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From Fruit to Cup: How Technique Affects Taste

What are the differences between washed and unwashed coffee? Learn all the facts about the key methods of coffee processing.

Ever wondered how coffee goes from a fruit to your morning cup? There are a few different ways, actually. We’ll help you learn the key methods in hopes of schooling someone at your next dinner party or when sipping new roasts with your coffee snob friends. First, begin by telling them it is important to know how coffee is processed when evaluating why certain coffees taste differently.

Then guess the tasting notes based on whether or not the coffee was processed using the unwashed or washed processing method. Finally, wow them all with facts on each of the most popular processing methods:

Unwashed COFFEE Process

  • Also known as the natural process or dry process.
  • Oldest method of processing coffee.
  • Coffee cherries are picked and spread out to dry for up to 4 weeks.
  • Cherries are turned regularly while drying.
  • Husk of skin and dried fruit are separated mechanically after drying.
  • The raw coffee is stored before it is exported.
  • Only process open to producer if water is scarce – therefore popular in Ethiopia and some areas of Brazil.
  • Separating the bean from the fruit is an unpredictable process but doesn’t need as much skill as the washed process. 
  • Often has a heavy body and sweet fruit flavors, such as notes of blueberry, strawberry, or tropical fruit.

Washed COFFEE Process

  • The outer skin and fruit flesh is stripped from the coffee seed with a machine called a depulper. 
  • After skin is removed, the coffee is moved to a clean tank where the rest of the flesh is taken off by fermentation.
  • Coffee is washed to remove leftover debris after fermentation then it is either dried in the sun, on raised drying tables, or using mechanical dryers (only used in places with little sunshine or humidity).
  • Many producers of high-quality coffee choose this process in an attempt to reduce defects. 
  • Often produces a bright, clean cup of coffee with high acidity and increased complexity.
  • This process is a lot more expensive than others.

Slate’s Brazil Sitio Groto Funda is a delicious coffee that was processed with the unwashed method. This light roast begins with powerful sweet notes of marshmallow, date, and vanilla then ends with subtle dried fruit notes of cranberry and fig.

Want to try a coffee that utilizes the washed process? Herkimer’s Drip Blend is a refreshing medium roast with a deep chocolate flavor and hints of cherry and caramelized sugar. Whatever coffee processing method you prefer, you will be enjoying a unique cup of coffee that has gone through a complex process before getting into your cup. Now, go ahead and impress everyone with your coffee knowledge: we beli(bean)* in you.

*apologizes for the beli(bean) joke. Must drink more coffee.
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