Cole Torode explains coffee processing!

May 12, 2021

Cole Torode explains in detail what are the processes to go from a freshly picked drupe, to a coffee bean ready for roasting. 

“We need to remind ourselves that coffee is a fruit. If we think of it as a fruit, we understand how important it is not only to harvest it correctly, but also removing the fruit from the seed and treating it properly. We wouldn't leave an orange on the kitchen counter for three weeks and eat it, would we?

Traditionally there are two main methods of processing coffee:

-          keeping the fruit intact and dry the coffee seeds within that fruit - this is what we call “natural” process. The "natural" process has the benefit that through that drying phase, the seeds absorb a lot of the sugars that exist within the fruit itself. So natural coffees can be a little sweeter, with a slightly more fruity flavour profile, and probably a bit heavier in body having more sugars within the bean.

-          the second most prominent process is "washed" - the drupes arrive at a central processing facility where the fruits are sent through a machine that removes the skin and pushes off most of the sugars. The little sugar left on the bean will be intentionally fermented through the drying process. Generally speaking "washed" coffees are classified as "clean", with little residual flavour on the palate and brighter in acidity, since the residual sugars have been converted into acids through fermentation.

You can easily see whether a coffee is "natural" or "washed": a light center cut is a clear indication that it’s a washed coffee, while a natural is a lot darker in that center cut because of the sugars that are holding on to that piece of the bean and they darken during the roasting process."

Which one is more common to find?

"I’d say that currently in specialty coffee, washed coffees are more prominent. There is a lot of people that don’t like naturals, perhaps because they are harder to produce: you must dry the cherries out in the open where it is easy for the fruits to attract bugs and bacteria so it’s more labor intensive to do it properly.

If not done properly, "natural" coffees leave a sort of "dirty" flavor profile that can be unpleasant. Whereas “washed” coffee can be more consistent in terms of production.

There are also other external factors that determine the processing process of the bean. In countries such as Brazil where they do not have enough water resources to carry out the “washed” process, they are more inclined towards natural coffees. On the other hand, you do not want to use the "natural" process in places with high humidity to avoid the risk of mold and bacteria. "

Thank you Cole Torode for exploring this last step with us before moving onto coffee roasting! We’ll talk about it with Simone Guidi, of La Sosta Specialty Coffee. #beantocup #makeitbetter

Cole Torode explains coffee processing!