Different ways to process coffee

Sep 21, 2011|

Processing is an important step in the journey that coffee takes from seed to cup.  Yet most of us know little about this step.  Processing begins after a coffee cherry is harvested. Once it is picked the fruit must be removed to obtain the seed from inside the coffee cherry.  That seed is a green coffee bean.   A coffee cherry has many layers including the outer skin, the pulp, a thin layer of mucilage, and an outer shell around the seed referred to as parchment. [1] Different methods exist to remove these layers, but the two most common methods to process coffee are:  dry processed or wet-processed.    The way coffee is processed can be based on tradition, resources or desired flavor. [3] 

1.Dry Process Method

The dry process method is the oldest method for processing coffee.[1,2] In this method, picked coffee cherries are placed directly in the sun to dry.  The layers of the coffee cherry dry up around the seed.  This method can take several weeks, and is usually used in areas where water is scare.[1,2] This method takes less machinery and more hand labor as the cherries must be turned throughout this drying process.  Dry processed coffees generally have more body and lower acidity than wet processed coffees.[3]  Also, dry processed coffees can have rustic or natural flavors as the fruit dries on the seed for quite some time.[3]


2. Wet processed Method

The wet process method is where the coffee cherry is pulped to remove the outer layer of the fruit from the seed. [1,2]  After pulping the beans are floated in water channels to remove defected beans. [1,2,3]  Even though the pulp has been removed from the seed some mucilage still hangs on to the outer shell of the seed.  To help remove this mucilage the beans are moved to fermentation tanks where enzymes break down this mucilage.   After fermentation the beans are washed again.   After washing the beans are then moved to an area to dry. Wet processed coffees have a lighter body and usually a cleaner flavor profile.[3]  Wet processed coffees are often referred to as washed coffees.



To learn more about coffee processing visit:

  1. National Coffee Association- http://www.ncausa.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=69
  2. International Coffee Association- http://www.ico.org/field_processing.asp?section=About_Coffee 
  3. Sweet Marias- http://www.sweetmarias.com/dictionary.php?category=process.


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