You’ve probably noticed that we are a little obsessed with our coffee beans. The best coffee roasters usually are. We love to wax poetic about our beans’ color and aroma and we often casually throw around jargon like “natural process” and “wet process”. In this post, we are going to tell you more about what those technical terms mean. Several posts ago, we talked about how we roast our coffee beans to get the best flavors. But, did you know that roasting is only one aspect that can alter the flavor profile of your coffee?
What’s the difference between wet process coffee and natural process coffee?
First of all, you should understand a little bit about the anatomy of a coffee bean. At harvest, many layers of tissue enrobe the bean: silver skin, parchment, pectin, pulp, and outer skin. The flavor profile of the roasted bean depends, in part, on how and when the coffee producers decide to remove these skins. There are two basic methods of coffee bean extraction: washed or wet process and natural or dry process. Natural process coffees are dried before “pulping” or removing the layers of protection around the bean. For wet-process or washed coffees, the producer removes the fruit layers prior to drying the bean. Washed coffees are also fermented after pulping. Doing so helps to separate any remaining protective tissues from the bean. After fermenting, producers wash and clean the beans before drying them.
How does the way a coffee bean is processed affect its flavor after roasting?
The best coffee roasters know how to enhance the unique flavors that different processes create. Natural process beans like our Honduras, 18 Rabbit have fruity and fermented flavors because the bean has stayed in contact with the natural sugars from the cherry. If producers don’t treat their product with care during the drying process, unpleasant flavors may emerge after roasting. Since we source only the best quality natural process beans, we get to take full advantage of the fruit-forward flavors produced by this process.
In some cases its better for the producer to remove the cherry before drying. Doing so can help to highlight the bean’s innate qualities. For example, our wet process Cowles Bog Blend features only a mild acidity, with flavors of bakers chocolate and hazelnut. Washing the beans prior to drying brings out those roasty flavors and make it the perfect choice for your next espresso shot.