The Fruit and the Seed: How Wet, Dry, and Honey Processes Affect the Coffee

29th Jul 2017

Different processes can turn the same ‘bean’ into totally different brews. Airquotes? What? Yeah. Because actually, coffee isn’t a bean, it’s a seed. So what? Who cares? What does this mean?

It means that before Hiver, Donny, Claire, and Drew can roast it, farmers have to remove the coffee from the middle of a piece of fruit. Each region has its preferred methods, influenced by geography, climate, tradition, and desired flavor profile. Each process has its own pros, cons, and caveats, and produces a completely different cup.

Mass market production has given dry processing a bad name by paying rock bottom prices for lots that aren't even filtered for insects, let alone unripe or defective seeds. They roast their coffees to all hell and then dowse them in cream and sugar to disguise the low quality. This has helped spread the misconception that wet-process, or "washed" coffee, is cleaner than other methods. 

Dry processing, sometimes called natural, is the simplest and most ancient method, with the first documented examples drying on the rooftops of Yemen. Producers of specialty coffees use a combination of floatation tanks, raised bed drying, and hand- and machine-sorting to produce extremely desirable results in the cup. 

The real distinction is that wet processing removes the fruit early on, allowing the nuances of cultivation (acidity, complexity of flavor) to shine through. Dry processed coffees, with their prolonged exposure to fruit sugars, gain the heavier body and more layered, fruited attributes which many coffee drinkers seek.

This brings us to our third and final method: honey-processed, or pulp natural. The skin and some of the fruit are removed, but instead of entering the fermentation tank, the thin layer of pulp, or mucilage is left in peace and the coffee is put out to dry. The remaining mucilage lowers the acidity and contributes to the sweetness in the cup without overwhelming the subtle flavors.

So there you have it. This mini-lesson was brought to you by Chromatic Coffee. Be sure to check out our Parainema duo from Rosalio Ventura, which offers a unique opportunity to experience the same crop when it is both honey processed and wet processed

Thursday, August 3rd @ 11 AM

To experience the difference for yourself, come visit our cafe* for a side-by-side tasting with Hiver. Impossible? Host your own cupping.**

*5237 Stevens Creek Boulevard

**IF you act fast enough AND live close enough, you may be able to nab a cafe-exclusive Chelchelle, a great example of a well-executed dry process. It’s also our only dry process. Also, we’re almost out.