Welcome to the coffee processing page.
The cherries on the coffee plants have ripened and are ready to be harvested. After harvesting the cherries, it is time to process the fruits for roasting. This processing is very important because it affects the flavours and tones of the beans after the roasting process. In other words: the type of processing will, in a way, determine how your coffee tastes like. On this page I will explain the different methods the farmers use to prepare the beans for roasting.
Three methods of processing
First things first: What exactly does this ‘process’ do to the bean?
When a cherry ripens on the plant, the bean inside will absorb natural sugars. Natural sugars will determine how much acidity, fruitiness and sweetness you will find in your coffee. The mouthfeel is also dependent on the way a bean has been processed. The three most used processes on coffee farms are: Washed process, Natural/Dry process and Honey Washed process. Each of these processes has its advantages and disadvantages. The choice of process depends on the farmer, the weather and the surrounding area which process will be used.
The Washed process
When a farmer decides to use the Washed process, it literally means that he is going to wash the beans clean. The skin and the pulp are washed off of the bean by means that includes a lot of water and a pulping machine. After the bean has been stripped clean of its skin and pulp, the bean is ready to be dried and roasted. When a farmer uses this ‘save’ method, he will have less chance of ruining a batch of beans. The farmer will ensure that you only get the taste, acidity and flavours of bean itself. Farmers tend to use this process when they think the bean has soaked up enough natural sugars during its growth. When it has rained a lot, this is a common way of processing
The Natural/Dry process
When a farmer decides to do a Natural/Dry process, they will dry the complete cherry with the skin and pulp still intact. This is the oldest way of processing in the world and was invented by the Ethiopians. When processing beans like this, you will need manpower to do so. The cherries will have to be turned over in the sun in order to get an equally dried cherry. Because this requires a lot of manual labour, mistakes are easily made and the quality of the production isn’t always consistent. However this process will produce coffee’s with vibrant tastes, fruity flavours and more acidity than with the Washed process. This process can be chosen when there has not been a lot of rain during the season.
Honey Washed process
The only reason why this process is called ‘Honey’, is because the cherries will only have their skin removed for processing. The pulp (or Mucilage) will feel sticky to your fingers, hence the word ‘Honey’. This method will give the coffee more sweetness and acidity than for example the Washed method. The downside to this method is that the fruity flavours are much less than with the Natural/Dry process. During this method the cherry will still be able to soak up even more sugars and you can clearly taste this in your coffee. This process originated in Costa Rica, but is nowadays widely used. This process could be chosen when a lot or rain has fallen during the season.
Like I already mentioned, the choice of processing is the farmer’s courtesy. A farmer will not always look at what’s best for the bean. A farmer could want to make as much profit as possible despite knowing a different process would make the bean taste better. It’s also possible that the farmer does not have the right equipment to do a different process. And, like I mentioned, the environment and weather have great influence on the way a coffee will be processed.