Coffee processing is the process of separating the coffee cherry’s fruit flesh and skin from the coffee beans. Poorly processed coffee can result in huge losses for farmers.
Processing coffee is a procedure that can be done in several ways and has a strong influence on how the coffee eventually tastes.
How coffee beans are processed can determine what kind of coffee you can prepare with them.
Depending on the resources available, there are three popular coffee processing methods: dry processing, wet processing, and honey processing.
The processing method employed by each farmer depends on the climatic conditions of their area, as well as the economic conditions.
We’ll look at how dry processing is done, the techniques involved, and compare wet and dry coffee.
What is Dry Processed Coffee?
It is referred to as an old-school method of coffee processing. It is a natural process, also known as pulped natural, that involves using sunlight to dry the coffee.
It is done by spreading the coffee in thin layers, on raised beds or large patios, to be sun-dried after picking them from the cherries.
The sun-dried cherries are turned frequently so that the drying process is even enough to prevent mold formation. Once they are thoroughly dried, all the layers of the cherry are removed.
This method is referred to as the natural way of processing coffee and is preferred by those who want a cup full of natural fruity flavors.
These flavors are unique to naturally-dried coffee beans and are an excellent way of preserving the beans. Although the process is mainly sun-dried, mechanical dryers are also often used in this method.
With this method, the final moisture content is usually about 10.5%.
It may take up to four weeks before the beans are thoroughly dried, depending on the climatic conditions. If the process is not interrupted, it will produce the dense and exotic flavors that are associated with sun-dried cherries.
This method is very reliable, but unfortunately, any weather change may severely affect the beans. Without constant sunlight, mold and fungus are developed very easily, which, if not quickly addressed, will destroy the crop.
Because of the climatic conditions required, dry processing is common in South America, East Africa, and Yemen regions.
Dry processed coffee produces a drink that is sweeter, less acidic, fuller in body, more robust, and has more aroma than other types due to several fruity flavors in the coffee beans. Sun-drying allows the beans to retain most of those flavors.
The natural or dry process is believed to be simpler and was indeed the original processing method employed before machines allowed for other forms.
Process of Dry Processing Coffee
Remember, dry processing coffee is a post-harvest process, and all methods of processing coffee involve drying at one stage or the other. The idea is to reduce the moisture in green coffee.
The first thing to note about the drying method is that two things are critical in the procedure: air and temperature. Sun-drying is often associated with heat, so moisture isn’t always considered.
But moisture levels can ruin the beans, even if you get the temperature right. Although water will naturally reduce with higher temperatures, monitoring the beans’ moisture level is essential.
Before drying, the level should be around 49%, and the drying procedure aims to achieve a moisture level of 11–12%.
As for temperature, the coffee in the parchments shouldn’t exceed 40 °C, while natural coffee should never be dried above a temperature of 45 °C. While drying, ensure that the temperature is kept constant for an extended period.
If you’re having problems maintaining an adequate temperature with the sun due to weather issues, you can use mechanical dryers to achieve the set temperature and moisture.
The time it takes to dry coffee beans varies, depending on the weather and processing. Humidity is the primary factor that determines how easy or difficult it will be for the coffee to dry.
Here is a simplified 5-step procedure:
- Harvest the coffee plants
- Sort the coffee cherries. Select the cherries you’ll need for the processing. For the best quality, farmers select only ripe, dark-red cherries
- Place the selected cherries in an open place to be sun-dried. This sun-drying allows the flavors to be absorbed, producing a noticeable taste. As they dry, they ferment
- Keep turning and checking the cherries at least three times a day to allow moisture to escape and prevent molding
- Once dried, remove the beans from the cherries
Now, let’s look at the main differences between coffee processed in this old, traditional way and the more modern washing method.
Dry vs. Wet Processed Coffee
The main difference between dry and wet-processed coffee is that one is earthy and wild, and the other gives a clean taste.
One is straightforward and requires no equipment, while the other requires a sophisticated process. As you already know, dry-processed coffee is the former, and wet-processed coffee is the latter.
Dry processing of coffee may look simple, but it has lots of advantages. Let’s overlook the time it takes to get it done and assume that that is a price we have to pay, yet, there seem to be some more disadvantages that may make you think twice about this method.
