Dry and Wet Coffee
How important are the coffee processing techniques in determining the coffee carachteristics?
Coffee beans are the seeds (normally two) of the raw fruit of the coffee plant, the cherry.
The pulp of the cherry is to be removed leaving the beans ready for the roasting.
The methods to process the green beans are (i) natural (or dry), (ii) wet and (iii) pulped natural
During the wet proccess, machines remove most but not all pulp from the seeds while the same are in water.
The fermentation is then triggered leaving the seeds for some days in water basins. The remaining skin and pulp is removed and the good seeds are sorted in small water channels, not removing the silverskin. The beans are then dryed, as we’ll see in the natural method.
Natural process is the traditional method of processing coffee. The entire cherries are placed in the sun to dry on wide dry surfaces for some weeks and turned to avoid fermentation. As the drying process is completed the pulp is removed to obtain a clean and intact bean.
In the pulped natural method the cherries are mecanically pulped in water but the fermentation is not triggered. The beans are then dried and the silverskin is mecanically removed.
Effects of the main technics
Wet-processing coffees undergo a fermentation process that has significant inpact on the flavour. Coffee is more fresh, more acid and with more intense aromas.
The naturally processed coffees have more body, but, as the fermentation is inhibited, are lighter in acidity and in aromas.
The pulped natural coffee results in a beverage that has characteristics of both a natural and wet coffee. It is often sweeter than wet coffee and has some of the body typical of a natural coffee, but also retains some of the acidity typical of the wet coffee.
How to understand the used processing method?
The wet (and pulped natural) coffee has a thin silver line that runs in the middle of the bean. This line is a residue of the silverskin that is not entirelly removed differently from what happens in the natural process.
Which one is the best?
All tecniques are good, but as already seen the same can have a significant effect on the flavor of the roasted coffee. The wet process guarantees a tasting experience that is more brighter and a coffee with more character. The coffee is fruiter, but it could sometime be too acid. On the other side, the natural process determines a sweeter flavour as the sugar passes from the pulp to the beans during the proces and the coffee is smoother.
Ultimately it’s again a question of personal taste, so why not starting a journey into coffee looking for different tastes and for real quality?