Processing at origin plays a major role in producing an excellent coffee. In this post we will dig a little deeper on how it determines the fate of the cup.
In our recent post, Tree to Cup, we barely scratched the surface on the journey of coffee. At origin, coffee is carefully grown, harvested, and meticulously sorted. After being sorted the coffee must be properly processed. In this post we will talk about four processing methods of coffee, how each method is used, and what makes it unique. But before we begin let's start with the anatomy of the coffee cherry. Like any fruit the coffee cherry has layers, and these definitive layers help create a foundation for each processing method.
As we said before there are four types of coffee processes such as the Washed, Semi-Washed, Natural, and the Honey Process. Each processing method can be used to produce an excellent cup of coffee but location, resources, and the skill set of the farmer is what differentiates them.
Our first process is the Washed Process. The Washed Process is when the coffee's cherry is mechanically stripped off of the seed(called Pulping) while leaving the mucilage(pulp) on the parchment. The seed is then placed again in water to naturally ferment the coffee and remove the remaining mucilage that surrounds the coffee's seed. This process is used in water rich countries such as Central and South America. It is also known to give the coffee distinct and transparent tasting notes. This coffee process can create an excellent cup, although some theorize that the process literally washes off some the natural flavors of the coffee that was originally there.
Next is the Wet Hulled/Semi-Washed Process. This process is a subset of the Washed Process that begins by the cherries being pulped, washed with their mucilage still intact, and then set out to dry/rest for twenty-four hours. After a full day of rest the beans are washed again to remove the mucilage and set out to dry until it reaches a certain moisture content that the farmer approves of and then can be sent off to be sold. The Semi-Washed Process is used mostly in Indonesian countries and has a reputation to have more earthy tasting notes due to its exposure to the elements and second washing it goes through.
The Natural Process goes in the opposite direction of the Washed/Semi-Washed Process. The Natural Process is when the coffee bean is dried in its cherry and placed in sunlight on patios or raised beds to dry. The seed remains in it's fruit until the dried cherry can easily be removed. This process can take weeks to complete, and during that time the seed is soaking in all of the sugars of its cherry, and produces a wildly rich and flavorful coffee. Natural Processing is used mostly in Brazil, Yemen, and African countries. This process is simple in it's execution and is perfect for countries with a limited resource of water.
The Honey/Pulped Natural Process is when a coffee's cherry is removed and all or some of the pulp remains. While the seed is drying, the pulp takes on a honey like texture and color, thus the name of the process. This method was invented by the Brazilians, but was adopted by many farmers around the world. The Honey Process can also be broken down into other subgroups. Farmers have been able to adjust the amount of the pulp that is left on each bean, and the amount of sunlight required to dry them. Each subgroup is given a name by the percentage of pulp left on the bean. The first is the Yellow Honey process which has 25-50% of pulp left on the seed and is turned hourly to ensure it is consistently dried. The second is the Red Honey process which has 50-75% and is turned multiple times a day but less than the Yellow Honey. Finally we come to the Black Honey that has 75-100% pulp left on the parchment and is only turned once a day.
During Coffee's journey from Tree to Cup, the processing of the coffee will determine its fate. We here at Red Rooster seek out the Farmers that go above and beyond to produce and process excellent coffee. The coffee's below are some of the many coffee's that we have to offer that create incredible cups of coffee!