Coffee processing methods: from washed to naturals and more.

Coffee processing methods

We now know that coffee is not always just coffee. But what influences the final taste of your cup of coffee?

Super many elements. Perhaps too many to list...

The fermentation process of the coffee bean

To give you an indication: including the (micro)climate, the altitude, the type of coffee bean ( Arabica) and the variety, the processing of wet berries into green bean that we can use as a roaster, transport, roasting profile...

In this blog I will go into more detail about the processing method !

Read also: What types of coffee beans are there?

If you know that coffee beans are the seeds of a berry, you can perhaps imagine that there is another process that must take place after picking this berry.

This berry and the kernel are of course still wet, this way it cannot be stored until it reaches the burner and we cannot throw the wet berry/bean combination into the burner.

The processing method

The step that is now being taken is the processing of the coffee beans. This step really has a major impact on the flavor development, especially on the sweetness of the coffee bean.

Washed method: the most commonly used

The vast majority of coffee beans are processed using the wet processing method. This method is very labor intensive.

First, the berries are depulped with a rolling machine that separates the pulp from the pit. The kernel (the coffee bean) then has a layer of pectin around it and goes in its entirety in a fermentation tank.

Then the beans are actually washed and the pectin layer is rinsed off.

When this has happened, the beans are spread out on a surface to dry for about 10 days. In the meantime, the beans must be raked to prevent mold formation.

This method uses a relatively large amount of water.

Natural method: the counterpart

The counterpart of the commonly used method explained above is the natural method or the unwashed method.

This method is widely used in Brazil, among others, the advantage is that you don't need much.

After picking, the coffee cherries are placed on a substrate and regularly raked to ensure that the drying process proceeds evenly and to minimize the risk of mold formation.

After the drying process, the dried flesh of the coffee beans is broken off by means of a "huller". Sometimes a rotary clothesline is also used to speed up the process, but this is of course not a requirement.

What is important here is that natural coffees are often intensely sweet because the sugars pull from the pulp into the kernel. Nice huh?!

In between...

To make it not too complicated, there are also a number of well-known processing methods in between:

  • Pulped Natural : This method is very popular in Brazil. After depulping, the coffee beans are immediately placed to dry with a pectin layer around them. Sensors are often used to measure how much pectin is left. When this is at the right level, the beans are spread out to dry further. These coffee beans are also very sweet due to the sugars still present.

  • Honey Processed : This method is very popular in Costa Rica and is somewhat complex. The honey name refers to the honey-like sweetness of the coffees. The darker the color of the final bean, the tastier and more aromatic the coffee. However, the latter takes much more time, effort and attention. Because the chance of over-fermentation is much greater, these coffees are often more expensive if they are successful!

Related: New to coffee world? Here 5 tips!