With the introduction of Ardi, our latest Ethiopia offering, it’s a great time to talk about processing methods in coffee. Processing can have a profound impact on the profile and quality of a cup of coffee. Ardi, which is natural processed (also known as dry processed) has an intensely fruity and sweet profile with a very syrupy body. In part, this is a product of the natural processing method.
Noted above, this is also known as “dry process,” and is the oldest means of processing coffee after harvest. In this processing method, the intact coffee cherries (i.e., the fruit from which the seeds are taken) are dried by the sun, typically on patios or raised beds. It’s only after the cherry has been sufficiently dried that the seed is removed. With the cherry and mucilage still intact, this process imparts unique qualities onto the seed. When done well, this processing method can yield incredible, fruit-forward coffees, like the Ethiopia Ardi we’re currently serving.
The natural process can be advantageous to growing regions with little access to reliable water sources, and is often seen in Ethiopia. Though if great care is not taken during processing, any amount of coffee that spoils or molds can ruin an entire lot.
Unlike the natural processed coffee, the washed process involves the removal of the cherry and mucilage surrounding the seed, and then submerging the seeds in water where a fermentation process removes the remaining flesh. After fermentation the seeds are washed again with water before drying (in a similar fashion as natural process on raised beds or patios). Compared to natural processed coffees, washed processed coffee typically result is a more complex profile and cleaner cup.
Washed processed coffees can be water intensive, and is more expensive (traditionally) than natural processed coffees. Though the risk of ruining an entire lot is significantly reduced.
Other processing methods exist, such as semi-washed or honey processed coffee, and we look forward to diving more into these subjects soon!