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Coffee Processing at Origin | Reading For the True Coffee Enthusiast

Posted on July 31, 2012 by Venia Coffee Roasters | Keith There have been 0 comments

If you have purchased coffee from us before, you have probably noticed that we indicate how each of our offerings was processed at the farm after it was harvested.  How a coffee is processed can have a profound impact on many of the factors we test before choosing a coffee, including fragrance, aroma, mouth-feel, flavor, acidity, and sweetness...to name a few.

 

A One Paragraph Example of the Effect of Coffee Processing on Flavor

I had the opportunity about a year ago to cup (a term we use that essentially means "evaluate") the same Costa Rican coffee that was processed using three different methods that are commonly called washed, honey processed (or pulped-natural), and natural processed.  As one would expect there were certainly some flavor characteristics that were common to each but also some profound differences.  The washed processed coffee was comparably delicate and clean with subtle nuanced floral flavors clearly present.  The honey processed version had much more body, with brown sugar and almond notes almost completely covering the floral notes found in the washed version.  Lastly, the natural processed added much more intense flavors including raisins, cherry fruits, and a little satisfying mustiness.  All the subtle nuanced flavors found in the washed version were no longer discernible.  All were excellent coffees that we scored very well, but were also very different.

 

Continue Reading Only if You Like Nerdy Coffee Theory Stuff

While in a perfect world coffee, processing falls neatly into one of the above categories, the reality is the terminology Washed, Natural, and Honey/pulp-Natural are probably more appropriate for defining coffee at the consumer level that at the production level.  Natural processed coffee in general means coffee that is dried with the fleshy fruit of the coffee cherry still attached.  In Ethiopia and much of Africa, natural process coffees are first harvested selectively when ripe on the plant, then dried on patios or raised beds.  However, in some areas of Brazil coffee cherries at all stages of ripeness are allowed to dry on the plant, then all the coffee cherries (ripe or not) are harvested at the same time.  Both are technically Naturally processed, but both are very different.

Honey Processed or Pulped Natural coffees are harvested then sent through a mill that removes the fruit but leaves the slimy coating called mucilage on the bean.  Then the beans are left to dry.  Later they can be sent through a hulling machine to remove the remaining mucilage.  Some of these coffees can add a step where they are washed in water leading to the term "Semi-Washed".  This process can add sweet/sugary flavors to coffee when compared to a fully-washed coffee (which is why I am assuming the Honey Processed name is used, but I can't confirm this.  No actually honey is used).

Washed coffees are harvested and sorted, then the fruit is removed from the bean using a mill (similar to the pulped natural process).  Then the mucilage covered beans are placed in water tanks where they are allowed to ferment for a length of time dependent on many factors (generally 24-48 hours).  This fermentation process and subsequent washings leads to removal the mucilage layer.  Beans are then transferred to drying patios or raised beds for drying.  There are many variations to wet processing.

There are two great posts by respected coffee professionals (Chris Schooley at Coffee Shrub and Peter Giuliano from Counter Culture Coffee and now the new SCAA Symposium director) dialoging more on the topic.  They are great reads and packed full of great information.

Post 1: Confused? Naturally

Post 2: A response to Chris Schooley's "Confused? Naturally."

 


This post was posted in Coffee Education and was tagged with Coffee, Natural Processed Coffee, Coffee Processing, Honey Processed Coffee, Semi-Washed Coffee, Washed Coffee, Washed Process Coffee, Coffee Processing Types

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