What is coffee processing and how does it affect the flavor of coffee?

Coffee processing significantly influences the flavors of coffee by shaping the characteristics and nuances that end up in your cup. The two primary methods, washed (wet) and natural (dry), and other innovations like anaerobic fermentation, contribute distinct attributes to the final flavor profile. At Shavi, we tend to select a wide-variety of interesting processes to give you a range of coffees to choose from. In general, our coffees tend be more fruity and intense flavor profiles. Understanding a little more about these processes can help you choose your favorite coffee.

Washed (Wet) Process:

In the washed process, the outer skin of the coffee cherry is removed, and the beans undergo fermentation to break down the mucilage—a sticky layer around the beans. The mucilage is washed off the bean with water. The removal of mucilage during fermentation results in coffees with cleaner, brighter flavors. This process often brings out pronounced acidity, providing a crisp and vibrant taste.

Natural (Dry) Process:

In the natural process, the whole cherries are dried with the beans inside, allowing the pulp to naturally dry around the beans. Natural coffees tend to have a fuller body and more pronounced sweetness. The drying process with the pulp intact can impart fruity and wine-like flavors to the beans.

Anaerobic Fermentation:

In anaerobic fermentation, coffee beans are processed in an environment without oxygen, often in sealed tanks or special bags.The absence of oxygen can lead to unique and often more intense flavor profiles. Anaerobic coffees can exhibit distinctive fruity, floral, or wine-like notes, contributing to a complex taste experience.

Regardless of the processing method, the flavors are also influenced by the coffee’s origin, altitude, soil composition, and climate. The coffee bean variety (Arabica or Robusta, for example) also plays a significant role in determining flavor characteristics. In essence, the processing method acts as a crucial mediator between the coffee plant’s qualities and the flavors you experience. The choices made during processing unlock and enhance specific attributes, allowing coffee enthusiasts to explore a wide spectrum of tastes—from the clean and bright to the full-bodied and fruity, and beyond.

Our job as roasters is to try and pull these flavors out of the bean by choosing a roast profile that highlight these unique characteristics.


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