The A – Z of Coffee Bean Processing – Washing & Drying
The aroma of coffee is like those mesmerizing hands, we watch in movies that just take you to a different trance. Even when we pass the fragrance of brewing coffee, we get spellbound for few seconds. That’s the power of coffee on many of us.
The coffee industry had done very little to educate the consumers about the different processing methods of coffee beans. They are unaware of the texture, acidity, body, and flavor of their favorite cup of coffee. The roasters are more inclined towards the flavor of the coffee that drives the purchase. However, the farmers distinguish among the different processing methods and how they impact the origin of the beans economically. They choose the best processing method that is suited to the climate and their capabilities – Long dry season allows Dry processing and abundant water supply in a tropical environment allows wet processing. These processing methods also depend on how much labor these farmers have access to. One of the most popular beverages, more than 25 million farmers depend their livelihood on coffee around the world.
The processing of coffee is one of the most crucial steps but is the least talked about. It is the journey of coffee beans from seed to cup – How it is processed before its transportation, roasting, and finally sipping the goodness. The processing method adopted at the origin impacts the identity of the coffee. This helps in imparting characteristics that are exclusive to the brewing experience.
Brazil is the largest producer and exporter of green coffee beans followed by other countries like Columbia, Ethiopia, Vietnam, India, and Indonesia. Producing around 2.5 million tonnes of coffee beans every year.
We would love to educate our readers about coffee processing and how it impacts the taste of the coffee that we drink daily. Let us take you to the transition from coffee drinkers to coffee lovers. That satisfactory sip of a cuppa should increase with the know-how about the coffee bean processing. It will not only help you determine just the flavor or aroma of the coffee but can also guide you in your purchasing decisions.
Here is a basic idea of the difference between dry and wet processing and what you experience in your coffee, will enhance your overall appreciation of coffee and its production.
The world’s best coffee is processed achieved by various methods. These processing techniques are grouped into four different categories – Dry Processing (Sun-dried and natural procedure), Wet processing (Washing method), Semi – washing procedure, and Pulp natural processing. Once the processing of coffee beans is completed, they are bagged in 100 pounds, 132 pounds, or 154-pound sacks of coffee. They are then sold in the market as ‘Green Coffee Beans’. These beans are milled but not yet roasted.
Wet Processing (Fully washed Process)
This process is an economically intensive method that requires the use of specific types of equipment and a substantial amount of water. If the process is carried out perfectly, the inner qualities of the coffee beans are preserved in a much better way. Thus, leading to a more homogenous green coffee that helps in the production of betting quality and less defective coffee beans.
Almost 50% of the world’s coffee is produced by this method and is, therefore, considered as the better processing method. The beans produced by wet processing are treated of advanced quality and traded at higher prices. For countries like Ethiopia, this procedure is quite impossible as it is landlocked and has very limited access to water. South and Central America are using the wet processing method the most due to the availability of abundant water and equipment.
The wet process uses the following sub-methods :
Sorting and Cleaning – Partially dried and immature cherries are still left even after careful harvesting by the farmers. Thus sorting and cleaning become quite necessary and are carried out immediately after the harvesting. This procedure requires washing the cherries under flowing water and large sieves are used to separate mature and immature cherries.
Pulping – The pulp is removed after sorting and cleaning the cherries. This method is done by machines and is the main difference between wet and dry methods. Later on, the residue is separated from the beans and they continue to water cleaning.
Fermentation – The beans are then placed in large fermentation tanks to remove the remaining pulp. The natural enzymes break down the residues. These residues are then easily cleaned.
Coffee washing – The coffee is washed properly and thoroughly after the fermentation process with clean flowing water. The beans are then dried under the sun or in a mechanical dryer.
The dry processing method involves directly drying the freshly harvested cherry coffee under the sun or mechanically drying them. The cherries are spread on large patios for a certain period. During this process, the green coffee beans are frequently raked and turned. This results in dried and moisture-free fruit.
The coffee flavor through dry processing is usually fruity and sweet. The range of flavor of these coffee beans is huge and unique. Though the beans need extra two weeks of dring without sun and humid environment makes it quite difficult. Due to this, mold and fungus develop on the coffee beans affecting the farmers economically. As more fruit remnants are left on the fruit the brewed coffee is more luscious and exotic.
The remaining fruit from a dry-processed method gives the brew more body when compared with wet-processed coffee beans. These beans tend to be more acidic in nature. The dry-processed coffee is also known as ‘Pulped Natural’, ‘Dry Milled’, ‘Honey Coffee’ and ‘Semi Washed’.
The end consumers are unaware of these processing methods and lack knowledge about the type of coffee they are drinking. Several coffee aficionados favor wet-processed coffees over dry-processed ones due to the better quality beans produced by the former. However, these are just personal choices and mostly depend on the aroma and taste of the brewed coffee.
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