For example, because the processing doesn’t consider the different sizes of the beans, the process produces very inconsistent beans. This is one problem that is not present in wet-processed coffee.
So, which method is better? Let’s try a comparison.
The dry method involves the separation of the coffee cherries after harvest and then spreading them on a flat surface to be dried by the sun.
When they are dry, the cherries’ outer layers are removed, leaving only the beans.
The dry method, meanwhile, involves washing the coffee. After harvest, the coffee beans are soaked in water so that the ripe ones are separated from the unripe ones.
The pulp of the ripe ones is then removed until they are dried.
Dry-processed coffee produces an earthy taste and lots of flavors, as well as slight wildness and some extra tartness, while wet-processed coffee has a less-earthy taste and a firm evenness.
Dry-processed coffee, also known as natural, is known to have more fruity flavors because the slow, natural drying process allows the beans to form bonds with the natural sugars of the cherry.
One disadvantage of this method is that you can have inconsistent flavors, as some beans ripen more than others, producing notable inconsistencies. That is why it is essential to turn them often when drying.
Washed coffee or wet-processed coffee involves the washing and removal of the cherries before drying. This method removes anything that could affect the flavors, thus producing only intrinsic coffee flavors.
Moreover, it retains some fruity flavors of the beans, although the hint of berries is minimized.
Dry processed coffee is often used for low-quality beans, while high-quality coffee is processed through the wet method.
If the coffee cherries aren’t dried fast enough, there will be slight rottenness to the dry-processed coffee. This is not applicable in the wet-processed type.
However, this does not mean dry-processed coffee is always of poor quality. As you can see below, we have outlined several coffee brands that are dry-processed and have excellent quality.
So, which is better? We can’t say. It depends on the preference of the consumer.
But if you can’t make up your mind between the two, you can go for a process where the cherry skin is removed, and the pulp is dried on the beans. This is known as the semi-washed method.
Best Dry Processed Coffee
Here are some examples of the best dry-processed coffee
- Panama Altieri Geisha Dry Fermentation Limited Black Label: This coffee is known for its Geisha varietal and has an exciting juicy flavor that complements the geisha beans. It has different tastes and is filled with notes of mixed berries, floral aromas, and a vanilla creamy-sweetness. Each brew is a treat, and if you’re a die-hard fan of dry-processed coffee, this is what you want.
- Papua New Guinea Kagamuga Natural: You’ll want more of this drink, with its sweet cocoa and dark chocolate flavors. It also has a clean taste, but the juicy fruity flavors will blow you away.
- Rwanda Macuba Dry Process Gold Label: Produced from Rwandan fruit, this has a delightful apple-like taste with chocolatey undertones. Although it is earthy in taste, it is also smooth and fruity. You’ll love it.
- Brazil Patrocinio Natural: This Brazilian bean is a mix of cocoa, hazelnut, and wine. Very popular in Brazil, you’ll enjoy this classic if you’re interested in exploring the unreached sides of coffee.
- Colombia El Vergel Anaerobic Natural Geisha Limited Black Label: Full of flavor and aroma, this coffee is filled with a fruitiness that excites your coffee experience. It also has no bitterness at all.
- Ethiopia Banko Swiss Water Process Decaf Gold Label: This coffee tastes like a mix of grapes, chocolate, and nuts. It has a unique fruitiness; however, it is not caffeinated. Its sweet taste is sure to blow you away.
There are many essential factors when considering coffee—including the beans’ quality, the roast type, and even the grind size. Very little is often said about the processing method used.
However, the processing method contributes a great deal to the final product, and nothing affects the identity of the coffee in your cup like the method of processing employed.
The only reason why the processing method is rarely talked about is that it affects the crop producers more than the coffee manufacturers.
One prevalent processing method is dry processing, which involves using the sun or, in some cases, artificial dryers to dry the beans. This method is known to retain lots of flavors and is common in regions with lots of sunlight and reduced humidity.
Although often linked to low-quality coffee, you can get excellent variants from this processing method.
Last Updated on October 5, 2022 by Ashok Parmar