Have you ever wondered why coffee bags are sometimes labeled with a variety of descriptions for “process”? Wet, dry, washed, sun-dried, partial washed, oh and were the honey processed beans dipped in honey? All of this lingo can be quite perplexing at times. After Coffee Crate‘s recent visit to Dynamite Coffee’s roasting facility in Black Mountain, North Carolina, I felt like I had a better understanding of the nuances of the different methods of processing coffee. Andy Gibbon from Dynamite breaks it down into 3 basic categories: Washed (wet), Honey processed (partial wash), and Natural (dry, unwashed). It started making sense why one coffee could taste really clean, bright and super fruity (Washed) and another coffee might be heavy and sweet (Natural).
Coffee Processes explained
“After a coffee is picked, a decision must be made by the farmer as to how the bean will be processed. The choice may be made based on tradition or available resources, or to develop a new flavor in the coffee. In general, there are three processing methods used to dry coffee, with each developing very different flavors in the bean.
Natural (or dry) process:
The natural process produces coffee that is heavy in body, sweet, fruity, and complex. Whole coffee cherries are sorted and laid out on a patio or screen to dry before the dried fruit is removed by a milling machine. The natural process is often used in countries where rainfall is scarce and long periods of sunshine are available to dry the coffee properly.
Washed (or wet) process:
In the washed process, coffee is sorted by flotation before being fermented in a large tank of water. This causes the pulp and mucilage to break down so it can be rinsed away with water. The seed is then dried in the sun or by mechanical methods.
This process results in a coffee that is cleaner, brighter, and fruitier than natural processed coffee. Most countries with coffee valued for its perceived acidity, will process their coffee using the washed process.
Pulped Natural/Honey Process:
The pulped natural method consists of pulping a coffee, but limiting the fermentation stage, leaving some of the mucilage intact. This results in a beverage that has characteristics of both a natural and washed process coffee.
It is often sweeter than washed coffees, has some of the body of a natural coffee, but also retains some of the acidity of a washed coffee. This type of processing can only occur in countries where the humidity is low and the coffee covered in the sweet mucilage can be dried rapidly without fermenting.”