Green Coffee Processing—Washed and Natural Coffees
As a blender and roaster, at Raven’s Brew Coffee, Inc.® we use our knowledge to influence the character and flavor of our coffees—but before our team gets to work their magic, the coffee has to be harvested and processed into green, roast-ready beans. The different processing methods can greatly affect the character of your coffee, and there is an array of industry jargon to describe these processes that the consumer must navigate to find a coffee they will enjoy. Below we outline the two most common techniques for processing green coffee beans—look out for more on this topic coming soon!
Washed, or wet-processed, refers to the process of removing the coffee fruit from the beans so that they go through the drying process without absorbing any of the flavor of the fruit. The flavor in the cup is drawn solely from the bean itself and relies on it having absorbed enough nutrients and sugars during growth to produce good flavor.
The pulp of the coffee fruit is removed using a machine called a de-pulper, then the beans are fermented in vats of water to remove whatever fruit remains, hence the name. Washed coffees are traditionally known for clean, smooth flavor, but the process requires substantial quantities of water and so is limited mostly to regions where the water supply allows it. The method is popular in Central and South America.
There are various stages of washing, leading some importers to refer to “double-” or “fully-washed” when these extra layers of washing are applied. When you hear a coffee referred to as washed it is pretty safe to bet that the coffee beans have been through the drying process with as little of the fruit left on the bean as possible. You can expect to encounter a smooth, easy drinking cup.
Natural, or dry-processed, refers to the more traditional coffee processing technique originating in Africa where the beans are dried with the fruit still surrounding them. Some of the sugars and sweetness of the fruit is absorbed into the beans, often creating a fruitier flavor, fuller body, and lower acidity.
Semi-ripe beans must be separated before drying as the moisture content is considerably higher than in fully ripened. The remaining beans must be rotated regularly as they dry to ensure uniform drying and prevent mold development. Fermentation here happens in dry rather than wet conditions, and over a much longer period of time. The process used is determined primarily by the environment of the coffee farms and cooperatives that use it—where access to water is scarcer at the source of the beans, natural processing is more common. A dryer climate is also beneficial for drying the beans in the fruit effectively. Natural processing is more common in Brazil and Ethiopia, for example.
Once dried, the fruit and the membrane surrounding the bean, or parchment, are removed with machinery. There are those who consider natural processed coffees to be more inconsistent, but with careful attention this method can produce fantastic flavor in coffees. You can expect sweetness, fuller body and lower acidity from natural process coffees.
So how does Raven’s Brew® fit in with all of this? Since we blend for profile, you will find combinations of coffee that use different processing methods in our blends. For example: Wicked Wolf® coffee features two natural coffees for sweet flavors and aromas and heavy body but we blend in a portion of washed coffee for the vibrant flavors and medium acidity and to assist with the superb, smooth finish. While our Breakfast Blend coffee is entirely composed of washed coffees, offering a brisk and refreshing with a pleasant acidity, our Limited Edition Blueberry Revolution™ coffee and Limited Release Espresso Chocólon™ coffee demonstrate the character of natural process coffee—sweet, fruity flavors with a full body.
Check out those coffees at the links above or explore our line here!