There's more to prepping great coffee than just growing, picking, and roasting the seeds (what many of us know as "beans"). The "process" of a coffee refers to the way the seeds are handled after they are picked and before they are roasted. This is usually done in one of two ways— natural or washed, but there is also a honey process.
“Washed” coffees are the clean and structured joy of the coffee world. After being picked at optimal ripeness, the cherry is removed from the coffee seeds, leaving a layer of mucilage surrounding the seeds. After soaking in water, the mucilage loosens its grip on the seeds and is washed off. The seeds are then dried to a specific moisture level. Washed coffees are lovely because they tend to have less added flavors from processing, making for a clean flavor profile. The consumer tastes only what the soil, plant variety, and climate add to these coffees in the cup.
“Natural” or “dry process” coffees are fabulously fruity in the cup. This is due to the coffee cherry being left on the seeds when drying. This close-contact fermentation process imparts very unique flavors and mouthfeel to coffees processed this way. Because of their close contact with the cherry, natural processed coffees typically have a notable fruitiness with a relatively uneven flavor profile. The natural process is less involved than the washed process and does not require sophisticated technology or machinery.
The honey process gets its name from the sticky mucilage left on the seeds—they are neither stripped totally clean like they are in the washed process, nor left with the whole cherry, as in the natural process. The mucilage imparts distinct flavors from the other two processes, can save the excess water needed to remove it during the washed process, and can be either partly or fully left on, depending on what the processor wants. Honey processed coffees with most of the mucilage taken off develop a lighter color and different flavor than if more is left on.
Depending on availability and quality, Harbinger Coffee sources and serves washed, natural, and honey processed coffees. Come visit us at one of our two Fort Collins locations:North College Ave orLady Moon and Harmony. We look forward to serving you!