean is still covered in mucilage and fermented for one to two days in water, or longer. The mucilage is removed from the coffee bean after fermentation.
The wet processing gives the bean a considerably fruitier flavor than the dry processing. No other method can bring out the actual character of single-origin beans like the washing method. This is why the wet process is used in so many specialty coffees. The highest grade coffees are usually produced using this procedure.
The washing process results in a cup with bright, acidic flavors. When compared to natural coffees, many people characterize washed coffees as having white wine-like flavors. Many farmers and producers prefer the washing procedure because it decreases the chance of flaws and produces a more stable product. It is, however, more expensive for farmers and producers because it utilizes more water than other processing methods.
Natural or Dry Coffee Processing:
Natural coffee processing is the oldest and riskiest method available. Natural processed coffee, also known as dry-processed coffee, is a popular approach to processing coffee nowadays. It is a method of drying the completely freshly plucked coffee cherry with the seed still inside that originated in Ethiopia. Coffee manufacturers do this by placing all of the cherries on sun-dried drying beds. It includes drying coffee cherries with the fruit and mucilage that surround the bean intact. This means that throughout the drying process, the natural sugars, sweetness, and fruit flavors enclosed in the coffee cherry begin to ferment and mix with the bean.
Natural or dry-process coffees are equivalent to a return to the basics in terms of processing. Farmers first wash the coffee cherries before drying them in the sun. This is tough to execute almost everywhere since the environment must be ideal for the beans to dry uniformly and rapidly while the cherries ferment. Removing the green bean from the dried and fermented cherry is the most dangerous aspect of the process. Natural processing produces the best taste coffees.
Blueberry, strawberry, tropical fruits, and honey are common flavor notes in natural processed coffee, but there can also be wild, fermented flavors and alcohol-like undertones. When compared to washed coffees, natural coffees are sometimes described as having red wine-like flavors. Natural processed coffees can be a great way for roasteries and baristas to show off what coffee can taste like and open people’s minds. But, if you are a person who doesn’t enjoy fermented or wild flavors in your coffee, it’s not for you!
Honey or Pulped Coffee Processing:
Honey processed coffee, when done correctly, can taste like honey and brown sugar in your cup of coffee. These coffees are typically fruity, yet have a medium sweetness and body, demonstrating both washed and natural processing cup characteristics. Because some of the mucilage from the fruit stays on the bean after the peel and pulp are removed through water and fermentation, the honey coffee procedure tends to impart sweet flavors to the coffee. The mucilage has a honey-like look, hence the name.
In many ways, this coffee is a cross between washed and natural process coffees: it’s fruity, but not to the extent that some naturals are. It has a balanced acidity compared to washed coffees, as well as rich sweetness and a nuanced mouthfeel.
Many Arabica coffees, especially Costa Rican coffees, are processed using this method. Many subcategories have emerged in recent years: yellow, red, golden, black, and white honey. This indicates the process’s potential to impact a coffee’s flavor and overall profile. The degree of mucilage determines the sweetness and depth of the body of the coffee. The sweeter the taste, the more mucilage is left on the bean.
Flavor Notes and Color:
Colors are frequently used to describe honey-processed coffee: black, red, yellow, and white honey. The hue refers to how much fruit flesh is left on the bean after it has been depulped. White honey, which is similarly black in color, has the least amount of meat left on the bean, whereas black honey has the most. Of course, this affects the flavor of the coffee; black honey is similar to natural, while white honey is similar to washed coffees.
Anaerobic or oxygen-free fermentation is a relatively new form of coffee processing that is gaining popularity. Although the procedure is still in its early stages, anaerobic processed coffees are known for their wild, unexpected, and nuanced flavors. Anaerobic fermentation is similar to washed fermentation, but it takes place in totally sealed, oxygen-deprived tanks.
Only found in Indonesia this technique is somewhat similar to the washing technique. However, the beans are dried to just 30-35 percent moisture content while in the washed process it is about 11-12 percent. The parchment is removed from the beans after first drying, and the “bare” beans are dried again until they are dry enough to store.
Giling Basah produces earthy characteristics like wood, mustiness, spice, and tobacco, which is why it is not well-liked by coffee specialists.
This technology is similar to anaerobic fermentation and was taken from the wine-making industry. The main difference between this procedure and anaerobic fermentation is that the cherries are fermented whole, and the process breaks down the cell walls of the fruit flesh from the inside out.
During the fermentation, all of the wild flavors from the fruit flesh are soaked into the beans while carbonic maceration gives the cup flavors like red wine, whisky, banana, and bubblegum.