What about coffee processing?

Before it was the irresistibly fragrant black drink in your cup, coffee was the brown beans in the packet you chose. Thebeans in this packet were poured into the roaster, where theroasting processalso gave the coffee more than just its tan colour. Well before that, it looked like little pale green hard beans. Some coffee lovers have never even seen coffee in this form.

Even fewer people have had the opportunity to encounter coffee in its original version, as the fruit of the coffee plant. Coffee cherries, once ripe, are harvested and must be processed immediately after harvesting. Time plays a big role here so that the coffee does not suffer in quality and taste. There are several ways in which the harvested coffee can be processed and new methods are being experimented with. One such example is the use of yeast to process coffee.

The basic ways of processing green coffee are generally known as the following three methods:

  • Dry method / Natural
  • Wet method / Washed
  • Honey method / Honey


I always look forward to dry-processed coffees more. Natural processing is the oldest way of treating harvested coffee cherries. By heating the whole, ripe fruit of the coffee tree in the tropical sun, the beans inside the cherry have a chance to take on sweetness and fullness of flavour. This then determines how the coffee will taste when I make it at home. Typical of natural coffees is their juiciness and bold body.

But back to the processing itself. Dry processing is the oldest, technically the simplest and the cheapest - especially in terms of water consumption. Coffee trees are known togrow in tropical countries. In water-scarce areas such as Ethiopia, there is no alternative but to process coffee in the natural way. But it is not a requirement and dry-processed coffee can be obtained from other countries.

In the dry method, the beans and the husk are dried and then mechanically separated.

The natural processing process starts with the harvesting of the ripe cherries, which are quickly rinsed of impurities after harvesting. They are thensun-dried for several days. They are dried in a thin and even layer, spread out either on aconcrete slab (or brick). Or onso-called African beds.

African beds are the name given to raised areas for drying coffee. The spread out coffee is dried on cloths stretched across a bamboo frame. Due to the breathability of the fabric and the space above the ground, there is better air circulation.

It is important to rake the cherries at regular intervalsduring drying . They are usually covered at night. This protects them from the weather (e.g. dew) and prevents dampness and unwanted fermentation or mould. Thecoffee berries are dried in this way forabout 4 weeks. The dry processing process is completed by peeling the beans.

Thehulled bean retains only afine parchment covering. This is removed by the subsequent process in thedry mill, where the beans are taken up and sorted. At the end of the process, the clean and sorted green grains are ready to be packed into 60-70 kg bags and loaded for transport.


Another option for dealing with the harvested coffee berries is to use the wet coffee processing process. Coffees processed in this way are labelled as washed, washed, fully washed or wet-processed. Whatever you call this technique, it means a long swim for coffee cherries. And your cup is then characterized by the subtle, clean and natural flavor nuances of this coffee with its bright fruitiness and acidity.

A prerequisite for wet processing coffee is to ensure sufficient - and I mean really large - quantities of water. Modern farms are therefore also looking at water recycling technology for reuse in further processing. Wet processing is a more technically and economically demanding method. The undeniable advantage is the high quality of the washed coffee.

At the beginning of the process, water is used to clean the cherries for the first time and already inthis initial step, poor quality fruit is selected. In the water tank, the coffee berries convict themselves of their poor quality by remaining on the surface. High-quality ripe coffee without blemishes (e.g. insect infestation) sinks to the bottom. The coffee cherries then go into the peeling machine.

In the wet method, the beans are cleaned of the husk immediately and dried without the husk.

Thepeeled beans still retain the pulp coating, which is separated from the beans in the next step during the basic fermentation. Before bathing in the fermentation tanks, the low-quality grains floating near the surface are still selected. Other coffee undergoes 12 to 72 hours of fermentation, during which enzymes release the sticky layer of pulp from the beans. The clean beans then face about two weeks of drying. This can take place in a machine dryer or naturally as in the natural method. That is, on a concrete surface or African beds.


If natural processing gives us sweetness and fullness of flavour, and wet processing gives us the bright flavour and quality of the bean, would it not be possible to find some kind of "happy medium" and take advantage of the two methods?

There are many honey methods and they are similar to natural coffees.

With the same idea, mankind, especially coffee plantation farmers, invented another method of coffee processing commonly known as the (honey) honey method. It combines the process of cleaning, peeling and separation of the spoiled fruit as in the wet method with the harvesting of sweetness and flavour from the pulp during drying as in the case of naturally processed coffees.

In the beginning, the process is the same as for washed coffee. Thepeeled fruit of the coffee tree, but still with a certain amount of mucilaginous pulp on the bean, does not proceed further in the wet processing process. Instead, thebeans and this honey-like, sticky layerare moved to the drying process. During the drying process, the grains have enough time to absorb the amount of carbohydrates from the remaining pulp.

Thehoney method belongs to semi-washed coffee processing. Depending on the amount of pulp retained on the coffee bean, methods such as:

  • Black Honey: 90-100% of the pulp
  • Red Honey: 60 - 80% of the pulp
  • Yellow Honey: 20 - 50% pulp
  • White Honey: 0 - 20% pulp