If you’ve been coming across the term ‘honey processed coffee’ more often these days, then you’re not alone.
The phenomenal new flavor and texture of this new variety of coffee are taking the world by storm.
With over 65% of the United States’ adult population consuming coffee every day, no new coffee trend goes unnoticed.
In this guide, we bring you all the insider details about honey processed coffee, what it is, how it’s made, how it tastes, and more.
Let’s dive in!
What Is Honey Processed Coffee?
It may surprise you to find out that no part of honey processed coffee actually involves the use of honey.
Honey processed coffee is a hybrid method of processing coffee beans. It involves removing the outer layers of the coffee bean and leaving the mucilage.
The two common processes of making coffee involve leaving the cherry on or clearing it completely. These processes are used in various combinations in this hybrid processing technique.
The mucilage has a golden amber or honey-like color, which gives honey processing its name. It is the layer that is left after the skin of the coffee fruit is removed.
The layer has a sticky texture and a sugary flavor. This mucilage gives honey processed coffee its unique sweetness and acid profile.
Coffee beans that have been processed using this hybrid method have medium-high acidity, sound clarity, and pleasant middle ground flavor with a hint of sweetness.
When brewed, they produce a complex flavor that is heavy-bodied yet sweet. It is less fruity than natural coffee and more complex than washed varieties.
There are many varieties of honey processed coffees that differ based on the amount of mucilage removed.
But before we delve into these types and their processes, let’s first discuss the mechanisms behind this method.
Fruit Harvesting and De-Pulping
The process of honey processing begins by harvesting ripened cherries from coffee plants.
These fruits are then washed and de-pulped with a dry or wet process. This involves removing the skin and pulp covering the bean. The layer removal process helps further improve the flavor of the coffee beans.
Modern coffee processing techniques involve different methods of removing these layers from the beans. The number of layers removed differs depending on the exact processing technique used. In honey processing, the mucilage is left on the coffee bean.
After the pulp and skin, we come to the mucilage, which is the fruit’s sugary and sticky layer. The amount of mucilage to be removed can range between 0% to 100% depending on the variety.
Leaving the mucilage comes with certain conditions. It has a lower risk of over fermentation which is common with washed coffee beans. At the same time, the risk of spoilage is also higher than that of natural coffee beans.
Once the mucilage has been processed, the beans move to the next step: fermentation.
Fermenting the Coffee Beans
After removing or leaving the mucilage layer, the next step is allowing the beans to ferment. The duration of fermentation is a crucial decision because it dictates the flavor profile of the beans.
Farmers must have a good understanding of the factors affecting the fermentation process. These include altitude, climate, temperature, variety of coffee beans, and more.
The risk of insect infestation is also high during this process, so the beans must be carefully monitored. Fermentation is a tricky process that requires expert-level skills.
Fermentation occurs almost simultaneously with the drying process. They are largely interlinked, so they are often mistaken for the other.
Here are some basics about fermentation to help you understand the complexity:
- A longer drying time typically means more fermentation, while a shorter drying time means less fermentation. Yet, that’s not quite the whole picture.
- Mucilage fermented for a short duration is low in acidity, while longer fermentation leads to more acidity.
- In honey processing, the reduced fermentation time makes the coffee bean less acidic than the washed or natural varieties.
The drying time, fermentation, and sun exposure in honey processing change based on the honey process applied: white, yellow, red, or black.
The names of the processes come from the color of the beans or the amount of mucilage removed.
In some regions, the beans are also named based on the color they take on after fermentation. Since the mucilage contains sugars, fermentation leads to caramelization.
The more the sugars caramelize, the darker the mucilage becomes. These sugars seep into the coffee bean, adding a hint of sweetness to its flavor.
The next step in honey processing is drying the beans to achieve the right moisture content.
Drying the Coffee Beans
The drying process involves laying out the beans on elevated beds and allowing them to dry. The beans are often stirred during the process to ensure that they dry thoroughly.
Drying can take anywhere between 4 to 21 days. It is considered complete once the desired moisture content is reached. This process differs based on the bean variety, acidity, and flavor you’re trying to achieve.
Once the ideal moisture content is achieved, the beans are then de-hulled. This involves removing the hull or parchment covering the coffee bean. After this, the bean is polished, which removes the final layer of covering—its silver skin.
If, at this point, the moisture content of the beans exceeds the mark of 12%, a second drying is done.
Note that the methods used to conduct the above-mentioned processes have evolved significantly and some are even automated. However, the purpose of de-pulping, fermenting, and drying remain the same.
The next step is roasting the coffee beans, which is similar to processing other varieties of coffee.
What Are the Various Types of Honey Processed Coffee Beans?
There are various types of honey processed coffee beans. These differ in the amount of mucilage removed and the resulting coffee flavor.
Here are the types of honey processed coffee and what you should know about them.
