How do you like your coffee? And no, by that we don't mean with or without milk. Do you buy your coffee in the form of a coffee pod for a Keurig? Or do you get it in the form of a ground powder?
If you did not answer yes to either of those questions, there is a third option that you can choose. It includes getting your own coffee beans, drying them, and grinding them for a brilliant experience at home.
A lot of the taste and color of coffee is lost when the beans you purchase go through the mass process of drying and powdering it. This means that your coffee seeds might not have the complete taste of natural coffee.
There are multiple ways to process your coffee before it goes into what is in your cup. From when the coffee cherries bloom on the trees, they go through several steps before they end up as part of your morning ritual. The first step is to get the green coffee beans from the cherries. In the sections below, we discuss the most popular ways in which this is done around the world.
As the name suggests, wet processing your coffee cherries means that the fruit covering the beans is removed before drying it. This kind of coffee is called washed coffee.
There are multiple steps involved in this process of finally obtaining green coffee beans from their cherries.
Water immersion: Immersing cherries in water makes the good quality ones sink to the bottom, while the unripe or damaged cherries will float to the top. This makes it easier to separate them to get a quality blend.
Skin removal: Using water to press the fruit through a screen, the upper layers of the cherry are removed. The outer skin and pulp of the coffee cherries is easily removed in this process, leaving the bean along with some pulp at the end of this process.
Pulp removal: Pulp can be removed from green coffee beans by several different methods. One option is to use fermentation to break down the cellulose around the beans. These can be later washed with water to easily break off the pulp.
Another option is to use machine assisted wet processing. This process basically uses a machine to scrub the bean, removing the extra pulp from it. This does not cause any problems like change in coffee flavor, unlike in fermentation, but the mechanical aspect of the wet method means that some beans might get chipped or damaged in the process.
Silver skin and parchment removal: The bean still has two layers left on it after mechanical scrubbing, namely the silver skin and the parchment layer. This is removed by drying out the bean in the sun or by using a machine dryer for the best results.
We will learn more about sun drying in the next section. If you're interested, you can learn more about this by checking out this video on Washed Coffee Processing.
Drying coffee beans is the oldest method of the first step toward making a good cup of coffee. In this method, coffee cherries are cleaned and dried under the sun to give them their signature taste and color.
Dry coffee is also known as unwashed or natural coffee. Let's talk about the steps that are taken with the coffee cherries to ensure the best results.
Harvesting: The first step toward the process is harvesting the cherries from the crops. This process basically involves plucking the cherries from the plants and collecting them for further treatment.
Sorting and separating: Once you have the green coffee cherries, they are sorted and cleaned according to their quality. This is to ensure that low quality cherries do not find their way into the final product. If the cherries are under ripe or overripe, or damaged in any other way, they are separated in this process.
Drying: These high quality cherries are then spread out to dry in the sun. Matting or brick patios are used to dry them. They are also turned around or raked to make sure that they dry evenly on all sides. This process usually takes up to four weeks.
The drying process is one of the most important steps of treating coffee, as it has to have the right amount of dryness to ensure good quality and taste. If the cherries are retaining more water than necessary, they are prone to attack by fungi and other natural causes.
On the other hand, if the cherries do not have enough water and are overdried, they can break easily, reducing the total output of the harvest. For this reason, proper care has to be taken while drying is done.
While most coffees in the world are dried in the sun, there are areas with high rainfall or humidity where you need a machine to dry the cherries. This allows the plantations to increase the speed of the process as well as have more control over the moisture of the beans.
There is a middle ground between the two options mentioned above when it comes to the processing method for coffee. While the dry method does not employ the use of water at all and the wet method uses lots of it, some countries like Indonesia and Brazil use a hybrid optional process for processing of coffee.
The semi-dry process is used by small scale farmers in several parts of the world. Let's go over the steps that are taken as a part of this.
Harvesting: The first step, as always, is getting the coffee fruits and cherries from the plants.
Pulping: Farmers use puliping machines of their own construction or local sources to remove the outer layer of the ripe cherries manually. This means that the beans have some layers remaining on them, but most of the outer fruit has been discarded.
