The term processing in specialty coffee refers to the methods and preparation used to turn fresh ripe coffee cherries into green beans (unroasted raw coffee cherry seeds)
Coffee beans must be removed from the fruit/cherry before they can be roasted, this can be done in several different ways however there are 3 more common methods used and have a huge impact on the flavour of the coffee:
Refers to any one of several technological variations where the parchment and skin are dried together.
This where the whole cherries after harvest is cleaned and placed in the sun either on drying tables or thin layers on patios, the cherries are constantly being rotated by hand or with rakes to ensure even drying of the cherries, to reach the desired moisture content of 10 – 12 percent, depending on the region and strength of sun this process can take up to 4 weeks, however some producers have the option of mechanical drying to speed up the process.
Because the fruit sugars are drying into the seeds of the green coffee, the results are a heavy bodied (heavy on palate) really sweet, fruity tasting coffees
Has a high risk of over fermentation of the fruit during drying
Refers to any one of several technological variations where the parchment and skin are removed/separated before drying.
In the wet/washed processing the cherries are sorted first by immersion in water where the bad/unripe cherries will float to the surface and the good cherries sink, from here the good cherries are then pulped (squeezing the seeds out of the cherry).
At this stage the seeds will still have a large quantity of pulp and mucilage which needs to be removed, this can be done in 2 ways:
Ferment and Wash:
the pulped seeds are placed in a fermentation tank to ferment away the fruit surrounding the seeds either in their own fruit juice or water, this fermentation can take from 24 -36 hours to complete.
the pulped seeds don’t require fermentation to remove the fruit flesh but instead machine scrubbing to scrub away the fruit substances from the seed.
The cleaned seeds are then dried on raised beds or thin patios in the sun to a desired moisture content.
Because the fruits not drying/fermenting into the seeds and is completely removed before drying, the results are a cleaner, acidic/brighter and light bodied coffee
Very costly to produce, requires a lot of resources
Honey Processing (Pulp Natural)
Refers to any one of several technological variations where the parchment and a specific percentage mucilage (the fruit layer surrounding the parchment) are dried together with the seed and the skin/pulp removed.
The Honey process is the most difficult and demanding to execute well. The coffee is pulped then spread out to dry without washing, leaving some of the mucilage still attached to the beans, the beans are then spread very thinly on purposely built drying beds and turned hourly for up to 10 -15 days.
Depending on how much mucilage is still attached on the coffee seeds before drying determines what type of honey process it is:
- Black Honey – 100% Mucilage still attached
- Red Honey – 75% Mucilage still attached
- Yellow Honey – 50% Mucilage still attached
- Golden Honey – 25% Mucilage still attached
- White Honey – 0% Mucilage
This method gives you the best of both worlds with the fine elegant attributes of washed coffees and the substantial body and fruit sweetness of a naturally processed coffee
High risk of drying faults, intensive manual labour.