Each method has its unique effects on the coffee beans and can dramatically change the flavor of the coffee.
In this article, we will explore some of the most common coffee processing methods and discuss their effects on coffee.
We will also take a look at some of the newer methods that are being used today and see how they are changing the way coffee is processed.
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What does coffee processing mean?
Coffee processing is the process of turning coffee cherries into green coffee beans. The fruit of the coffee plant, coffee cherry, contains two seeds, or beans, that are encased in a fleshy outer layer.
In order to become green coffee beans ready for roasting, the fruit must first go through a process of removing the outer layers. This can be done through a variety of methods. Some of them are as old as coffee itself while others are relatively new.
The coffee processing method that is used can have a dramatic effect on the resulting cup of coffee. Different methods will extract different flavors from the coffee beans and can even change the caffeine content.
In recent years, there has been a trend toward using newer coffee processing methods, such as anaerobic fermentation.
But no matter which method is used, coffee processing is an essential step in making coffee.
What are the steps involved in coffee processing?
Coffee processing typically involves four steps:
This is the first step in coffee processing and it is important to only select ripe coffee cherries.
If unripe or overripe coffee cherries are picked, it will negatively affect the quality of the coffee.
The next step is to remove the coffee cherries from their parchment.
This can be done by machine or by hand.
Once the coffee cherries have been removed from their parchment, they need to go through a fermentation process.
This step helps to break down the sugars in the coffee and prepare it for drying.
The coffee cherries need to be dried until they reach a moisture content of around 11%. This can be done in the sun or in mechanical dryers.
After the coffee has gone through these four steps, it is then ready to be hulled and graded.
These final two steps are important in ensuring that only the highest quality coffee beans make it to the roaster.
"Regardless of the method, picking, depulping, fermentation and drying remain the staple steps of the process."
The most common methods for processing coffee cherries
There are many coffee processing methods that are used throughout the coffee-growing world.
Each method has its own unique effects on the coffee beans and can dramatically change the flavor of the coffee.
Let's see some of the most common methods.
Natural Processed Coffee
This coffee processing method is also called dry process coffee. The coffee cherries are dried in the sun until they reach the desired moisture content. This can take anywhere from two to three weeks. Natural processed coffee typically has a sweeter taste with hints of fruit and chocolate.
The coffee beans are also less acidic than coffee that has been processed using other methods. This coffee is typically grown in regions with hot climates, such as Ethiopia and Brazil.
When done correctly, natural process coffee can be some of the most flavorful and complex coffee available. However, it is also one of the most difficult methods to master. The coffee cherries need to be dried slowly and evenly to avoid over-drying or fermentation.
Natural processed coffee can be more difficult to produce than coffee that has been processed using other methods. This is because the coffee cherries need to be carefully monitored during the drying process to ensure that they do not over-dry or get moldy.
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Washed coffee is coffee that has been processed using water. The coffee cherries are first soaked in water to loosen the fruit from the beans. They are then put through a machine that removes the outer layers of the coffee cherry.
After depulping, the coffee beans need to go through a fermentation process. This helps to break down the sugars in the coffee and prepare it for drying. The coffee beans are then dried until they reach a moisture content of around 11%.
Washed coffee typically has a more balanced flavor with less fruitiness than natural processed coffee.
The washed coffee processing method is the most common coffee processing method used today. This is because it results in a more consistent cup of coffee. It is also easier to control the fermentation process when using this method.
The washed coffee process is more labor-intensive than the natural coffee process. However, it results in a coffee that is less likely to have defects.
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Wet Hulled Coffee Processing
Wet hulled coffee is a coffee processing method that is typically used in Indonesia. Contrary to "standard wet processing", where moisture levels drop do 10–12% the Giling Basah allows coffee cherries to semi-dry to 30–35% moisture.
After fermentation, the coffee beans are then hulled while they are still wet. This removes the outer layers of the coffee bean. The coffee beans are then dried until they reach the desired moisture content.
Wet hulled coffee typically has an earthy flavor with hints of chocolate.
Giling basah processed coffee typically has an earthy flavor with hints of chocolate.
Newer coffee processing methods
Coffee processing methods have come a long way in the past few years. With new methods being developed all the time, coffee aficionados are able to explore different flavors and textures that coffee can offer.
Here are a few:
Honey Processed Coffee
Honey processed coffee is coffee that has been processed with partial removal of the coffee cherry. The coffee cherries are de-pulped and then put into tanks where they undergo a controlled fermentation process.
After fermentation, the coffee beans are then dried with the help of forced air or mechanical dryers. This helps to preserve some of the coffee's natural sugars, resulting in a coffee with a sweeter taste.
The honey-processed coffee method is a newer processing method that is becoming more popular among coffee growers. This method results in a coffee with a sweeter taste and unique flavor profile.
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Anaerobic Coffee Processing
Anaerobic coffee processing is a coffee processing method that involves fermenting the coffee beans in an oxygen-free environment. This coffee typically has a fruity flavor with hints of chocolate.
The coffee beans are placed in a sealed container where they undergo fermentation for anywhere from 12 to 48 hours.
Anaerobic coffee processing is a new coffee processing method that is starting to become more popular among coffee farmers. This coffee typically has a fruity flavor with hints of chocolate.
AQUAPULP COFFEE PROCESSING
The aquapulp process is a way to remove the coffee cherry's sticky pulp. It uses machines to scrub the cherry and has gradually been replacing traditional wet processing methods.
One downside to the aquapulp process is that it can result in coffee beans that are more difficult to roast evenly. This is because the coffee beans can retain more moisture when the mucilage is removed mechanically.
Carbonic Maceration coffee processing
This is a process that was introduced by award-winning barista Saša Šestić in 2015.
It uses whole cherries and allows them to sit in an environment rich in carbon dioxide.
The biggest difference between this method compared to anaerobic processing is that the coffee cherries are fermented as a whole.
The pectins that break down during carbonic maceration allow a myriad of flavors like whisky, banana, or red wine to seep into the coffee beans.
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE COFFEE BEANS ARE PROCESSED?
Once the coffee is processed, the beans are still enclosed by the parchment layer.
However, at this point, the beans have a low enough moisture content to be stored without risk of rotting.
They are typically kept in a dry warehouse, or reposo, for one to two months before being exported.
Prior to export, the beans must be hulled to remove the parchment. This is usually done mechanically in a dry mill, as opposed to using a wet mill or de-pulper as in the washed process.
Once hulled, the beans are graded and sorted (mechanically or manually) by taking into account size and color.
Coffee processing is an important step in the journey from coffee bean to your morning cup of joe. The different methods can have a significant impact on the flavor and aroma of the coffee.
We’ve explored the most common methods and some of the newer techniques, but there are many more out there.
If you want to try some specialty-grade coffee that has been processed using one of these unique methods, we’ve got just the thing.
Our Honduras coffee is sourced from smallholder farmers and processed using different methods. All our coffees are smooth and mellow, and will please even the most discerning coffee lover. Try them today and taste for yourself what makes our coffee so special.