On all of our coffees, whether its retail bags, subscription packs or wholesale, we comment on the method in which that particular coffee has been processed. This may seem like a small, largely irrelevant piece of information but it has a big effect on the taste of your coffee. This is a quick breakdown of the two most common processing methods (there are many more variations) and the effects they have on your beans.
In this process the coffee cherries are sorted to remove any under ripe ones and are then allowed to dry in the sun with their skin on. They are raked throughout the drying process to ensure they are dried evenly. They are then hulled to remove the now dry cherry and parchment from around the green coffee bean.
This process can be result in quite a mix in the quality of the green beans, sometimes within the same bag, and at times can require quite a lot of sorting from the roaster to pick out any beans with defects. However when its good the coffees can display unusual and strong fruit flavours, which as a result it can divide opinion, some people love naturals and others avoid them altogether!
As with the natural process the washed process begins with the coffee cherries being sorted to remove under ripe cherries. However it is at this point that the two processes diverge. The cherries are then pulped using a mechanical depulping machine, this process removes the majority of the fruits flesh from around the inner bean. After this they are placed in a fermentation tank full of clean water to remove the last remaining sticky flesh. The resulting beans are then washed to remove any remaining debris on the bean and left to dry in the sun.
The washed process results in a far more consistent crop than the natural process as the removal of the outer flesh removes a step in the process in which a processing error can occur. While not producing some of the more unusual flavours that can be found in natural coffees, washed coffees can produce a far ‘cleaner’ cup on the whole.
The next step
There are many other variations of coffee processing, some very similar to the two highlighted above and some very different. After the processing stage has been completed the coffees are checked for obvious defects and foreign materials such as stones and sticks. They are then bagged up (usually in 60 or 69kg bags) and sent onto their next destination.