In white honey processing, about 80% to 100% of the mucilage is removed. This makes the color, flavor, and sweetness content of the bean very light.
Sun exposure is also high, which results in the shortest drying time and the least fermentation. It makes this variety of coffee the least acidic among the honey processed ones.
Yellow honey is also called “semi-washed” since the coffee beans are rinsed with water to remove excess mucilage. Between 50% to 70% percent of the mucilage is removed during this process.
Yellow honey beans are then dried at a maximum temperature of 70 degrees Celsius (158 degrees Fahrenheit). The beans must be dried quickly to reduce the duration of fermentation.
The beans are stirred once every 6 hours, and the entire process takes 4 to 7 days. The resulting flavor from the coffee beans is less acidic, sweeter, and very full-bodied.
In red honey processing, coffee beans aren’t washed with water but rather dry-pulped. The processing removes less than 50% of the mucilage.
The beans are then exposed to a maximum temperature of 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit).
The beans are stirred every hour for the first two days and every four hours afterward. This keeps going for 14 to 21 days or until the ideal moisture content is reached.
This process makes the coffee slightly acidic yet sweet at the same time.
The processing of black honey coffee involves the most work.
For starters, the least amount of mucilage is removed, which gives the beans a darker color. Secondly, the fermentation and drying time is increased to allow yeast and bacteria to thrive.
This increased processing time produces much higher acidity than the other types of honey processed coffee beans.
The maximum temperature for drying black honey beans is 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit). The beans are stirred every 30 minutes for the first three days and every hour afterward.
The process is repeated for 15 to 21 days or until the beans’ moisture content is 12% to 14%.
The resulting flavor of the coffee beans is quite similar to “natural” coffee.
What Does a Cup of Honey Processed Coffee Taste Like?
The flavor of a cup of honey processed coffee lands between natural and washed beans. It has a heavy-bodied feel that feels thick in the mouth, similar to natural coffee. The acidity level is medium-high, like that of washed coffee.
Honey processed coffee has a distinctly sweet taste because of the caramelization of the mucilage on the beans.
Coffee enthusiasts with discerning palates also mention notes of caramel, honey, brown sugar, chocolate, spice, and cedarwood.
Are you someone who is never quite satisfied with a cup of natural or washed coffee? You like drinking both, but you find yourself wanting a cup of coffee with more complex flavors.
If you want the excitement of brand new flavors and acidity levels, then a cup of honey processed coffee might be perfect for you!
While most honey processed coffees will taste as described above, black and white honey varieties might have slight differences in flavor.
How Do You Brew Honey Processed Coffee?
There is no one perfect brewing process required for honey processed coffees. You can use the same brewing methods you use to brew other types of coffee beans.
You can get the most flavor out of your honey processed coffee beans through a pour-over, a French press, and even a Moka pot!
Are you excited to try different varieties of honey processed coffee at home?
Check out some of these brands offering honey processed coffee products and subscriptions.
Volcanica Coffee Company
If there is a certain variety of coffee you can’t find anywhere, then Volcanica probably has it. They offer over 150 varieties of specialty, exotic, and sustainably sourced coffee beans!
Some of their collections include:
- Fair Trade Coffee
- Shade Grown Coffee
- Rainforest Coffee
- Organically Grown Coffee
- Decaf Coffee
- Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee
- Flavored Coffee
- And more.
Do you want 100% organic honey processed Kona coffee grown on the islands of Hawaii?
Hala Tree is your go-to option. Their products are USDA Organic certified and grown on a single estate.
Pure Coffee Club
This is another coffee subscription service you’re sure to love. They have exciting products on offer, and they deliver straight to your door.
One of these is their Explorer series, through which you can get a different heirloom single-source coffee every month.
What’s even better is their sampler offering. The Sampler Pack includes 8-ounce samples of their four classic brews. Even those who have never tried honey processed coffee before have loved their blends!
Red Rooster Coffee Roaster
They also offer curated coffee subscriptions that you can get sent right to your door each month!
Mayorga offers a selection of the best organically-sourced coffee of artisanal quality. You may also be interested in their range of coffee pods, cans, espresso capsules, and other products on offer.
Cafe Kreyol offers USDA Organic certified coffee in various flavors and roast levels. Their coffee products are sourced from Africa, the Asia-Pacific, the Caribbean islands, and Latin America.
Cafe Kreyol provides organic coffee varieties to consumers and ensures sustainable employment to those they source from.
Honey processed coffee is not just a variety of coffee but a new world of unique flavor, texture, and blends. And with so many ways to brew these beans, there’s a seemingly unlimited variety in flavor and acidity to be achieved!
Have you tried a cup of honey processed coffee yet? Why not try all the varieties (white, yellow, red, and black) to see if you can tell the difference?
How was the experience? Write to us with your stories!
Last Updated on October 5, 2022 by Ashok Parmar