The term “processing” refers to the techniques by which coffee cherries undergo a series of changes before they are prepared for roasting. The layers of the coffee cherry surrounding the coffee bean are removed via various processing methods.
You would’ve heard of the most popular and common coffee processing methods, such as washed processing and natural processing as well as the monsooning process, which is unique to India.
Today, we’re going to take a more detailed look at washed processing and how it affects the flavour profile of coffee.
Also known as wet-processing, this method typically involves the use of a large volume of water to break down the outer layers of the coffee cherry.
In recent times, washed processing has garnered a lot of criticism due to its environmental impact. Therefore, to operate from a sustainability standpoint, companies have been compelled to use resources efficiently and find a workaround.
Coffee cherries, once picked, are sorted to ensure that only the good quality ones are gathered for production.
First of all, the cherries are immersed in a tub of water, wherein the poor-quality cherries float up and are then discarded. This is because good quality cherries have no air gaps within the fruit, and are therefore heavier.
Next, the cherries are put through a de-pulping machine where the outer layers are extracted. At this stage, some percentage of the mucilage remains on the bean. When fermentation occurs in the next step, the bacteria break down the remaining mucilage. This process can also be done either by dry fermenting or using water to wash off the remaining pulp.
Once fermentation is complete, only the parchment and silverskin layers remain on the bean.
The coffee beans are finally dried either in the sun or using machines. What this does is it makes the parchment skin around the beans dry and flakey, so that they fall off.
There are variations to wet processing depending on the country or the machines used or the steps a particular producer takes. And so, with each variation, the flavour of the coffee can have differing nuances.
What Flavours Does it Bring Out?
Washed-processed coffees primarily have a clean and consistent taste.
They tend not to have the body and fruity flavours of a dry-processed coffee because, before the fermentation process, a significant part of the coffee cherry has already been removed. So the processing itself is focused on the bean and not the entire coffee cherry itself.
The flavour of these coffees is so crisp and distinct that you’ll be able to experience each note clearly. These notes are unique to the origin and type of coffee.
Coffees that have undergone washed processing are also said to have a bright acidity, citrus flavours, and a floral undertone.
If you want to try different coffees, one great way is to pick coffees based on the processing. This will help you experiment with your coffee choices as well as identify how the notes in the flavour profile vary.