Coffee Processes - What's The Difference?
Natural, washed, wet-hulled – what?!
Your Velo coffee just arrived, and with high levels of excitement, you open the box and take your coffee bag out! You look at your bag of coffee and see words like “natural, washed, wet-hulled, extended fermentation”, and you can’t help but wonder what they mean.
Well, wonder no more! We are going to tell you all about the different types of processes that coffee beans go through. The way the coffee beans are processed can impact the flavour of the coffee, so you may have a preference of process without even knowing.
Coffee processing is broken down into four different methods: fruit dried, mucilage dried, parchment dried, and seed dried. These methods are then broken down into what we are going to talk about today!
The natural, or dry, process of coffee is a basic approach originally from Ethiopia.
This process requires less investment, but certain climate conditions are necessary to dry the beans properly. The natural process can create some of the most flavourful coffees!
The natural process is where the coffee cherries (yes, coffee beans come from a fruit) are picked when ripe, laid out to dry on massive patios or raised beds for weeks at a time and turned periodically to avoid spoiling. The coffee is then dried to a standard of 10% - 12% moisture.
Our Brazil Eagle Monte Carmelo is a favourite among our customers, and one of our natural processed coffees. The region this coffee comes from has a very dry climate, so the coffee is not impacted by humidity.
This coffee process involves placing harvested coffee cherries in airtight barrels before pumping CO2 in. This will create an environment with high levels of CO2, which allows the coffee cherries to break down pectins, or food stabilisers. This produces bright and winey coffees with strong flavours of red fruits!
One of our new coffees from Laos is processed this method. This coffee has delicious flavours of chocolate covered pretzels, with notes of malt and a spiced finish!
Washed coffees focus solely on the bean and really allow you to taste what’s on the inside. The washed process depends on the bean’s ability to absorb natural sugars and nutrients before harvest. Here, the country of origin plays a prominent role in the overall flavour.
Soil, weather, washing, and drying are all key elements of the washed coffee process. Washed coffees highlight the true character of a single origin bean, which is why so many specialty coffees are washed!
One of our most popular coffees is a washed Catuai from Ratnagiri Estate in India! This delicious coffee is slightly nutty with flavours of milk chocolate and green apple - sounds delicious! The farm where this coffee comes from has been operated by the same family for generations, giving them plenty of time to perfect the washed process and begin to experiment!
During honey processing, the cherry peel is removed, but some of the ‘flesh’, or mucilage, remains in the coffee beans while they are dried. The mucilage of the coffee bean is extremely sweet and sticky, like honey. Honey processed coffees are known for having sweet flavours.
Our Costa Rica coffee is a white honey process. White honey coffees are generally mechanically washed, which leaves minimal mucilage around the coffee bean. But don't worry! This coffee will certainly still satisfy your sweet tooth with delicious flavours of salted caramel and blackberry!
Anaerobic and Extended Fermentation
During fermentation in coffee, there are biological processes that occur in which enzymes produced by the yeast and bacteria start breaking down the sugars in the mucilage (don’t worry - we won’t get all ‘sciencey’ on you)!
Coffee beans that are being processed with the anaerobic fermentation method are stored in closed bags or tanks with carbon dioxide traps and covered with water. Anaerobic fermentation allows for better control of the process by being able to control pH levels, sugar content, and temperature in the tank. The coffee will ferment for about 48 hours before being washed and dried.
The process starts with removing the beans and fermenting them overnight. The beans are then washed the following day and left as a wet parchment coffee (it’s still covered with the wet parchment layer). The coffee is then dried in the sun for 2-3 days. The moisture content will remain higher than the natural process, at 20% - 24%, so the bean is soft to the touch and inflated with water.
The coffee then goes through a special huller that is designed to handle the semi-dried parchment. The hulled beans are dried to 12% - 13% in the sun during the day and stored in bags overnight to continue fermentation. Chaguite Grande from Nicaragua is our wet-hulled coffee here at Velo. This coffee has a rich and creamy body and flavours of dark chocolate – need we say more?!
Well, that was certainly a lot of information! Hopefully we were able to teach you something new today - other than the fact you want to go make a cup of coffee NOW!