How does coffee bean processing method affect the flavor of your favorite cup of caffeine? If you are a coffee aficionado, you may be familiar with the difference in taste characteristics of different brands. Though you could be thinking this has to do with the brewing technique, the different flavors have much to do with coffee bean processing methods. Here is a look at the 3 common coffee bean processing methods and their differences, as well as, impact on the flavor of your beloved drink.
1. Dry (Natural) Processing
This is the conventional method of preparing coffee beans before selling. It is also widely used in many regions especially where rainfall is scarce. Ethiopia, Yemen, and Brazil are known to produce coffees processed through this method.
In this process, ripe coffee fruits are dried under the sun. The original practice was to spread them on the ground, but today people are cementing their drying patios to improve the quality of the outcome, or using raised racks to allow quicker results. After the cherries are dry, one will pound and winnow to remove the chaff. The clean beans are therefore ready for grading, weighing, and packing.
Since they are dried straight from the tree when they still have fruit pulp, the resulting beans are greatly varied in terms of shape and color. In a bid to get consistent, high-quality naturally-produced beans that match the specialty market needs, there have been several technological enhancements. Besides cementing the drying area and using raised racks, there are machines used for hulling, separating and cleaning the beans. With such, the farmer is able to come up with beans that have even color tones and shape.
If you were to point out a dry processed brew from your cup, you will be looking at heavy-bodied coffee, smooth and sweet in taste, but also, with a tinge of varied flavors including fruit, spice, and chocolate.
2. Wet (Washed)-Processing
If you have noticed clean, bright coffee varieties with a fruity aroma, these are likely to be wet-processed. There are two ways of performing the Washed-Process.
- Wet-Milling: Following this procedure, the cherries are taken through several cycles of washing and brushing to detach the sweet pulp from the parchment; the outer cover of the coffee bean. The next step involves soaking the clean parchment for a couple of hours in a cement pool. During this stage, pulp in the soaked cherries is broken down by microbes which grow as a result of fermentation. One will, therefore, remove their beans, wash and dry them in the sun or using a Guardiola. The outcome is clean and bright beans, of consistent physical appearance, which have a fruity essence.
- Dry-Milling: In this process of wet coffee preparation, one uses machines to husk, winnow, and grade their beans. The equipment has sorters running at a high speed which put beans together according to their size, color, and shape. Their weight is then measured, and the beans are packaged for shipping.
A coffee brew from beans prepared using this method will be light to medium in body, and of vibrant fruity flavor. This method is also notable for toning down acidity in gourmet coffees.
3. Semi-dry/Semi-Washed Processing
Also known as Pulped Natural, this is a modern method which mixes both the wet and dry processing ideas. Areas with plenty of water such as Brazil and Indonesia rely on this technique to boost consistency in physical appearance and flavor of their product. There is wet-pulping equipment used to remove the external cherry. Still with their sweet pulp, the beans are cured for about a day to gain a “natural” flavor. The beans are then rinsed, but not polished off the sweet pulp, and sundried. There are mechanical mills used for sorting, weighing, and packing the merchandise for the market.
The idea behind this processing method is to exercise control on each step. For instance, one will be gentle when pulping to minimize contact between the seed and pulp. This way, you are assured of physical consistency and brilliant flavor.
This method of processing produces coffee that has characteristics of Wet- and Dry-Processing. It is evidently sweeter than washed coffee though it retains some bit of its tardiness, but somewhat heavy-bodied just like dry-processed coffee.
Article written by Rudy Caretti and co-authored by Lorenzo Agostinelli from Gimoka Coffee UK
Rudy Caretti has more than 15 years of experience in the coffee industry, a passion that started in Italy within the family business and brought him to found Gimoka Coffee UK with a group of friends, who share the same passion.
Since he roasted his first batch of coffee seeds as a teenager, he was fascinated by the many ways it can be processed to get the many different distinctive flavors we all love.
As a coffee connoisseur, Rudy has always been aware of the vital role played by coffee in most people's social life and he is especially active through the company's social media and blog. He loves sharing his knowledge with readers around the world, writing and posting articles that range from the coffee brewing techniques to raising awareness of the importance of responsible production to help protect the rights of farmers and protect the environment.