A common question we get asked is what are the different processes printed on our coffee bags, and what do they mean? Whilst there are a multitude of processes used in different parts of the world, the main three you will see everywhere are washed, natural, and honey. Lets’ break these down!
One of the most important parts of bringing out the different flavours within coffees is the type of fermentation it has gone through. All specialty coffee will have been fermented to some degree, but how they have fermented it will massively impact the flavour profile you experience in your cup! Think of it like wine; reds, whites and rosé’s all have different flavours, and you have your preferences!
Naturals: The oldest method of fermenting coffee, the natural process is leaving the coffee beans in the cherries and sitting them in the sun on raised beds. Depending on how long it is left in the sun, this builds up lots of heavy fruit qualities and funky flavour profiles. Naturals are our “red wines”.
Washed: This method removes the beans from the fruit and ferments in water tanks. Producing much “cleaner” qualities, crisp & bright acidity and some subtler fruit notes. More on the “white wine “end of things.
Honey: Best of both worlds in this process! Removing some but not all the fruit before fermenting, bringing out a lot more sweetness in the cup balancing the fruity characteristics. This processing is becoming more and more the publicly preferred process for espresso. Who doesn’t like a nice rosé on a summer afternoon?
Blending washed and naturals together can create some lovely balanced coffees, moving the funky character into the background and complimenting sweeter and chocolatey notes.
These are the main 3 ways of fermenting coffee, all with the end goal of bringing out the best flavours possible from each coffee. There is a myriad of other different ways to ferment coffee; from geographically specific methods like Galling-Basah and Monsooning, to new experimental fermentations with different ingredients and acids. Let’s leave that rabbit hole for another time!