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New ways of processing coffee are providing farmers and roasters with greater options and helping to address the growing problem that farms face because of the shortage – and high cost – of labour at harvest time

The way coffee is processed can affect its quality, flavour and other sensory attributes but the only processing steps that can do so are pulping, mucilage removal and drying.

Pulping or not pulping, removing the mucilage, how it’s done and how one dries coffee affect cup quality. All other stages of processing eliminate impurities or defects and/or preserve quality, but do not change it. The definition of the types of coffee listed below is based on these very same processing steps:

  • natural coffees are dried with pulp and mucilage
  • pulped natural, honey or semi-washed coffees are dried without pulp and with some or all mucilage attached to parchment, and
  • washed coffees are dried without the pulp and without mucilage attached to parchment.

For more than 150 years the world really only knew about washed coffees and unwashed coffees that, about two decades ago, started to be known in the trade as ‘naturals.’ In general, washed coffees were associated with more acidity and flavour whereas natural coffees were associated with more body and sweetness in the cup.

Mechanical mucilage removers, created in the first-half of last century, led to a debate about the cup qualities of washed coffees, that are either fermented or have their mucilage removed mechanically.

Are they different or the same? Does it depend on the altitude where coffee is grown? What about coffee that is partially fermented and then mechanically washed? ■ C&CI Read more


This article first appeared in the November ’17 issue of C&CI, click on subscribe now if you wish to read the full story and other informative articles in the November and future issues of C&CI or log in here if you are already a subscriber. 

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