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The Different Coffee Processing Methods

Written by Bacha Coffee | 15 May 2023
|3 mins | Coffee Culture
Understand the difference between dry, wet or washed, semi-washed, pulped, and honey processes.

How a coffee is processed after harvesting plays a large role on its flavour. Coffee processing involves removing the different layers of the coffee cherry to produce a stable product that is ready to be stored, shipped then roasted. Here are the different types of coffee processing: 

The natural/dry process 

  • This process is the oldest and most traditional method of processing coffee cherries. Coffee cherries are dried entirely in their natural form. Whole cherries are spread out in a thin layer under the sun on brick patios or drying tables. This method allows air to flow, reducing the risk of rot or mould.  

  • Once the cherries are dry, a machine removes the outer husk of skin and surrounding fruit. This method is often used where water is scarce, seasons are distinct and summers are intensely hot. 

  • Resulting coffee: The coffee beans produced from the dry process often take on the flavour characteristics of the coffee cherry. This is because the coffee bean was in contact with the cherry flesh throughout the drying process. 

The wet / washed process 

  • The wet or washed process removes all of the cherry’s sweet sticky flesh from the seed before it is dried. This significantly reduces the risk of mould or rot, but it is more expensive and requires larger quantities of fresh water. 

  • Once the skin and flesh are removed, the beans are placed into a tank of fresh water to ferment. After the fermentation period, the beans are washed and spread out to dry on patios or drying tables, in exactly the same manner as dry-processed coffees. 

  • Resulting coffee: Wet-processed coffee is often described as having a “clean” or “pure” flavour, unaffected by the flavours of the coffee cherry. 

The pulped natural process 

  • The middle ground between the dry and wet processing methods. Freshly harvested coffee cherries are depulped to remove the skin to expose the fruity layer, then spread out to dry on patios or drying beds. As there is less flesh around the beans, there is less risk of defects. 

  • Resulting coffee: As this process requires careful attention, it results in a brew that is sweeter and more full-bodied than wet-processed coffees. 

The semi-washed/wet hulled process 

  • Practiced almost exclusively in Indonesia, the semi-washed process entails depulping freshly harvested coffee cherries and then drying them to 30 to 50 percent. 

  • The beans are then hulled, stripping them of their parchment to expose the green coffee beans underneath. The beans are dried once more after. 

  • Resulting coffee: This process gives the beans a dark green colour. This coffee has low acidity and a fuller body, often accented by earthy, spicy notes of tobacco and leather. 

The honey process 

  • The honey process uses a depulper which removes only a specific percentage of the flesh. This process is often used in Central American countries such as Costa Rica and El Salvador. Depending on the quantity of flesh left on the bean, different varieties of honey process coffees can be produced. 

  • Varying levels have become known as "black honey", "red honey" and "white and yellow honey" respectively. These coffees are differentiated by the amount of light and humidity the beans are exposed to.  

  • Resulting coffee: The more of the coffee cherry left on the outside results in more caramelising and a darker color. The darker the colour, the richer in body and flavour. 

Bacha Coffee prides itself on working with coffee producers who not only take great care in their coffee plant cultivation, but also consider their coffee processing methods that will affect the coffees’ flavours. 

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