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Coffee processing quickly explained.
Coffee cultivation is not an easy breadwinning activity, but from sowing to harvesting, only part of the work is done. As soon as the coffee is harvested, the real challenge begins: processing. Since we offer coffees that have been prepared in different ways, this is a good opportunity to get involved. It might also be helpful for you to know the various techniques and their effects on the taste of the coffee.During the processing of the green coffee beans, the layers wrap around the coffee bean, pulp, mucus and parchment skin are removed. As a result of the processing, only the raw material that the coffee farmer wants to sell, the green coffee bean, remains. The way the coffee is processed has a profound influence on the taste of the coffee.
Have you ever read the word " natural" or "honey" on coffee packaging and asked yourself what it means?The taste of the coffee is determined by certain characteristics, such as origin, variety or roasting profile, brewing time and so on. In contrast, the characteristic "preparation" is almost completely ignored, which seems somewhat surprising given the many ways in which it can influence the final product.
In essence, coffee preparation is the process of moving from the coffee cherry to the green bean. During processing, coffee producers have the opportunity to experiment with the taste and possibly respond to market demand.
The four most commonly used processing methods are Natural, Pulped Natural, Honey and Washed.
- Dry processing „Natural“
This is the simplest processing method.Ripe coffee cherries are laid out on drying terraces or drying beds and turned regularly to ensure that they dry evenly. If the cherries are not turned over frequently, fermentation will be uneven and the taste will be affected.
The whole fruit is intact during this process and the coffee is dried slowly. Once the beans have a moisture content of 10-12% inside, the cherries are peeled. This is done in a pulper. The pulp is mechanically removed from the bean. In the next step the beans are sorted according to quality and packed in bags.
Often, however, the quality of sun-dried coffee was not as high. Uncontrolled fermentation takes place in the pulp and often leads to defects, which can make the coffee taste musty. Mould is also often a problem.
Special attention is paid to better training the workers at the drying plants so that the cherries are regularly turned over, thus preventing the development of a fermented flavour.
Although drying in the sun is the most accessible method because of the low cost of supply and low water consumption, it is also the most risky. It is not suitable for countries with high rainfall. Dry processing is most common in dry climates, especially in Ethiopia. Increasingly, however, it is an option for farmers who have the freedom and capital to process coffee in different ways.
One variant of the "natural" process is called the wine process. In a wine-processed coffee, the cherries are not harvested at the peak of ripeness, but overripe on the bush, resulting in a higher concentration of sugar and a slightly fermented flavour.
During dry processing, the sugary pectin layer is absorbed into the bean and its sweet aroma affects the taste of the coffee by naturally sweetening the dried coffee.
COFFEE CHERRIES AFTER DRYING. Quelle: Coffee Hunter
Discover our Naturals.
- Wet coffee processing „washed“
The majority of the coffee we sell is produced during the wet processing step.In the wet processing stage, the coffee cherries are first of all de-pulped, i.e. mechanically crushed, removing the outer skin and part of the pulp. In modernised plants, a Green Cherry Separator is installed before the pulper, which automatically separates green and unripe cherries.
Depulper IN ACTION.
The beans and the remaining mucus are then placed in fermentation tanks for eight and even 50 hours. During this time, the mucilage decomposes and affects the acidity and fruity character of the washed coffee. As soon as the farmer finds that the coffee is sufficiently fermented, the coffee is washed with fresh water, which interrupts the fermentation process. Unlike sun-drying, in the case of wet coffee, the further processing should take place within 8 hours of harvesting, otherwise the fermentation process will begin. A so-called wetmill is used for wet processing. The coffee is then spread out on drying beds or terraces to dry before resting in warehouses for 60 to 90 days and then being shipped.Wet processing has a slightly bitter aftertaste. It is ecologically questionable, as the waste water is often discharged directly into the environment. Some companies use mechanical treatment plants, but this depends on the financial stability of the company. Unfortunately, the necessary infrastructure is often lacking in the growing countries.
Washed coffee usually tastes flowery, citrusy and clear. Browse through our
- Pulped Natural
Pulped Natural is a processing method commonly used in Brazil. Pulped Natural is similar to the washed process, except that the mucus is removed using a high-pressure washer, skipping the fermentation process altogether. The process uses much less water than the traditional wet processing, which is why it is sometimes called the semi-dry process. As there is no fermentation, only a minor risk of over- or under-fermentation exists, resulting in a qualitatively uniform product. Unfortunately, without fermentation the taste tends to be consistent but bland. For this reason, farmers do not use this method on premium coffees.
- Honey processing
In recent years, the popularity of Honey Coffee has increased, especially in countries like Costa Rica and El Salvador, where it is produced more and more frequently.During the Honey preparation process, the coffee is dried, leaving some or all of the mucus on the parchment skin surrounding the seed. The coffee cherries are picked, graded, deslimed and then spread out to dry on drying beds or terraces, the drying time being relatively short. Depending on how much pulp remains on the coffee, the coffee with honey can be classified as yellow, red or black. Since a slight fermentation takes place within the short drying time, the coffees processed in this way are slightly more acidic than Pulped Naturals but significantly less than washed or sun-dried coffees.
Degree of honey preparationCoffee farmers switching to the honey process must use the existing processing facilities. Since their processing plants are usually set up to transport coffee cherries with a lot of water, many farmers inadvertently wash off some of the mucilage by transporting the coffee by water from one point of their processing plant to another.
Depending on how much slime is left on the coffee bean, green coffees are also described as 40%, 60%, 80% or 100% honey. By removing some of the honey (mucilage), coffee farmers hope to make the beans a little less sticky and thus reduce the risk of over-fermentation during the drying process.
The colour spectrum of honey coffee beans
Recently, some Costa Rican coffee farmers began to assign a color attribute to honey-processed coffee: yellow, red or black. This indicates how much light the coffee beans have been exposed to during drying.
Honey PROCESSED COffee. Quelle: Taf Coffee
Yellow Honey was exposed to the most light. Since more light means more heat, the drying of this coffee usually takes only about a week. (Drying times always depend on general weather conditions such as temperature and humidity). Red honey is dried for two to three weeks, usually on cloudy days or in the shade. If it is very sunny, the coffee farm workers cover the drying coffee for a longer period of time to reduce the exposure to light. Black honey is most protected from light and dries the longest: at least two weeks. It is also the most expensive honey coffee, as the production process is the most labour-intensive and expensive.In this processing, the advantage for coffee growers is that they can approach some of the interesting properties of Natural coffee, with less risk of mould and over-fermentation and a slightly shorter drying time. For us coffee lovers, the advantage is that we can enjoy intensely sweet tasting coffees.
Honey processed coffee tends to be fruity like a natural and is slightly creamier in the mouth feel than a washed coffee.
Try our Honey processed coffee !
Do you have more questions about coffee preparation? Send us a message and we will try to help.
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