Storage: After the outer layers are manually removed, the coffee beans are stored for a maximum of one day. This allows it to slightly dry off, making it easier for the next steps to be carried out.
Washing: After being stored for a day, these coffee mills then wash off the remaining pulp from the beans. The storing of the beans for a day makes this process easier.
Drying: Once the outer layers have been washed off, the beans are dried in the sun again in a natural process as mentioned in the previous sections.
While this means of processing coffee is a good way of ensuring that the beans are not damaged or not too many pollutants are released in the environment, there are certain disadvantages to this method as well. For example, while the beans are stored after pulping, there is the risk of the fermentation process starting because of the sugar and bacteria present around them.
For the process to work optimally and produce high quality coffee grounds, the drying process has to be carefully undertaken. The beans are kept in a constant state of motion to prevent the buildup of fungi and infections.
Since there are different ways of processing your coffee, it is natural that the taste, body, and flavor of each method will also give birth to different coffee grounds. With the wet method, dry method, and the hybrid method, the coffee retains and loses some of its original flavor and gains other aspects that give it its signature characteristics.
Because wet processing uses a large amount of water over a large period of time for the cherries, a washed coffee blend will give you a clean taste with high brightness and acidity.
However, because of the constant presence of water and the act of washing the beans multiple times, brewed washed coffee does end up losing a lot of its body. When we say body, it means a certain strength and heaviness that is present in every cup of coffee.
As the dry process involves no presence of water and just uses the sun or machine drying to filter out the body of the fruit, it gives you a rich flavor. The body of such a coffee is quite heavy.
The coffee will also be sweet and complex in nature, and will have a lower acidity and brightness. When we talk about acidity, it does not mean the pH level of the coffee. Rather, coffee acidity stands for a bright, sparkling sensation characterized by high quality blends.
As the pulping method in this kind of coffee beans does not allow it to dry completely before the upper layer is removed, coffee beans produced by the hybrid method might have certain characteristics similar to that obtained in the wet process.
Therefore, the coffee obtained from this method gives you a clean brew which has lost a lot of its body. You will also get a good brightness and acidity with this type of coffee.
Other Types of Treatment
While these are the main steps taken to produce any kind of coffee, there are some other options that can be undertaken while drying coffee beans. These options are to change the taste or overall nature of coffee to suit personal preferences.
Decaf coffee is a popular option and is served almost everywhere in the world. This blend of coffee basically has the caffeine taken out of it, and is a good option for people who want to experience the taste of coffee before bed, or for people who do not want to subject their body to the effects of caffeine.
Decaffeination is carried out before roasting. This means that the process is carried out directly on green coffee beans. This can be done in many chemical ways, including subjecting the coffee to pressurized carbon dioxide, as well as adding the coffee beans to an ethyl acetate solvent.
These processes do not remove all of the caffeine present in coffee beans. Usually, even decaffeinated coffee has about 0.1% of the original caffeine content in it.
While aging is a process that is normally associated with whiskeys and wines, there are certain use cases in coffee as well. Before the Suez Canal was opened, ships had to make a long journey before they could deliver coffee to Europe.
This meant that the coffee was subjected to some time and salty air before it could reach its destination. However, because it had been going on for so long, Europeans developed a taste for that kind of coffee. After the Suez Canal was opened, the time taken for the coffee to reach them reduced, and with it, the taste changed.
But Europeans did not enjoy this new taste of coffee, and this is where aging of coffee samples began. Aging is a coffee processing method where coffee beans are subjected to the same conditions as they did while they were on the ship in an effort to bring a similar kind of taste back.
While this might seem like a strange request, there are some blends of coffee beans that can actually taste better once aged. Some beans are aged for more than 8 years to give them a signature taste.
Drying coffee beans is not a complicated process, but there are a large number of factors that go into what makes a good cup of coffee. Your personal preferences play a huge part in deciding which coffee is good, and some people might prefer a coffee with high acidity, while others might want something with a full body.
In this article, we discussed the various ways of drying coffee beans and the various steps that go into each of these processes. We also discussed the different aspects of the finished coffee you get from them. If you're interested in similar topics, please feel free to check out our other articles as well!