Coffee processing is rarely in the discussion when people talk about coffee, but it really should be. This is the process of removing the coffee bean from the coffee cherrys flesh, which is crucial in deciding the beansprofitability. A well-processed bean ensures its freshness and avoids defects that could devalue the product. Even when the coffee cherries are picked at their prime and harvested in optimal conditions, coffee processing still dictates the flavor profiles, so roasters and baristas rely heavily on it. 


How does a coffee producer decide which process to apply? This would depend a lot on the environmental conditions. The quality of the coffee cherries depend on the amount of rainfall and its resulting sugar content. Some producers, though, are going for a very specific flavor profile, so a particular process can be favored in order to achieve it. 


These are the common ways coffee is processed:


Natural or Drying Process

This is a traditional method of processing coffee wherein the freshly picked cherries are spread out over a vast surface, either on a brick patio or on raised beds. To avoid mold or spoilage, they are turned regularly throughout the day by raking and then covered at night so they do not get wet. This is continued for as long as it takes until the cherriesmoisture content decreases to 11%. 


Wet or Washed Process

The fresh cherries are passed through a pulping machine to separate the flesh from the bean. Then the beans are passed through water channels which separate them by weightthe lighter ones rise to the top, while the heavier ripe ones sink to the bottom. Then, they will be placed in fermentation tanks and will stay there for a period of time depending on a number of factors, such as the condition of the beans, the climate, and altitude. This is when the remaining parchment attached to the bean will dissolve due to naturally occurring enzymes. When fermentation is complete, the beans will be rough to the touch. After a final rinse, they are ready for drying.


Honey-Pulped Natural Process

This is somewhere in between the natural drying and washed process, wherein the cherries go through the repulping machine but leave a bit of the flesh on the beans. This way, there is a smaller chance of over-fermentation but you still get the sweetness and body in the coffee from the sugars in the remaining flesh.