The Process Matters

November 03, 2017

The Process Matters

Washed vs. Natural

In just a few days, Coffea will release a few new coffees: the Ethiopia Chelelektu and the El Salvador Finca El Paraiso

While most of our coffees are brought to us having gone through a washed processing, the Chelelektu is a naturally processed coffee.  Hearing we have a natural-processed coffee is something many of our customers are excited to hear, but I'm also sure many of our customers have heard that term tossed around yet might not know what it means.  

Natural processing leads to a predominately fruit-forward cup and heavy sweetness.  The reason it's rare to find a quality coffee that is also naturally processed is due to the way the natural processing happens. 

What Happens In Natural Processing

After being picked from the tree, the coffee cherries are brought to a processing facility.  There, the picked cherries are reevaluated for optimal ripeness (usually based on color of the cherry), and at the point, the cherries are placed on raised beds (a table with the top being a netting or mesh that lets the cherry dry on the bean).  They're rotated frequently--every half-hour to hour--to keep the bean from starting to mold or ferment at this step in the processing.  

It's this step that often goes awry.  All too often a natural processing leads to defective beans--molded or fermented.  

That's also the step where so much of the sweetness and fruity flavor is set into the bean.  

What Happens In Washed Processing

Just like natural processing, the cherries are picked, there is a second selection process to make sure only the ripe cherries are processed for their bean.  Instead of being set out on raised beds at this point, though, in washed processing the cherries are then cast into large tanks.  At this point, the cherry is starting to loosen from the bean as it is saturated, but also the tank lets defective cherries float to the top.  Those 'floaters' are apprehended from proceeding any further in the processing line and thrown out.

Pile-O-Cherry

The beans that pass this cut-test go to a de-pulping machine where the whole cherry is pressed until the cherry's bean is shot out of it's fruit (the result is the image you see at the top of this article, the refuse is the cherry husks you see to the right). 

From there, it's off to a contraption that acts like a centrifuge, whirling the de-fruited, fermented, bean out of its membrane-like shell called mucilage.  After the bean is free of its fruity encasement, the beans are floated down the line into fermentation tanks.  This is where much of the science behind coffee is focussing now--trying to better understand what fermentation times yield the best flavors and how this process can be controlled and manipulated.  For the brevity of this article, we'll just say that this step is largely responsible for so much of the flavor you taste in the final product, and we're just starting to understand this.

Drying

Patio DryingRaised Bed Drying

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The processor raking coffee beans on a drying patio is an iconic image most people have seen before.  The basic idea here is that the processors want to remove moisture.  

Many specialty coffee processing mills have moved to raised beds, though (seen on the right).  If the idea is to remove moisture as quickly as possible, it makes only makes sense to let air access the bean from above and below.

Get More This Thursday, November 16th

While the above info is a quick over-view, there's so much more behind the science of this process and so many high-tech contraptions that we were able to see in our last visit down to TG Labs in Guatemala that we'll go into during class next Thursday (Nov. 16th).  

Sign up for the class here to reserve your seat for that class.

Or, for free you can show up to our Dawley Farms location the first Sunday of every month for a free cupping of all our coffees, including a natural processed  Chelelektu as well as the  Finca El Paraiso.






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