By coffee processing we refer to the different methods of drying the coffee after the harvest.
The most common techniques for specialty coffee are Washed, Honey and Natural Processing.
In this process, water is the emphasis. The coffee cherry is brought to the wet mill where it is then pulped (outermost fruit skin is removed). It is then put in water and consequentially any floaters are discarded as defects. Afterwards the coffee is fermented (fruit mucilage layer broken down), washed to remove the remaining fruit, and finally dried on a patio, raised screen bed, or by using a mechanical dryer. The parchment stays with the green bean until it is milled at the dry mill.
Through this process the coffee tends to have brighter flavor characteristics are, a cleaner cup, and a lighter body.
Some of the countries known for their washed coffees are Indonesia, Ethiopia, Brazil, and Yemen.
Honey process is an environmentally friendly method of processing ripe coffee cherries.
The basic principle of Honey method lies in picking only perfectly ripe cherries.
At the end of each harvest day, freshly picked cherries are collected, weighted and pulped in manual or electrical pulpers. With their mucilage still fully attached, they are spread on African drying beds. These raised beds are made using locally sourced bamboo, wire mesh and black plastic netting.
Depending on weather conditions, the usual drying cycle takes 10-12 days. At the end of this stage, the water content of the beans should be approx. 11 %.
The key benefit of Honey method is the lack of water used. Not a single drop is wasted for pulping, washing or fermenting. Therefore, comparing to the traditional washed method, there are provable savings of around 2000 l per bag of green beans (60 kg).
Honey method can be easily implemented in remote areas where it eliminates the difficulties with trucking freshly picked cherries to wet mills, usually situated far away from the farm. This often causes problems with unwanted fermentation during the trip and thus potential degradation of quality.
Another important advantage of Honey process is its economical factor. The cost of purchasing a single pulper is incomparable to investing into a fully equipped wet mill. Furthermore, using traditional African drying beds rather than mechanical dryers (guardiolas) saves huge amounts of electricity or fossil fuels. All this makes the Honey method the most environmentally friendly coffee processing technique at present time.
The drying of the parchment with all the mucilage still attached has a direct impact on the sweetness of the cup. Honey coffees have generally very unique cup profile, characterized by its distinct sweetness, enhanced fruit notes and sweet acidity on the taste and aftertaste.
The Natural method is the most antique and traditional way to process coffee cherries. First used in Ethiopia, the cradle of coffee, sun drying ripe cherries before hulling and roasting them is a process unchanged for centuries. Similar to Honey method, not a single drop of water is used during the whole procedure, thus making it a completely environmentally friendly coffee processing method.
After only ripe cherries are picked, collected and weighted, we spread them on African raised beds. After many experiments, we became confident that sun-drying naturals on African beds is a lot faster, cleaner and less expensive than using traditional concrete patios. The air circulation from bellow the bed creates more homogeneous and smooth drying process, which later results in cleaner and softer cup profile.