Wet or Dry?
Now that we’ve discussed how the anatomy of the coffee cherry and what green coffee is, let’s go through the actual process coffee handlers take to go from the cherry to the bean.
From the moment the cherry is picked, there are so many different routes to take to good tasting coffee. Interestingly, there is no “correct” route as each route produces different tastes that please different types of people.
The two main methods for processing coffee are the dry and wet methods. We’ll focus on these two for now, as most of the other methods are more or less variations on these two. Both processing styles produce coffee beans with different flavor profiles.
Synonymous with “natural processing,” this method involves drying the cherries with the beans still inside. Whether they are dried on a bed or on the tree, the beans are constantly monitored to make sure that the fruit doesn’t ferment, creating an unpleasant, sour taste. After drying, all the layers around the beans are eventually stripped to be ready for roasting. Beans that have gone through natural processing are known for fruitier flavors, weaker acidity, and more body.
Also called “washing”, the wet processing method begins by pulping the cherries down to their mucilage (the pulp). In some cases, the cherries are sorted out beforehand by soaking them in water and removing the ones that float to the top, as these ones are often unripe, overripe, or not dense enough. Once the coffee beans have been pulped, they are then soaked in water and fermented until all the pulp comes off. After the beans are fermented, they are cleansed and dried with sunlight or with a dryer. Beans that are “washed” are commonly known for its acidity.
In conclusion, the dry and wet methods are two of the most common ways of producing coffee all around the world. While regions with scarce access to water may prefer the dry method, many regions today use both dry and wet processing. Tradition and climate also plays a role when it comes to choosing a method. Yet, as farmers, roasters, and coffee enthusiasts continue to seek after amazing coffee every year, coffee growers will do whatever it takes to make their product acquire award-winning tastes.
Note: Our goal is to simplify, in the writing, the steps coffee goes through to reach our cups. We do not want to overwhelm readers with too many details, although they are important for a comprehensive understanding.To learn about the specifics of processing, check out http://www.ncausa.org/About-Coffee/10-Steps-from-Seed-to-Cup