Did you know that a coffees flavour is enhanced or reduced by its processing method? Most of us simply enjoy our cup of coffee without paying much attention to the way it was processed. In this article; you are going to learn about a processing method called washing (wet processing). What it is, how it tastes, and how the processing method is done.
Washed or Wet Coffee Processing
Washed coffee processing is a method of processing a coffee bean by removing the fruit layers of a bean before drying. The skin and the mucilage (The layer that surrounds the coffee bean with a sticky, sugary substance) is removed, and only the parchment and silverskin remain.
Wet coffee is dried without the cherry. It is de-pulped and then fermented to enhance separation of any remaining tissues from the bean and parchment. Finally, it’s washed clean and dried.
Washed coffee is a favourite for many coffee lovers because of its clarity and vibrant notes. By removing the cherry before drying, the coffee flavour is enhanced.
What’s the Flavour of Washed Coffee?
Washed coffees flavour can be described as clean. Why? Because, while other processing types add a fruity flavour to coffee, washed coffee removes all the factors that may alter the original coffee taste.
What that means is that fruity sugars, mucilage and other compounds that ferment are removed from washed coffees. Therefore, when you take washed coffee, you are tasting the coffee itself, its variety, its origin and its terroir.
However, the washed method of processing is suited for coffees that have a great taste profile. When used in such coffees, the results are a fruity, lively characteristic that many coffee lovers take delight in.
Additionally, with washed coffees, the profile is more consistent. What does that mean? With natural processed coffee, fermentation continues during the drying phase. However, with washed coffees, fermentation happens at the beginning of the process; thus it’s easy to control the coffee’s profile.
Washed Processing Step by Step
So far, you have learnt that the fruit is removed before drying begins. However, washed processing goes a lot further than this.
After coffee cherries are picked, they are sorted by specialists to remove defective and unripe cherries. Some producers put all the cherries in water and then remove all cherries that float. This is because high-quality coffee cherries are denser than water; thus, they sink. In contrast, inferior quality cherries have air gaps inside them, and that makes them float. The high-quality beans can then move to the next step. However, poor quality cherries can still be processed and sold at different prices and markets.
In this stage, the coffee pulp (the skin of the berry) is removed. A machine called a depulper can be used to do this. For better quality pulping, the coffee can be put through a sieve to remove any pulp left behind by the depulper.
Next, the cherries are fermented. Coffee is traditionally fermented in tanks. Depending on the temperature and the coffee quality, this process can take around 18 to 24 hours. During fermentation, microorganisms present in the beans produce the enzymes responsible for breaking down the outer layer of the coffee beans.
Drying is the final stage of the washing method. However, producers have to be extremely careful to prevent damage by microorganisms.
Smaller farms will usually dry coffee under the sun while larger ones may use mechanical driers or a combination of both. For instance, they may dry the coffee in the sun for a couple of days and then dry it mechanically. By using such a combination, they produce quality coffee, albeit with reduced costs and resources.
In this guide, you have learnt that washed processing is a common type of coffee processing globally. The coffee is of good quality and is enjoyed by most coffee lovers around the world. With washed coffee, you can expect to taste all the flavours of the coffee, from a mildly acidic flavour to that floral aroma with a hint of sweetness. To enjoy this great coffee, place an order for the best varieties of washed coffees; from Yirgacheffe, Sidamo, Lima, Tepi, and Bebeka or contact us. We have the finest washed coffee from Ethiopia.