Multi-award winning Barista champion Jean-Paul Sutton is one of Australia’s most recognisable coffee experts. As part of a successful career leading the development of Queensland’s Specialty Coffee Industry, he plans to take the region’s coffee scene to the next level – from right here in Townsville.
The coffee bean we have come to know and love is actually the seed of a cherry. Before it’s roasted, ground, extracted and drunk, the seed must first be processed. Here’s some information on the three most commonly practised processing methods.
The washed process completely separates the coffee beans from the rest of the cherry. It requires large volumes of fresh water, which is why this style of processing is traditionally associated with regions with more abundant rainfall.
Firstly, the coffee cherries are washed in clean, fresh water and pulped to remove the skins and outer flesh from the beans. The beans are however, still covered in the sticky pulp (or ‘mucilage’) that must be completely removed before drying. Mucilage composed of natural sugars and alcohols play a crucial role in developing the sweetness, acidity and overall flavour profile.
The mucilage is removed either with fermentation (where the fruit mucilage is broken down) or mechanically. The coffee is then washed again to remove the remaining fruit, and then dried on a patio, raised screen bed, or by using a mechanical dryer.
The wet processing generally imparts cleaner, fruitier and more acidic flavours to the coffee.
Mucilage composed of natural sugars and alcohols play a crucial role in developing the sweetness, acidity and overall flavour profile.
NATURAL / DRY METHOD
The natural process is the original manner in which coffee was processed. The cherries are dried with the beans inside, like drying a grape into a raisin. The beans are dried with all of their layers intact, including the coffee cherry and mucilage. The cherries are spread in a thin layer on patios or raised beds and raked regularly to maintain even temperatures from top to bottom, and this drying process can take anywhere from three days to three weeks depending on the region.
Once the cherry is dried, it turns into a dark brown pod that is hard to the touch; the green seed is taken out, leaving the other layers behind.
Over the drying period, sugars and flavours in the fruit are concentrated and absorbed into the bean, imparting heavier body and lower acidity, and a powerful yet refined fruit flavour.
PULPED NATURAL / HONEY METHOD
The washed process and the pulped natural process are very similar in the first step – the cherry is removed (pulped), but pulped natural coffees are dried with all or some of the sticky fruit pulp still attached to the bean.
So we can see that this process is a kind of compromise between the natural method (in which the beans are dried while entirely encased inside the fruit), and the washed method (in which all of the soft fruit residue, both skin and pulp are scrubbed off before the coffee is dried).
Pulped natural/honey coffee can have more body and lower acidity than the washed process, and a cleaner, more uniform cup than the natural process.
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