Natural vs Washed Processed Coffee
When talking about how coffee can be processed may bring up a lot of questions right there. First off, what do we mean by coffee being processed? The “processing” is what happens to the coffee cherries right after they are picked from the coffee plant. Washed processing is the more traditional way depending on the country of origin but there several different ways this processing can happen. Here we are going to break them down.
Something to keep in mind the next time you are trying to decide which coffee to go with. Pay attention to the way it is processed and remember the flavors to coffee you have had previously. We’ll start off with talking about Natural processing.
Like washed process coffee, your natural process coffee also starts out as seedlings, which take 3-4 years to become coffee-producing trees. Beans grow inside cherry-like fruit. After four years of growing to maturity, each tree can produce 1-1.5 pounds of coffee per year, depending on the resources a farmer can dedicate to her coffee. Harvests are just once a year. For maximum sweetness and flavor development, only the reddest coffee cherries should be picked, leaving green ones for another day.
Here’s one of the big differences for a natural coffee - The coffee is rushed (still in its fruit) down the mountain to be dried in the sun. This takes an entire month. While drying, the coffee is turned to ensure even drying.
As it dries some of the fruit's flavors penetrate the bean, resulting in awesome and different (yet natural) flavor notes such as berries and other sweet flavors.
Picked coffee cherries are placed in a big cement funnel. The funnel is filled with water to remove imperfect beans, which float and are scooped off. Then good coffee fruit falls down an opening in the funnel to a "depulper" machine. (This may very to each farm slightly)
The "depulper" separates the outside fruit from beans inside. They are squeezed through a narrow passage wider than a bean but smaller than the fruit. Next, a naturally-occurring honey-like layer outside each bean is fermented with no additives. Fermentation makes the honey layer viscous in water so it can be washed off after 12-48 hours. (This step here is where the washed processing name comes from)
After fermentation, the honey-like layer is removed with water. Imperfections float away over and denser, quality coffee sinks to the bottom. Next, at the dry mill, the coffee is either dried on raised drying beds with a wooden frame and wire mesh underneath, or larger lots can be dried on a cement patio. Either way, the beans are always rotated to ensure an even drying.
There are other process but these are the two most common. If you want anymore information or pictures let me know and we’d be happy to talk and answer questions.
A batch of freshly harvested coffee. What happens next will have a big impact on the end flavor.
Thank you Ben and Gold Mountain for the help describing the difference is processes!