Washed, Honey and Natural Processed. Have you ever noticed these labels and wondered what they mean?

Join us as we explore different processing methods and find out whether honey is really used to process your coffee!

This article is part of our series on Coffee Labels. If you haven’t caught on yet, check out our other articles in this series:

What is a Coffee Processing Method?

This image shows the anatomy of coffee cherry. The processing methods remove the outer layers of coffee beans sequentially. Image by Ytambe (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Each layer of the coffee cherry is removed sequentially during processing to reveal the coffee bean.

Coffee is a unique agricultural product. We do not consume its fruit and instead put more value on its beans, which is actually the seed of the fruit.

For us to enjoy our favorite beverage, everything from the coffee that isn’t the seed must be removed and this extraction technique is referred to as a coffee processing method.

Learn more! Read: Stages of Coffee Production: The Journey from Seed to Cup.

What are the Common Processing Methods?

There are three major processing methods: Natural, Washed and Honey.

Check out our Coffee Processing Flowchart for a quick overview of these processing methods.

A flowchart comparing the different coffee processing methods. Vectors designed by freepik.com

How Each Processing Methods Affect Your Coffee

The key difference between these processing methods is how the pulp and mucilage are removed from the coffee.

The pulp has a high sugar content and will undergo a natural fermentation process.

The longer the pulp stays in contact with the bean, the more influence this fermentation process has over the taste of the coffee.

Now, let’s find out more about each processing methods and how they affect the taste of your coffee.

Natural Process

Natural Processed Coffee Featured Image

Natural processed coffee drying under the sun.

  • Also known as: Dry process
  • Technique: Freshly picked coffee cherries are spread out to dry for up to 4 weeks.  The dried pulp is then separated from the bean mechanically at the end of the process.
  • Cost: Cheaper and less technically demanding compared to other methods.
  • Water Usage: Minimal to none. Widely used in regions with limited water source.
  • Taste Profile: Thick mouthfeel with wild and complex flavors. The long drying process allows the beans ample time to absorb the fruity flavors of the cherries.

Washed Process

Washed Processed Coffee Featured Image

Large amount of water is used in the washed process.

  • Also known as: Wet process
  • Technique: The coffee pulp is removed mechanically and the coffee is left in the fermentation tank to biochemically remove the mucilage. The coffee is subsequently washed and dried under the sun or using drying machines.
  • Cost: Technically demanding and expensive compared to other methods.
  • Water Usage: Large amount of water is required. Favored in regions with cheap water source.
  • Taste Profile: Bright, clean cup of coffee which highlights the origin’s flavor.

Honey Process

Honey Processed Coffee Featured Image

The process is named after the remaining mucilage which have a sticky, honey-like consistency.

  • Also known as: Semi-washed process
  • Technique: The coffee is depulped and left to dry with mucilage still remaining on the coffee. Honey process can be further divided into white, yellow, gold, red, and black honey based on the amount of mucilage left, drying time, and sunlight exposure.
  • Cost: The darker the honey, the higher the cost of production. Constant monitoring is required to prevent molding and over-fermentation.
  • Water Usage: Moderate amount.
  • Taste Profile: These coffees are a pleasant middle ground between washed and natural coffees with mellow acidity, thick mouthfeel and an extra hint of sweetness

Summary

You now understand the differences between these processing methods and how they affect the taste of your brew. 

More importantly, you also know that no bees were harmed in the making of your honey processed coffee (pun intended).

With your newfound knowledge, try and take into account processing methods when you buy your next coffee.

The best way to experience this is to try and compare two coffees with different processing but of similar origin.

Trust us, you will be in for a delicious surprise!

Discover the Processing Methods

In BrewersClub, our mission is to help you discover better coffee, together.

As we taste more coffee together as a Club, we will be exploring more Processing Methods!

BrewersClub Processing Methods List

You can click the links below to find coffees categorized by their Processing Methods.