by Sean Quinn
If you just perused our selection and found yourself thinking:
"Gee, I don't know what half of these words mean."
Don't fret, you are in the right place.
Processing refers to the way in which the coffee cherry, the fruit of the coffee shrub, is processed and dried into the green coffee beans (seeds) that we roast and brew. There are a handful of ways that this can be done, and they tend to make a tangible difference to the flavor profiles of the beans.
Currently, we carry beans of 3 different processing methods, washed, natural, and honey.
This is the original method of processing, where intact coffee cherries are sun-dried in an open environment. This allows the fruit to ferment around the bean, creating advanced flavor compounds and sugars before the beans are removed from the cherry and dried. Generally, natural processed beans brew into a fruity, juicy, sweet, and often slightly acidic cup.
This method has been used in Ethiopia since the beginnings of coffee, but is incredibly picky about environmental factors, and is also the slowest, both of these factors led to the development of the washed, or wet process.
Washed process is going to be the most common processing type, where the freshly picked cherries are pulped to free the beans inside, and water is used to separate them from the cherry pulp. The beans are then soaked and fermented before being dried.
The resulting beans are cleaner tasting than their naturally processed counterparts, but more importantly, this method allows for much broader environmental parameters, as well as shortening the time from harvest to final product.
Splitting the difference between Washed and Natural, Honey processing removes the cherry from the beans without the use of water, then allows the mostly cherry-free beans to ferment similar to a natural/dry processed bean. This allows for a thin coating to remain on the bean, referred to as the mucilage, which ferments to become golden and sticky, like honey.
The resulting bean is between a wet and dry processed bean in flavor, presenting some of the complexities of a dry bean, without too much fruitiness.
Some regions grade their coffee, in our inventory's case, this is Ethiopia. Other regions usually grade by the size of the bean itself, but Ethiopian grades are based on bean defects and cup quality, with G1 being the highest grade.
This topic is the nerdiest of the bunch here, so bear with me. I would highly suggest researching this thoroughly if you are wanting the full info-dump, but for now, I'll be covering the processes that we carry.
Sugarcane Decaf is a solvent-based decaffeination process where Ethyl Acetate, a natural chemical derived from molasses (hence sugarcane) and acetic acid, is used to wash the caffeine from coffee beans.
Why would I choose to carry this over a Swiss water processed decaf? I believe EA decaffeinated beans retain more flavor, as they spend less time overall being washed than SWP beans.