Once a coffee tree is ready for harvest and the cherries are picked, you may have wondered what happens between then and your coffee cup. Coffee can actually go through one of three different processing methods before it’s roasted, ground, and brewed for your enjoyment. The method’s used will vary from country to country and region to region. Here’s an easy description of these methods.
In this process, the ripe cherries are immersed in water, where the bad or unripe cherries will float, and the ripe and usable cherries will sink to the bottom. The good cherries are then put through a pulping machine to have the skin and some of the pulp removed. Afterwards, the cherry will still have an amount of pulp stuck to it, which is then either removed by a ferment and wash method or aquapulping or mechanical demucilaging. The cherries are then put through a sun-drying stage, or machine drying stage, before they go through the last process of ‘hulling’, where the outside parchment is removed.
During the dry process, which can also be referred to as ‘natural’ or ‘unwashed’ coffee, the entire cherry is cleaned after harvest and then placed directly in the sun to dry. This is actually the oldest method of coffee processing. As the cherries lay in the sun to dry, they are raked often in order to ensure even drying. Once the drying process is complete, they then go through the hulling process to have the outer skin removed. This is still the most popular method of processing to this day.
The semi-dry process is a relatively newer process that is now being used in parts of Indonesia and Brazil. The skin is first removed from the cherries mechanically, then the beans along with their left over mucilage are stored for a day until the mucilage is easier to wash off. The coffee is then partially dried in the sun, not fully.