The world of coffee is a fascinating one. Recently, we explored with you the colour of roasting in relation to the taste experience.
To learn more about everything that happens between the farm and your cup of coffee, today we're taking a trip to the coffee growers at the very beginning of coffee processing.
Before being processed into coffee beans, a crucial, complex and rather scientific choice will be made by the farmer or producer. A myriad of factors come into play when choosing the drying process, including the amount of rain that fell before the coffee cherries were picked, the final taste that is desired depending on the variety of cherries being worked with, and the geographical location.
The three most commonly used coffee drying processes
This first process is one of the most widely used as it ensures the production of a coffee with a more refined and consistent taste profile. One of the disadvantages of this method is that a good amount of water is used to remove all the pulp and mucilage around the bean. This is followed by drying to 11% total moisture. This drying can be done both mechanically in an industrial dryer (18-36h) and in the sun (7-17 days). Sun-drying gives the best results that are sought after in the world of specialty coffees. The washed process is chosen when it is known that the natural process cannot be used due to heavy rainfall before harvest.
If you have never had the opportunity to taste specialty coffees, washed coffees are a great way to start. You will taste the essence of the coffee variety and its origin. Some recommendations from us:
The natural process is aptly named. Rather than removing the pulp from the coffee cherry with water, it is left completely on the bean during the drying process. A fermentation process will start and produce a more complex coffee taste profile with fruity notes such as berries. This rather time-consuming and uncertain process is mainly used by producers when there is little or no rain before harvest — a lot of rain can wash away the sugars needed to use this method. As with washed coffees, the aim is to achieve 11% moisture content during drying. The drying time can average up to 30 days, depending on the weather.
If you are the adventurous type or looking for a different experience, natural coffees are definitely for you. You will definitely love these coffees:
- Ethiopia - Nansebo Refisa natural
- Colombia - Rodrigo Pelaez natural(à venir)
This third process is a kind of hybrid of the previous methods. This process was developed about ten years ago and is increasingly used throughout the world. The first step is to remove the skin from the coffee cherry while keeping some of the pulp and the mucilage. The mucilage is the yellow sticky part between the pulp and the bean and it is what gives the name to this process as its texture and colour is reminiscent of honey. This process uses much less water than washed coffee while giving the producer more control over the final taste than natural coffee. While not tasting like honey, coffees produced with this method will have a rather sweet taste profile evoking brown sugar, honey, etc. You will get a much more complex cup than a washed but less fruity than a natural.
There are different levels of fermentation in this process which are all coded by the colour of the oxidation of the sticky layer (white, yellow, gold, red and black). The final colour will be based on several factors such as humidity, amount of shade and length of fermentation. As in the other two processes, we always aim for 11% humidity.
If you are in the mood for a sweet and fruity coffee, we strongly recommend our Costa Rica - Finca Sabanilla Red Honey, which will give you a real treat when brewed manually.
A new experimental process: anaerobic fermentation
As the world of coffee is constantly evolving, a new experimental method entered the coffee world some time ago. Anaerobic fermentation has long been used in the world of wine and beer and aims to ferment, in our case, the coffee cherry in an oxygen-free environment. Using sealed containers with a valve that removes all oxygen (O), the fermentation will take place without oxygen. This high carbon dioxide (CO2) environment will create completely different flavour profiles than other fermentation methods. As the method is still very experimental and gaining popularity, you may see more and more bags of coffee made with this method in the future.
Keep an eye on our website, we might have a new coffee using this method in the works which will be available in the upcoming weeks...
Regardless of the process used, every coffee is worth tasting and over time you will discover what best suits your taste buds so that you can make the best choice when you buy your next bag of specialty coffee.