How Does Honey Processing of Coffee Work?

What is Wet Processing of Coffee? Malgudi Days

You’ve read all about dry coffee processing and wet/ washed coffee processing on our blog. How it affects the bean, what can you expect in the cup - these are some questions we’ve answered. 

Although these two are the primary processing methods that coffee producers use the world over, there is yet another method called honey processing or pulped natural processing.

Today, we’re going to understand exactly how honey processing works.

How is Coffee Honey Processed?

Honey processing is considered to involve elements from both the wet processing and dry processing methods. It is not a method that is commonly practised because of how expensive and resource-heavy it is. Either way, let's look at the steps from the beginning. 

First, the coffee cherries are harvested by the farmers, ensuring that only good-quality fruits are picked.

The next stage in processing is to sort the cherries. They are all immersed in a tub of water. What this does is it lets the coffee producer check which are the ripe coffee cherries. The ripe ones sink to the bottom and are selected for further processing.

When the cherries are put through a de-pulping machine, the outer skin and pulp are removed from the coffee cherry. This leaves the green beans with a layer of mucilage a.k.a honey on them.

In the case of washed processing, after the de-pulping phase, the beans are placed in water tanks where the remaining mucilage is washed off. But during pulped natural processing, the beans are left to dry in the sun with the mucilage. That’s where some of the flavour profile of the coffee comes from.

During this time, the coffee producer must move the beans around to prevent mould from growing on them. 

Lastly, the green beans are then put through a hulling machine that removes the dried mucilage and parchment layer from the bean. 

Once that is done, the coffee beans are ready to be sent to the coffee roasters. 

The Flavour Profile of Honey-Processed Coffees

Honey-processed coffees are well known for their sweetness. This is because the mucilage still remains as the bean is left for drying. So the heat works on the fleshy layer and caramelises it, making the flavour of the beans inherently sweet.

These coffees can have more acidity (a bright one at that!) and complexity compared to a washed-processed coffee.

Although they promise a clean cup of coffee, the mouthfeel of honey-processed coffees depends entirely on the level of processing that is done.

Honey processing method was invented in Brazil, where they would call it the “peeled cherry” method. 

One of the biggest advantages of using this processing method is that the resulting brew tends to be of high quality, and so the beans are often sold for more than the price a bag of dry-processed beans would fetch.

Intrigued by this? Explore our specialty filter kaapi collection for coffees processed in different ways.

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