An Introduction To Different Coffee Processes
Posted on November 15 2021,
Coffee processing methods aren't always the most intuitive way to learn about your favorite types of coffee. It's pretty rare for you to get insight into how coffee has been processed when you're shopping the aisle at your grocery store of choice. However, when you start getting into coffee in a big way, you may want to learn about washed coffee vs. anaerobic fermentation coffee and all that other good stuff.
Are you feeling lost? That's what we're here for. Grab your coffee drink of choice and keep reading to find out how your taste buds respond to different coffee processes.
What is Coffee Processing?
We wouldn't be caught dead with processed foods in our shopping baskets in most areas of our lives. However, coffee needs to be processed to get to the seeds that hide in a small berry, also known as the coffee cherry.
Once the coffee is harvested, the seeds are removed from the fruit. How that is done is what we call coffee processing. We remove the cherry from the seeds we need in different ways, and these processing techniques all affect the flavor of our favorite drink in unique ways.
Washed Coffee Processing
Wet coffee processing, also known as washed coffee, employs water to remove the ripe cherries from the coffee seeds. It is the most common way to process coffee. Farmers put ripe cherries into so-called wet mills. These wet mills then shake the living daylights out of our coffee cherries, which removes the pulp and skin. Altogether, the beans and the sticky mucilage ferment for one to two days. Once the beans are separated, they are dried in the sun in a dry mill.
Fun Fact: the pulp and skin are usually still composted and used on the coffee farm, and nothing goes to waste.
All well and good, but what does wash processed coffee taste like?
- more consistent taste due to the level of control
- bright, clean taste
- acidic notes
Dry Coffee Processing
This process is sometimes also called natural coffee processing. Instead of washing the coffee cherries, dry coffee processing dries freshly picked coffee cherries by baking them in the sun on large patios for an extended period of time. This process requires a minimum of two weeks of full sunshine to work. In the case of rain or high humidity, the coffee farmers' entire harvest can be ruined.
What does dry-processed coffee taste like?
- fruity and sweet
- berry or citrus notes
- more body than its wet-processed counterparts
- complex taste
Honey Coffee Processing
Honey coffee processing is the middle ground between wet and dry coffee processing. The fresh coffee cherries are de-pulped in water but then able to dry without further washing. The reason for the romantic name is that the only thing that remains of the cherries is golden, sticky mucilage that looks a lot like honey.
The key benefit of this processing method is that it uses much less water than wet processing but is still a more stable form than dry coffee processing.
What does honey processed coffee taste like?
- robust flavors
- notes that lean tropical, sweet
- bright sweetness
Anaerobic Coffee Fermentation
Please put on your goggles and lab coat; we're about to get a bit scientific. Almost all coffee undergoes some form of fermentation of the coffee cherry from the coffee plant to the coffee bean. Anaerobic coffee processing isn't any different in this respect, but rather than making use of oxygen, water, and heat to control the fermentation process, anaerobic coffee fermentation contains no oxygen as part of it.
Coffee is placed inside vessels, the oxygen is removed, and little valves on the side of the tanks allow any CO2 to escape and keep oxygen firmly out.
Why all that high-tech innovation in the coffee industry? Because nerds like us enjoy tasting new flavor profiles.
What does anaerobically processed coffee taste like?
- flavor notes such as gingerbread, cinnamon, and licorice
- creamier than most coffees
- unlike most other coffees
A small word of caution for the decadent coffee consumer: anaerobic coffee is delicious, addictive, and doesn't come cheap because it is a relatively new process. If you have someone in your life who notoriously hates coffee, anaerobic coffee may be a great introduction due to the distinct lack of bitterness.
Experimental Coffee Processing
There will always be people who are looking to reinvent the wheel. Here's a quick rundown of some new, experimental coffee processing techniques:
- Carbonic Maceration: usually a wine technique, this process allows the coffee cherries to sit in a carbon dioxide-rich environment, allowing pectins to break down. In turn, you get a bright coffee with strong red wine flavors. Maybe a good present for good ol' cousin Joe who adores a glass of claret?
- Malic Fermentation: add in malic acid to the fermentation stage to get crisp flavors in coffee and clarity and complexity.
- Frozen Natural: what happens when you freeze coffee cherries after picking them? Coffee with sweetness and grapefruit flavors.
- Black Honey: slowing down the drying process after leaving the mucilage among the coffee via tarps and careful turning yields a clean, sweet profile with floral jasmine notes.
Are you not ready to wax lyrically about different coffee notes and flavor profiles? That's perfectly alright. You don't have to be a coffee expert to enjoy good coffee, but we thought arming you with all the knowledge you could ever need is a good thing either way. Why not check out our article on different coffee brewing methods?
About: Lockes Coffee
At Lockes Coffee, we proudly roast a variety of different coffees for all your flavor needs.
Check out our Single Origin Costa Rican coffee when you're in the mood for a medium-bodied, lively cup. Our Espresso blend packs a punch with bold and smooth flavors. Are you drinking coffee after four o clock? The Decaf Colombian can't wait to start your evening off on the right foot without keeping you up all night.
Let us know below what your favorite coffee processes are!