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Coffee process is a term used to describe the fermentation process used with a specific coffee. There are commonly two very popular types of fermentation processes, washed process coffee and natural process coffee. Over the past few years, we have seen an increase in experimental processes at farms. Sometimes these experiments are to test new flavor theories and other times it is in attempt to make a good coffee score even higher by having nuanced flavors that would be impossible to achieve without an experimental process.
The coffee journey from crop to cup, or bean to mug, is a long process. Coffee beans are actually the seeds within a coffee cherry. Once the cherry is picked, the coffee cherry needs to be removed so the seed can be processed.
Washed Process Coffee
The most common process method, known as washed-process coffee, is when the freshly depulped seeds are immersed in a water bath for 12-36 hours. During this period, sugars begin to dissolve away the coffee seed mucilage. The coffee seed is then moved to another washing tank and cleaned before it is set out on concrete patios or raised-beds to dry in the natural sunlight for 1-2 weeks.
Honey Process Coffee
Honey processed coffee is a little different with the fermentation process being much shorter. With our recent honey-processed coffee from Fatima Mercedes Maradiaga, the honey-process is as outlined below. Most of the cherry is gone, but the remaining golden, sticky mucilage is reminiscent of honey, which is where the process gets it name.
The process starts with selectively harvesting cherry at its optimal point of ripeness. Once collected, the cherries are placed in a zaranda, or screen, under shade where they are further selected for any damaged cherries. The coffee is then depulped and left in a fermentation tank for several hours until the desired fermentation is reached. Later it is transfered to a solar drier where it is dried until it reaches 12% moisture. Honey processed coffee requires that drying temperatures are monitored constantly. Coffee is turned every 15 minutes turing the first three days of drying. thereafter it is turned every half hour. Total drying time is 15 to 21 days, depending on the days’ weather. The coffee after drying looks like honey smacks.
We found this coffee to have a delicious pomegranate, honey and lemon taste profile.
Natural Process Coffee
Another popular process is called natural-process coffee. In this process the coffee cherry is not removed and the entire cherry is dried in the sun. This gives the coffee an incredibly fruit forward and jammy flavor profile. We have two coffee offering in rotation through the year that use a natural-process. They are from two different continents, South America and Africa. If you are able to try each throughout the year you will be able to experience an incredible journey of flavors. The Peru natural process Norandino has a dark cherry gateau flavor profile while the Ethiopia natural-process Telamo has notes of lemon candy and blueberry jam.