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Processing 101: What is Washed Coffee?


Processing 101: What is Washed Coffee?

If you buy a specialty coffee bag from The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf®, it provides details about the beans, such as the roast type and country of origin. It also mentions the process, and one of the most common methods for processing coffee is the washed method. Keep reading to learn more about processing and washed coffee.


What is Processing?


Coffee, in its most natural form, is a fruit. Yes, you read that right, a fruit. Coffee beans grow inside cherry-like fruits on trees. Just like regular cherries, these coffee cherries have pits. Each pit usually contains two seeds, which are the coffee beans. After harvesting the coffee cherries, the beans are extracted from the cherries. This process is more complicated than it sounds because coffee cherries have many layers: silver skin, parchment, pectin, pulp, and outer skin. Therefore, farmers need to remove these layers to obtain coffee beans. This procedure is called processing.


The Steps of Washed Processing


When it comes to coffee processing, there are different methods available. Washed – or wet – processing is one of the most common ways. It involves removing the fruit before drying. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how washed processing works.


Step 1 – Sorting


First, the coffee cherries are compiled and put into floating water to sort out the ripe and unripe cherries.  The ripe ones – good coffee – will sink to the bottom, while the unripe ones – bad coffee – will float to the top.


Step 2 – Pulping


The next step is to remove the pulp or the skin of the cherry. The ripe cherries are thrown into a de-pulping machine, where the outer parts are removed and the seeds – or coffee beans – come out.


Step 3 – Fermentation


The seeds move through a channel into a large water tank. If any seeds float to the top of the water, they’ll be removed. The coffee seeds are left in the water tank for about 18-24 hours. However, this duration can fluctuate depending on various factors, including the temperature, country, and local processes. During fermentation, microorganisms in the seeds create enzymes that break down the seeds’ mucilage, which is a pasty substance responsible for the coffee’s delicious flavor.


Step 4 – Drying


Once fermentation is complete, the seeds are taken out of the water tanks and left to dry. Smaller farms tend to dry seeds under the sun, while larger farms use mechanical dryers. A combination of the two can occur, as well. Whatever drying method is used, the seeds are dried to a moisture content between 10-12%.


The Taste of Washed Coffee


Now that you know how this process works, what does washed coffee even taste like? Java enthusiasts praise washed coffee for its purity. It allows you to taste all the vibrant notes and distinct flavors of the origin and variety. This clarity is mainly due to the removal of the cherry before drying.


At The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf®, we offer several washed coffees, including Kenya AA Coffee, Mocha Java Coffee, and Tanzania Peaberry Coffee. Order our washed coffee today and taste the difference.