processing processes

Harvest, pack and ship coffee cherries? Not so fast...

One of the most important steps in coffee production is the processing after the coffee cherries are picked from the trees and before they are ready to be roasted. This process can give a coffee bean the potential to become one of the best coffees, or it can ruin it completely.

Here we show you the three basic ways that lead to our favorite drink...

Washed/Wet/Lavado: The most common method nowadays is to uncover the coffee cherries and wash off the pulp with water. The beans only retain a thin layer of pulp (mucilago) on the so-called parchment layer (pergamino). The fermentation lasts only 3-4 days and takes place on covered drying platforms, where the green coffee is dried to the desired moisture content (12-13%) with the help of sunlight. Industrial applications use large drying machines to reduce this process to a few hours. Of course, more flavors are lost in the process. Most of the coffee used for espresso is washed, as there are few fruit acids here and the coffee therefore tastes good even at high machine pressure (9 bar). Nevertheless, there are also very aromatic washed coffees in the specialty coffee area that are suitable for filter preparation.

Natural/Dry Process: Historically, this process was mainly used in areas with little water, including in the country of origin of coffee, Ethiopia. Nowadays, many specialty coffees, especially the rare Geisha, are processed using this method to bring out the nuances of the fruit more. Here, whole coffee peas are distributed on drying platforms and the fermentation takes place with the whole fruit. The dried fruits need up to 6 weeks to reach the required moisture level so that they can be roasted. They become like raisins, dark and brown. Due to the strong fermentation and the fruit acids, the coffee develops a very fermented aroma after roasting, which tends towards dried fruit or even alcohol. For this reason, naturals are more suitable for preparation methods such as (V60) filters, AeroPress or cold brews, as the fruit aromas are more effective here.

Pulped Natural/Honey: The most modern and complex method and without any honey. Only the peel of the coffee cherry and part of the pulp are removed. Drying platforms are also used. However, the coffee cherries must be turned constantly for up to 3 weeks so that they do not become moldy. The pulp becomes sticky, hence the name "honey". There are further distinctions depending on the amount of pulp and drying time, which is why it is possible to distinguish even more precisely between white, yellow, red and black honey. The result is a wide range of fruit aromas and a less fermented taste than the Natural. This coffee is also best suited for filter methods and especially cold brew.

One last step before roasting...

When the coffee beans are dry enough, i.e. with a moisture content of around 12%, they are placed in a trilladora to remove the last protective layer of the coffee bean called "pergamino". After this step, the green coffee is ready for roasting or, as is often the case, for export.

Bacteria in coffee?

Controlled fermentation is desired nothing more than bacteria that convert the fructose into acids, gases or alcohol. We all know beer, yoghurt, black tea or tobacco. In these products, the taste and aromas are enhanced by fermentation.

There are other ways to control fermentation with certain bacteria or anaerobic processes via the basic processing methods, regardless of whether the coffee was initially processed as washed, honey or natural. At the desired point in the process, you take the coffee cherries or beans and place them in a container with water and add the desired bacteria. For example, this works with lactobacilli or yeast. In addition, there are innovative methods such as our Mandarina , where whole tangerine sticks are used for fermentation to give the coffee an incomparable aroma. All these methods require a lot of experience and only innovative coffee artists can offer these green coffees in high quality.

What separates a good coffee from an exquisite one?

Is it the quality of the coffee nibs, the processing, the roasting or the preparation? It is the interaction of all these factors. So it's worth questioning every single step if you really love coffee.