Washed, Natural, Honey: The Different Between Coffee Processing Methods

Washed, Natural, Honey: The Different Between Coffee Processing Methods | Ritachi Coffee  – All for coffee lovers!

Honey, dry, washed, pulped natural… that’re some keywords you ever look at your coffee packaging that you buy from roasters, but what they are and what are the different between them? Well never confuse, This article will describe all of them in detail, the way we processed them directly from RITACHI COFFEE FARM and you’ll wonder what on earth these mean.


First of all, we will share 3 important standards to make high quality coffee bean:

1.    Only collect and harvest 100% ripe cherries

2.    Control fermentation process

3.    Control drying time

Depending on weather conditions, coffee variety, purpose of products line we would to be, we will decide to which processing method is the best.

The three most popular methods of processing coffee around the world are natural, washed and honey. Natural processed coffees are dried inside the cherry before being hulled and milled. Washed (or wet) coffees are pulped and then fermented to remove the mesocarp (also known as mucilage) layer before being dried and milled. Honey processing bridges the gap between wet and natural coffees; the coffee cherry is pulped and then dried with the mucilage layer still left on the parchment.

Now, this is detail,

1. Washed Coffees

In the ‘Wet process’, the fruit covering the seeds/beans is removed before they are dried. Coffee processed by the wet method is called wet processed or washed coffee. The wet method requires the use of specific equipment and substantial quantities of water. Washed coffees focus solely on the bean. They let you taste you what’s on the inside, not the outside.

The skin of the cherry and some of the pulp is removed by pressing the fruit by machine in water through a screen. The bean will still have a significant amount of the pulp clinging to it that needs to be removed. The fermentation process has to be carefully monitored to ensure that the coffee doesn’t acquire undesirable, sour flavors. For most coffees, mucilage removal through fermentation takes between 8 and 36 hours, depending on the temperature, thickness of the mucilage layer, and concentration of the enzymes.

After the pulp has been removed what is left is the bean surrounded by two additional layers, the silver skin and the parchment. The beans must be dried to a water content of about 10% before they are stable. Coffee beans dried in the sun to 12-13% moisture  and take between 5 to 7 days.  At the end, the parchment skin or pergamino is thoroughly dry and crumbly, and easily removed in the hulling process.

Washed coffees reflect both the science of growing the perfect coffee bean and the fact that farmers are an integral part of crafting the taste of a coffee bean. When looking at washed coffees, it becomes apparent that the country of origin and environmental conditions play a vital role in adding to the flavour.

This means that the washed process is able to highlight the true character of a single origin bean like no other process – and it’s the reason why so many specialty coffees are washed.

At Ritachi Coffee Farm we used this method for Arabica variety at Cau Dat – Da Lat – Lam Dong Province

Washed coffee being processed

2. Natural/Dry Processed Coffee

The natural process, also known as the dry process, is the oldest method of processing coffee. The entire cherry after harvest is first cleaned and then placed in the sun to dry on tables or in thin layers on patios. Although it needs less investment, it still requires certain climatic conditions to ensure the drying of the fruit and seed in time.

After coffee cleaned, select 100% ripe cherries and fermented. The coffee cherries are spread out in the sun. The drying operation is the most important stage of the process, since it affects the final quality of the green coffee. A coffee that has been overdried will become brittle and produce too many broken beans during hulling (broken beans are considered defective beans). Coffee that has not been dried sufficiently will be too moist and prone to rapid deterioration caused by the attack of fungi and bacteria. Coffee beans dried in the sun to 12-13% moisture  and take between 25 to 30 days.

This process has the potential to create the most flavourful coffees. If consistency can be achieved, natural coffees can match washed coffees for clarity, and also provide some more interesting notes and characteristics as well like a tropical fruit, mint, herbal…

And what’s more, natural coffee is the most eco-friendly.


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Coffee being natural processed

3. Honey/Pulped Natural Coffee

The title “honey processed” leads many people to assume honey’s used in the making of the coffee or that the coffee itself resembles honey tasting notes—but in reality, neither is true. This process gets its name from its sticky, honey-like feel the bean has before being dried. Once a coffee bean is separated from its cherry, it’s left covered in a mucilage layer that, when dried, will continue to reabsorb moisture from the air and become sticky.  Coffee beans dried in the sun to 12-13% moisture  and take between 10 to 20 days.

Honey processing bridges the gap between washed and natural coffees as it generally possesses some of the body and sweetness of a natural while retaining some of the acidity of a washed. Honey coffees often have a syrupy body with enhanced sweetness, round acidity and earthy undertones.

Subcategories of honey coffee have developed: yellow, red, golden, black, and white honey. This reflects the ability this process has to influence the taste and overall profile of a coffee. It can become a highly scientific process, as the level of mucilage – which influences the sweetness and depth of body of the coffee – is monitored and controlled. Typically, the more mucilage left on the bean, the sweeter the taste.

At Ritachi Coffee Farm we used this method for Robusta variety at Bao Loc – Lam Dong Province

Coffee being honey processed

You see, a natural or honey processed coffee requires that the coffee cherry around the bean be flavourful. Washed coffees, however, depend almost 100% on the bean having absorbed enough natural sugars and nutrients during its growing cycle. This means the varietal, soil, weather, ripeness, fermentation, washing, and drying are absolutely key.

Coffee processing is an integral part of crafting the flavour and character of your cup of coffee. We hope that this article can help you understand more about coffee processing and what is the different between washed, natural and honey process. That is also the way we do, try day by day to add more value for Vietnamese Coffee.

Written by Kaldi – Founder of RITACHI COFFEE – All for coffee lovers!

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