The specialty coffee movement has brought us amazing coffees we enjoy. But these delicacies are the result of different processing methods that highlight the best characteristics of each coffee and can represent a better income source for coffee farmers, because they can sell them in specialized markets.
Generally, in a specialty coffee bag you will find tasting notes, the farm, the region where it was produced and the processing method or the technique that was used to remove coffee beans (or seeds) from the fruit.
So, what does it mean when the label in your coffee bag states that coffee is “natural”? Let’s find out more about this coffee processing method.
The Natural Process: An Overview
While in the washed or “wet” process, the coffee pulp is removed from the beans, which then are soaked in water to remove the mucilage through fermentation and finally sun or mechanically dried; the natural or “dry” method implies drying the coffee cherries, typically under the sun, without removing the pulp. These are the two most common coffee processing techniques.
When the coffee is dry, generally after a few weeks, the cherries are depulped and the mucilage remains attached to the bean. This has an effect on the sweetness in the final cup.
The natural processing method is an environmentally friendly choice, given that it uses less water than the washed process. However, it needs specific weather conditions and expertise to be successful. This method is most commonly used in regions with little access to water.
But saving water is not the only advantage. Local water streams don’t get polluted with wastewater from coffee processing. Farmers also require less machinery for this method, which means a lower investment. Additionally, they can fetch better prices for these coffees, which are generally sold and sought after in the specialty coffee market.
What Can You Expect From a Natural Coffee?
Despite their many advantages, naturally processed coffees have their detractors, who pledge the lack of consistency. However, when done correctly, if the coffee is dried evenly, it can offer a clear cup.
Given that the coffee bean remains in contact with the pulp for a longer period of time, the result will be a sweeter cup and balanced acidity. Of course, this will also depend on the coffee itself, but fruity and fermented notes will be more pronounced. Natural coffees also tend to have a heavier body.
Are Natural Coffees For You?
You can try the same coffee variety with both the washed and natural processing methods and taste the difference.
We also suggest you try our naturally processed coffee from our family farm, Finca el Porvenir, with red fruit flavours like cherries and red berries combined with a hint of dark chocolate nuances in the aftertaste. Our guest coffee from Ethiopia with fruity notes, or our Special Edition Coffee from Finca Santa Monica. We roast them for both, espresso and filter brewing methods.
Do you enjoy natural coffees?