After the coffee cherry has been picked, it needs to go through several steps prior to being sent off for roasting. The preliminary processing is done to eliminate the fruit of the coffee cherry and dry out the seed (or bean) in order to make it ready for roasting. On our farm, we use three primary methods to process our beans: Washed Process, Natural (or Dry) Process, and Honey Process.
Coffee beans that have been recently harvested must be sorted according to their ripeness and the fruit must be separated from the seeds within a day of the harvest. Before depulping takes place (removing the fruit layers) the cherries are washed and put through a float test to get rid of any cherries that float in the water, which is a sign of a defect. After the initial selection, the cherries are depulped to detach the fruit from the seed, typically occurring within the 8-12 hour timespan following the harvest. Despite the depulping process, some fruit fibers remain attached to the seed, referred to as mucilage.
Following depulping, the seeds tend to be put in a fermentation container for a period ranging from 12 to 36 hours. All coffee processing approaches necessitate some type of fermentation, and the procedure of washing tends to make this step less intensive compared to other methods. Through fermentation, the fruit mucilage that is attached to the seeds will be softened, thus making it simpler to take away during washing.
Once the fermentation process is complete, the washing stage starts. The beans are submerged in fresh water and agitated in order to eliminate the mucilage. This cycle is repeated a few times until all of the mucilage is gone. After the last sort, the beans are spread out to dry, usually on tarps, with indirect sunlight. To guarantee even drying, they must be raked a couple of times during the day. The aim is to reduce the moisture content to 11% before the beans can be put in bags and sent to the roaster.
Natural (or Dry) Process is the oldest form of coffee processing and is more eco-friendly as it does not require water. This method entails leaving the fruit on the seed for the entire drying process. It is critical to pick ripe cherries as the fruit itself contributes to the flavor. They are weighed and subsequently moved to the drying area, which is often done on raised beds to allow for better airflow. During the drying phase, fermentation takes place, necessitating constant monitoring. It may take 3-4 weeks for the cherries to dry completely and the seeds to reach 11% moisture. After that, the coffee goes through a dry mill to remove the fruit and its parchment layer. It is then sorted one final time before being packed in burlap bags and shipped.
The Honey Process is an intermediary between washed and natural coffee production. The cherry is stripped from the bean within 24 hours of collection, yet the mucilage remains on the seed, which is similar to the natural processing method in that part of the fruit fibers remain attached to the seed during drying. This process is more environmentally friendly than washed coffee as no water is involved; the seeds are dried out on a tarp in direct sunlight for three to four weeks.