You may have picked up one of our Coffees and noticed the terms “Washed”, “Natural”, “Dry Process”, “Wet Process” or “Honey” in the details. Surprisingly, this does not mean it is honey flavoured or that it’s all natural, these terms refer to how the coffee has been processed after harvest.
Green Coffee beans are the seeds of a small cherry, how that seed is extracted from that cherry is referred to as the processing method and it actually has a massive impact on coffee's flavour. Different forms of processing will not only affect the taste, but also how the coffee is roasted and the body or mouthfeel present.
For example, Natural Coffees tend to be more fruity, less acidic and have a richer thicker body, while Washed Process tend to have more clarity, lighter texture & crisper in flavour.
Let’s dive into the two most popular and ubiquitous processing methods: Washed & Natural (We will discuss Honey process, Anerobic Fermentation & even carbonic maceration later.)
Natural Processing (aka Dry Process)
After the Coffee Cherry is picked, the seed stays inside the fruit and is left out to dry in the sun on a large beds or patios. This is the original method of handling Coffee and it allows the coffee bean to stay in contact with the flesh of the cherry for longer, absorbing more organic compounds, developing fruity flavour and undergoing some fermentation of sugars. The result? A slightly ,sweeter, thicker & boozy fruit forward coffee that challenges the perception of what coffee can taste like.
Washed Processing (aka Wet Processing)
In the washed process, the coffee cherry is immediately taken to a pulping machine where just the skin is removed. Still covered in the mucilage of the cherry, the coffee seeds are soaked in a bath of water, fermentation occurs and eventually the seed is removed to dry. What this does is highlight the innate flavour of that coffee seed, think a “brighter,” or more distinct tasting cup of coffee. Our personal preference as roasters is typically washed coffees, while more acidic than naturals, they tend to have more pop & intense traditional flavour.
- Washed coffees tend to be sharper in flavour & have more conventional tastes, while naturals tend to be sweeter, fruitier and more unique.
- Washed Coffees tend to preform better on filter brews & produce lighter bodied, cleaner but stronger cups.
- Naturals are often roasted longer but not necessarily darker. This means the tend to have more dissolvable material that creates fuller bodied, richer & sweeter cups