How Processing Methods Affect The Taste In Your Final Cup
As much as you can control how your coffee is brewed, how the kettle steams, how your scales beep, the fate of your coffee beans has been sealed before all these.
The flavor of the beans was determined when it was still green. We’ll give you an overview of what happens when your coffee has been harvested and how it is processed. Read on to find out more.
There are a lot of factors that affect the tasting notes of your coffee beans- is it caramel, pine nut, fruity, etc? The flavor profiles of coffee are a result of its cultivars- for example, Bourbon, Castilo, Gesha, and Caturra all taste different. Elevation also has a major role to play in the flavor profile of the beans. High elevation produces lower levels of oxygen in the air that helps to create a denser and more complex coffee bean.
But to get these flavors, the cherry first has to be transformed from the seed of the cherry to a ready to roast beans. How the producer handles this phase is what determines the flavor you get.
There are 3 common ways that farmers process coffee cherries-they are called Natural process, Wet or Washed Process and Honey Processed or Pulped Natural. The kind of process the farmers use varies from region to region. We have given an overview of the 3 most popular ways coffee beans are being processed and how they affect the flavor in your final cup.
THE COMMON FLAVORS ARE: Bold, diverse, and fruity flavors that are gotten from the coffee cherry pulp and the skin. Coffee that is naturally processed usually produces a heavier-bodied cup.
Regions that use this method: Brazil and Ethiopia
The next two methods we are going to mention, use water to treat the cherry but the Natural process (Dry process or Dry Natural) does not require water. Now you know how the name was gotten.
This is how it works: The coffee cherry is picked by the farmers once ripe, then it is dried until it has a preferred moisture content. The cherry has a skin that wraps around a layer of pulp which is referred to as the mucilage, some of this mucilage, you will find when the beans are roasted.
Normally, one cherry fruit has two beans coupled together, and each bean is covered by parchment (a really thin layer). During the Dry process, the cherry is not opened, so this will give the beans a chance to absorb the sweet pulp from the flavorful cherry until it's time for milling when the dried cherry and the parchment areas that cover the beans are hulled.
Furthermore, the beans are usually dried on raised beds and the natural processing method is popular in Africa. It has become a normal practice in the past decade and has even become more popular all over the world.
There is just one downside to this processing method, it can be riskier than other methods if the farmers don't dry the beans properly. The coffee may end up with an off-flavor that coffee experts call ‘fermented’. The natural process always offers you a cup with a fuller body. You’ll notice flavor notes like citrus with lime acidity or sweet, strawberry jam-like notes. It is important to note that if the drying process is done haphazardly, it can result in what we call a ‘dirty’ natural- meaning that it could leave a chalky taste on your tongue, and you surely don't want that.
This is the reason why most organizations prefer the washed process (we’ll tell you about that) where the farmer removes the beans from the cherry as soon as it is harvested. They even discard the cherry pulp once they are done washing, and it gives a rotting fruit odor when decomposition takes place and this is what coffee professionals try to avoid.
The dry method is one of the oldest ways of processing coffee cherry, and it is still predominant to date in some coffee growing regions like Brazil and Ethiopia. It was recently that the specialty coffee industry began to see the quality taste that natural processes give to the coffee. You’ll even find some finer notes in the coffee like bergamot, chocolatey, blueberry, and more.
If you are yet to define your coffee palate, then you should first try to brew coffee that was naturally processed, you won't be needing an expert to detect the flavors of the beans because the flavors are strong. You should try our Ethiopian coffee that are naturally processed, they have fruity flavor notes and give you a full-bodied cup
WASHED OR WET-PROCESSED
COMMON FLAVORS YOU’LL FIND: You will notice ‘clean’ flavors (meaning that you’ll find more flavors in the seed). The beans have a more pronounced acidity, silky and delicate. It also has a tea-like body that features notes like chocolatey, floral, and fruity. The most common flavor note of this process is floral.
Regions that use this method: Africa and Latin America.
The washed process is so different from the natural process and this starts right after harvest. While the natural method leaves the cherry intact, the washed process removes the beans from the cherry. This method is referred to as de-pulping.
The next thing is for the coffee beans to be soaked in a fermentation tank (wet mills) and the beans are gradually de-pulped as it passes through different stations.
Let's start from the beginning- After harvest, the coffee cherries are immediately dropped at a mill with a hopper, the water will carry the coffee cherries to another tank. Any coffee cherry that is less dense or damaged will be discarded because it will float while the good cherries will sink.
After this, they are pushed to the de-pulping machine, then the seeds will be moved to the fermentation tank. They are left to ferment for about 30 to 72 hours. It is because of this processing method that the beans have a more pronounced acidity.
The acidity level is increased because of the acetic acid that develops when the natural sugars in the coffee pulp interact with the environment they are kept in (that is the fermentation tank). However, if the farmers don't check the pH levels during fermentation, the acid may become too much and cause the cherry to change to vinegary coffee.
Since the coffee is washed, it will produce a balanced yet complex delicate body which gives the buyer more value. For example, coffee that is washed and processed will offer you a tea-like quality and balance that you will love.
Try our coffee beans that are washed and processed to get a more balanced cup with floral notes.
HONEY PROCESSED METHOD
COMMON FLAVORS YOU’LL FIND: Sweetness, strawberry jam, and sugary notes.
The coffee will have a creamier body than that of the washed process, the texture is closer to honey. It doesn't contain much acidic content like the washed process.
Regions that use the method: Central America and Brazil.
If you are somewhere between the two camps- that is, you don't really love the lemon tartness of coffee that is washed processed, or you don't like the robust acidity of the natural process, the Honey process might be the answer you’ve been looking for.
For the honey process, the farmer de pulps the coffee cherry after harvest. It is similar to the washed process but here, the beans are not fermented in the tanks so the clinging mucilage is left to dry with the coffee. The color of the beans depends on how much mucilage remained on them. The honey process is usually classified by color which ranges from black to yellow.
As previously mentioned, you’ll be getting coffee with a creamier body that sometimes tastes like honey. One good thing about this method is that it has a muted acidity. Coffee experts say that you’ll likely get a raspberry taste and even a fruity taste, but you won't notice any tartness like that of the washed process.
The mucilage might even mute some extreme flavors in the coffee, bring it closer to the middle (more balanced) Whether you prefer the sweetness of the honey pulped process or the tartness of the washed process or the robust flavors in the dry process, they are all perfect when brewed. After all, the taste of coffee is subjective.
Now you know how processing methods affect the flavor of your coffee. Which one would you like? Is it the washed processed coffee with lemon tartness or the natural process with the blueberry flavor notes or the honey pulped process that gives an approachable sweetness? Whatever answer you come up with is perfect.
You can find coffee beans that are processed with these popular methods on our site. Hurry now and get some freshly roasted coffee beans here.