What is Processing?
Coffee is a fruit that grows on trees in the form of coffee cherries. These cherries have pits that contain two seeds each, which are referred to as coffee beans. In order to obtain the beans, farmers have to go through a process called processing, which involves removing the various layers that surround the beans, including the silver skin, parchment, pectin, pulp, and outer skin.
Coffee processing is the method used to convert coffee cherries into coffee beans. The two main types of processing are washed and natural processing. Washed coffee is when the coffee cherries are sorted, pulped, fermented, and then dried. Natural processing is when the coffee cherries are dried with the fruit still attached to the bean. This type of processing can impact the flavor of the coffee. Washed coffee is often praised for its purity and clarity of flavor, while natural processing can add fruity and jammy flavors to the coffee.
The Steps of Washed Processing
Washed processing is one of the most popular methods for coffee processing. The fruit is removed before drying. Here’s a quick guide on how it works:
Step 1 – Sorting
The coffee cherries are sorted by floating them in water. The ripe cherries, which make good coffee, sink to the bottom while the unripe cherries, which make bad coffee, float to the top.
Step 2 – Pulping
After the cherries are ripe, they’re put into a de-pulping machine which removes the outer parts and leaves the seeds – or coffee beans. The next step is to remove the pulp or skin of the cherry.
Step 3 – Fermentation
The coffee seeds are moved into a large water tank where they will stay for 18-24 hours. This duration can be affected by various factors such as temperature, country, and local processes. Fermentation takes place during this time. Microorganisms in the coffee seeds create enzymes that break down the mucilage, which is a pasty substance responsible for the coffee’s flavor.
Step 4 – Drying
Once fermentation is complete, the seeds are removed from the water tanks and allowed to dry. Smaller farms typically dry seeds in the sun, while larger farms use mechanical dryers. A combination of both methods can also be used. Seeds are dried until they reach a moisture content of 10-12%.
The Taste of Washed Coffee
Now that you know how this process works, what does washed coffee even taste like? Java enthusiasts praise washed coffee for its purity. It allows you to taste all the vibrant notes and distinct flavors of the origin and variety. This clarity is mainly due to the removal of the cherry before drying.