15 Feb Natural Selection
Washed versus Natural Processed Coffee
It’s not just the coffee itself that gives those delicious flavours we so love in the cup but the way the coffee is processed at origin can have a huge effect on the final taste. Processing coffee is done in a variety of different ways. The majority of the coffee we buy and roast for our single origin filter offerings tends to processed by the “fully washed” method resulting in those bright, crisp, clean cups of which we are such huge fans.
In this process the ripe, freshly picked coffee “cherries” are put into tanks of water before being sent through a pulping machine which removes their outer skin and pulp. The beans, still in their sticky mucilage at this stage, are then put into tanks of water where they will soak and ferment for anything up to 72 hours until the mucilage breaks down. The beans are then washed in clean water before being laid out on patios, roofs or raised beds to dry in the sun over a couple of weeks (in rainy locations they may be finished off in mechanical driers).
By contrast, in the “natural process”, the coffee cherries are simply put through a quick wash to clean off any debris before heading straight onto the drying tables (or patios and rooftops) with all the fruit intact. After drying and resting for a few weeks, both natural and washed processed coffee will be sent to the dry mill where machinery will remove the skin and parchment and the coffee is then graded and sorted before being bagged in those familiar hessian sacks and shipped overseas to roasters such as ourselves.
It’s widely believed that natural processed coffee, by slowly drying in its fruity casing, will absorb much of those delicious natural sugars and fruity flavours. Done well you can end up with a cup that is a sweet and juicy fruit explosion, (think strawberries and cream and tropical fruit and sometimes almost boozy flavours). Done badly it can result in funky, over fermented, manure-like coffee which we definitely wouldn’t want to drink!
The Brazilian coffee that we source for our Red Stag Espresso is always a natural processed coffee which is what gives us the big body, low acidity we love in an espresso base. But every now and then we also come across a natural processed coffee that is just too good not to share. This is the case with not one but two delicious coffees in our roastery right now. So dear coffee friends we would like to introduce you to: Ethiopia Adola and Brazil Tres Barras. Enjoy!