What is processing?
Everyone has different opinions about what's the most important factor affecting the flavour of coffee is. I think one of the most important things might be ‘processing’. As we know, a cup of coffee is made from coffee beans(seeds) from the coffee cherries that are grown on coffee trees, are picked and processed, are shipped to its consuming countries, are roasted, and are brewed. Among the entire process, processing takes a big part of creating the flavour of coffee.
Why does it matter?
Why is that? First of all, coffee has thousands of molecules that are generated while it is grown. And through processing, the molecules are getting characteristics of processing depending on the method. Although roaster cooks differently, baristas brew differently, processing dramatically differentiates the flavour of coffee beforehand.
Natural process is one of the traditional ways. After the cherries are picked, the coffee cherries are just spread on the African bed or patio, and are dried for many days. When it is dried enough, when a moisture content is less than 12%, everything except the seeds(beans) is removed.
Natural processing usually develops juiciness, fruitiness, bigger mouthfeel and more sweetness.
Washed process is also a traditional one. After the cherries are picked, skin and pulp of the cherries are removed by machine(becomes parchment), and the cherries are soaked in a water for 12-24 hours for fermentation. During this time, bacterias use mucilage of coffee for their energy for fermentation. Once it is done, the parchments are dried, then the parchments are removed hence the green beans are remaining.
Washed usually presents good clean cup, vibrant acidity, lighter body and more complexity.
Other Processing (Honey, Carbonic Maceration, Anaerobic, Winey, Double Washed, Etc)
As processing is the way of producers’ developing their products(coffee) along with a unique flavour profile, there are a number of producers doing different processing technic in order to make differentiated unique flavour profile.
Honey processing is in between natural and washed process. It starts from taking off the skin like the washed, then, drying the bean like the natural after deciding how much mucilage is remaining. Honey process is usually sweeter and more rounded than washed, and is brighter and cleaner than natural.
CM process uses carbon dioxide to elevate vibrancy of coffee so that more complexity and sweet notes are coming out. What it does is to store the cherries in a sealed stainless still container before it goes to natural or washed process. This lifts complexity and acidity of the coffee and enhances the quality of the bean.
Anaerobic process restricts contact between the air and the bean so that different type of flavour is created. This method lifts deep tropical notes as well as spices.
What is your preference?
Like everyone does, you might have your own preference. For example, I prefer washed coffees. And most of our baristas prefer naturals. There is nothing right or wrong. It’s just what we like. So, please don’t judge by processing, and just enjoy the flavour that is made from the tremendous amount of effort.