An Overview of Coffee Processing at the Farm
In essence, the main purpose of processing is to remove the fruit portion of the coffee cherry so what remains is the seed. These methods can broadly be categorized as one of the following:
AKA: Fully washed, Wet process
The coffee is pulped to remove outer skin. Afterwards water is used to wash the sticky mucilage of the fruit off to expose the seed.
Washed coffees typically produce clean flavour profiles with a bright acidity. They tend to offer good consistency but require access to large amounts of water to process.
AKA: Dry process
The coffee is dried, often on raised ‘African beds’ in various settings. Once the fruit has finished drying it is sent to a mill to have the dried husk removed.
Natural coffees can be tricky to do well as they require close care and monitoring during the drying. Origins that have humid climate conditions make drying a challenge so natural processed coffees are more common in origins such as Ethiopia or Brazil. Otherwise, undesirable taints can develop from mould or uncontrolled fermentation. Well-executed naturals can offer a heavier sweetness, body and flavour intensity in the cup.
AKA: Semi-washed, Pulped natural
The coffee is first pulped but the mucilage (sticky fruit layers) is left on. It results in a sticky and often golden honey-like colour and appearance resulting in the popular term used to describe this process. The coffee is then allowed to dry and partially oxidize in a controlled manner to varying levels. Longer durations results in darker colours that are sometimes used to describe the how long it was left to oxidize (e.g. yellow, red, black, etc.). Honey process has the advantage of using less water than a typical washed process while also offering a cup profile somewhere between that of a washed and natural processed coffee.