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How are coffee beans processed before roasting?

Did you know, every coffee bean starts of as a pretty flower which then produces a cherry like fruit?

The coffee cherry gets picked from the coffee trees and transported to washing stations where the cherries are processed to produce the coffee bean
Coffee cherries that have been harvested from the coffee trees

The brightly coloured fruit, called a coffee cherry, has an outer skin and juicy pulp. Beneath the pulp is a layer of sticky mucilage, a parchment layer and a husk surrounding the stone, this stone is where the magic happens, the coffee bean as

we know today. However, the bean goes through a number of processes before it reaches your cup. There are three main ways of processing the coffee cherry which are commonly used across the world, natural process, wet (or washed) process and honey process.

Natural process

After the coffee cherries have been picked, the beans are kept still inside the whole fruit and spread out to dry in the sun. they are racked and turned regularly to ensure evening drying and to stop mould growing. This process of drying can take up to 4-8 weeks weather depending, taking more time compared to the wet process where the skin and pulp are removed first. However, during this extra time of drying, the sugars and nutrients of the pulp and skin are absorbed into the bean which can dramatically impact of the coffees flavour and sweetness. Once the fruit is dried, the beans are mechanically removed from the fruit and the naked bean is left to dry further before being transported to the roastery.

Beans which have been through this process often have a fruitier taste and aroma.

Wet process (AKA Washed)

Straight after the coffee cherries have been picked they are put through a water washing station, here the ripe beans sink to the bottom and the unripe beans float and are taken away. The ripe beans are then put through a mill which removes the skin and washes the pulp off, then left in fermentation tanks for 24 hours. Once the naked beans come out of the mill they are then dried in their parchments in the sun before finally being removed from in the dehuller which removes the beans parchment before transport.

Wet processing results in better overall uniformity across the beans and the resulting coffee is known for its bright and clean taste.

Honey process

No, the beans are not covered in honey like the name suggests. In fact zero honey is actually used, the process is a mixture of both natural and wet processing. Beans are dried naturally with some pulp remaining on the stones. This adds sugar the to beans, which translates into a more developed flavour profile with fruit and caramel notes.

Washing of the Coffee Cherry
Washing of the Coffee Cherry

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