Coffee processing and the way it is processed is massive and is key to how a your daily cup will taste.
Most lovers of coffee are hooked on the belief that coffee only tastes great depending on the region the coffee comes from, and although this plays a part in great tasting coffee it is mostly to do with the way it is produced and processed.
Processing in the food and beverage industry can be seen as a detrimental effect
on how our food and drink is ‘played with’ before it reaches us to consume, however when it comes to coffee it’s all about the process of how it is harvested, washed and dried to make your perfect cup.
Continue reading to find out more about how our coffee is produced and processed, let me tell you it is a science!
Natural Process Coffee
The second most common and oldest form is the natural process, which mostly produces an intense and berry-tasting flavor.
Originating from Ethiopia this process does not include any washing and is the most basic and simple method but involves laying the sorted and pre-cleaned cherries that are ripe on to a patio or raised bedding area usually for a period of between three to six weeks and is the more traditional method for processing coffee.
The cherries dry naturally and slowly using natural sunlight or mechanical driers and are frequently turned by hand to ensure even roasting. Growers need to pay a great deal of attention to the cherries in order to avoid mold or over fermentation.
As soon as the fruit is dry it is striped away from the actual bean using a depulping machine.
This method is mostly used in countries with low rainfall, low humidity and where
access to water is more restricted.
Another method of the natural process is referred to as the wine process, absolutely nothing to do with grapes as the name would suggest but a process where the fruit is allowed over ripen before picking and this gives a higher concentration of sugar and fruity wine flavor to your daily cup of coffee.
Washed Process Coffee
This is the most common and quickest way to process coffee but it still requires a
lot of skill to produce the perfect cup. Some of the highest quality and most expensive coffee is produced using this method.
The first step is to depulp the freshly harvested coffee cherries to remove the skin and fruit from around the coffee bean. The coffee is then placed inside a tank with large quantities of water for eighteen to twenty four hours.
Bad fruit will float and good fruit will sink. This breaks down the mucilage. Once fermentation has taken place the coffee is washed and then dried on patios or raised beds for sixty to ninety days in large warehouses before being transported to its destination.
Coffee processed in this way is usually more floral and citrus in flavor and can also be known as wet coffee.
This method of washed processing is not environmentally friendly due to the
large quantities of water it uses especially in countries that use a double fermentation method therefore using double the amount of water, however it does produce a very clean coffee.
Honey Process Coffee
There are three different types of honey coffee, yellow red and black.
The reason for different types of honey is the amount of light the coffee is exposed to during drying time; temperature and humidity play a part in the overall drying process.
In this process the mucilage is allowed to remain on the parchment which encases the seed, this sticky and sugary substance gives the coffee a wonderfully honey like taste that so many of us enjoy today.
Yellow honey is exposed to the most amount of light, more light means more heat and usually only takes one week to dry.
Red honey is mostly dried on overcast days or in the shade for two to three weeks. If weather conditions are too sunny the grower will cover the drying coffee for a time in order to reduce the light and slow down the process.
Black honey is the most sheltered and dries for the longest amount of time and is the most labour intensive and expensive of the honey-processed coffee. A drying time of at least two weeks is required to give the coffee the most forward fruit flavor of the honey varieties.
The Future of Coffee Processing
The popularity of coffee is constantly growing and the demand for it has never
been greater. The coffee industry is constantly trying to come up with innovative
ways to make our coffee taste delicious by concentrating on both the origin of
the supply and the processing methods used to create that perfect cup.
A process involving washing will eventually relinquish a water supply so although this is thought to be the best processing method in terms of taste, growers and producers of coffee are leaning more towards sun-dried natural methods to help promote responsible coffee production the world over.
Using natural methods to provide us with the worlds most popular drink can only be a positive step in the production and processing of our coffee by future generations of coffee growers.
Next time you enjoy a cup of your favorite coffee, whether it be a latte, cappuccino, espresso or macchiato, take time to appreciate the process that has taken place before it reached your cup.
You may even be able to notice a difference in the overall taste now that you have a better understanding of the variety on offer to us all today.