There are two known types of processing for the coffee beans: natural and washed processing. After the coffee beans get harvested to the farm, they are sent straight to the plant where the natural or washed coffee procedures occurs. But why are there two types of processing techniques for the coffee beans, why such coffee processing techniques exist in the first place, and what are the differences of these two types?
In this article, you’re going to learn the two main types of coffee processing techniques, and how each procedure is done to ensure that the coffee beans will remain in good shape before it gets roasted. You’re also going to learn the main reason why such coffee processing techniques exist just for us to experience the decently roasted coffee beans that we enjoy turning into the coffee that we love to drink every morning.
Why Does Coffee Processing Occur Before Roasting?
Coffee beans start as a cherry-like fruit that’s often green or yellowish in color. The strain of the coffee bean, which depends on the location where it is grown, reflect on the final product once the coffee beans get roasted. But why is it called as cherry before it turns into a coffee bean? The answer is simple: it’s the seed of the coffee that provides the coffee flavor that we all know, and not the fruit itself.
The seed of the coffee cherry should be extracted in a way where the seed, or more known as the coffee beans, does not get damaged. Any damage on the seed will affect its roasting process, and can harm the flavor of the coffee once the roasted beans are packaged and sold. As a result, coffee makers back then researched on what to do in order to extract the seeds perfectly out of the skin and flesh of the cherries.
The coffee cherry is composed of three layers. The first one is the skin or peel of the cherry, the pulp or mucilage which contains the flesh of the fruit, and the parchment which protects the coffee bean. These three layers should be completely removed in order to flawlessly extract the beans out of the fruit.
With proper research and testing through various techniques, two were discovered to the very effective: washing the beans and sun-drying it. That’s why washed and natural processing finally exist in order to perfectly remove the seeds so then it can be roasted properly.
How Does Natural Processing Work?
Natural coffee processing is a technique where the coffee cherries are placed in a water tank. This is typically done after removing the defective coffee beans – those that are under-ripe or overripe. The coffee beans that are ripened just right that remained in the tank are then placed on raised beds that are placed right under the sun. The coffee beans are then sun-dried once placed on these raised beds.
Coffee farmers then watch the coffee beans carefully, as they need to make sure that every batch will evenly dry since they will all be roasted at the same time after the coffee process. At the same time, the farmers also watch out for any molds that might form on the coffee beans, and discard the ones that rotted away as well. This is where careful observation is practiced to ensure that no more further defects will be delivered to the roasting process. After sun-drying, all three layers of the coffee cherry can easily be removed in order to get the coffee beans.
The procedure of sun-drying the coffee beans may take up to two months depending on the current season or climate of the country where the coffee process was done. This is the older technique that was done by people for several centuries, as it does not need any machines at all. However, the resulting coffee beans might taste less consistently. This technique is also good to do in climates that have a low level of precipitation.
How Does Washed Processing Work?
Washed coffee processing is the exact opposite of the natural processing, as it does not involve any drying at all. As the name suggests, the cherries are placed on machine called mill, or through another machine called a hopper. After the coffees go through the mill or hopper, they are all placed on a tank filled with water. The cherries are then sorted to remove any unnecessary cherries such as overripe and under-ripe cherries.
Next, the coffee beans are placed on a filtering machine for it to undergo a process called de-pulping. This is where the pulp or mucilage of the coffee cherries are removed in order to retain the parchment and the coffee bean in it. After that, the beans are now placed onto a fermentation tank, where they will stay there for three days.
Once three days have passed, the coffee beans can finally be extracted and transferred for it to be roasted in batches. The washed processing technique is known to be more consistent in terms of the flavor once the coffee beans are packaged. This technique is what most major coffee manufacturers prefer, as it works on any climate since this technique does not need the sun anymore.
The Difference Of The Final Product
The final product done by washed and natural coffee processing techniques vary greatly despite the fact that they both successfully extract the coffee beans that are perfect for roasting. The complexity of the beans’ flavor is the main difference of the final product if you compare those that underwent natural and washed processing.
For natural processing, the microorganisms, that are present on the pulp, skin and parchment that are left to dry with the bean intact, break down during the sun-drying procedure. This then breaks down the various compounds present in the coffee cherry, such as the sugar and proteins. This then reduces the acidity of the coffee, and applies more sweetness on the final product. That’s why natural processing is preferred when making dark roast to maximize its flavor profile.
For washed processing, the coffee bean’s natural flavor is more pronounced since the beans do not contain any microorganisms since the three layers are removed while fresh. This makes the coffee less sweet and higher in acidity.
Now that you know the main difference of the two coffee processing techniques, and how it will affect the final product, it’s best to know how your favorite coffee beans were processed. That way, you will easily know what type of coffee bean matches your preference in terms of the coffee that you want to taste every good morning.