For years, I drank my coffee as dark as possible. I was not a fan of lighter roasts, as many tasted bitter to me. So I escaped into coffee that had the most flavor roasted right out of it.
It wasn’t until my days as a barista that I started to truly understand that how coffee was processed was integral to its flavor. As I ventured into the world of coffee tastings, I learned how to begin identifying flavor profiles and distinguish between processing methods.
Keep reading for an overview of two distinct processing methods – washed and honey – and see if one sounds like your cup of tea (or rather, coffee!).
What Are Washed Coffee And Honey Processed Coffee?
Coffee begins as what is known as the coffee cherry. The coffee beans we are familiar with are the seeds found in the center of the coffee cherry. All coffee must go through multiple processing stages to go from the raw coffee cherry to the final bean.
The most important step is the removal of the skin and pulp. Known as pulping, this is accomplished using a variety of methods.
Two of these are known as wet or washed processing and honey processing. Though both share some similarities at certain stages, the main steps of coffee processing differ. As a result, the final flavors of each style of bean vary greatly.
What Do They Have in Common?
Both washed, and honey processing begins by removing the external skin and pulp through a mechanized process.
Additionally, both need to go through a drying process to become shelf-stable. Finally, both also go through a milling process before packaging, ensuring any residual parchment gets removed.
Washed Coffee vs. Honey Processed Coffee: Differences
When talking about washed coffee vs. honey-processed coffee, it’s important to understand how the two differ.
While both processes begin with the mechanized removal of pulp, the amount of pulp removed differs. With washed coffee, both skin and pulp are removed during the pulping. The pulping is complete before fermentation.
With honey-processed coffees, producers calibrate the machines to leave a certain amount of pulp on the beans. The fermentation of these beans then occurs during the drying stage. The drying stage for both processing methods differs as well.
For washed coffees, all layers of the coffee cherry get completely removed before being dried. So washed coffee beans take significantly less time to dry, roughly 12-48 hours. The beans can be dried on either traditional drying screens or via a mechanized tumbler.
In contrast, honey-processed coffee is dried with some of the pulp and mucilage still attached. For this reason, the beans are laid onto special drying tables and regularly turned to prevent spoilage. During the drying stage, the mucilage and leftover pulp naturally begins to dry and fall off.
Why Is Washed Coffee Better?
Washed coffee is the preferred coffee bean of specialty roasters. The finished beans are more consistent in flavor, making them the ideal purchase for many companies.
This method also takes a higher level of skill, which therefore results in a premium product.
Why Is Honey Processed Coffee Better?
Honey-processed coffee is genuinely the best of both worlds. Coffees processed in this style combine the benefits found in washed and naturally processed coffee.
This method also utilizes less water than what gets used during washed processing, making it an excellent product for anyone concerned with water conservation.
Who Should Drink Washed Coffee?
Anyone who enjoys a clean, bright, and consistent cup of coffee should seek out washed coffee. Washed coffees have the most consistent flavor of any of the processing methods. Due to the complete removal of the mucilage before drying, the flavor of the bean pops.
Who Should Drink Honey Processed Coffee?
Honey processed coffee is the perfect choice for anyone who appreciates depth and complexity in their favorite cup of joe. The unique processing method gave honey processed coffee the deep, fruity flavor of unwashed coffee and washed coffee’s clean, smooth finish.
Also, coffees produced using this method are a wise choice for those who want to support ecologically conscious farms or co-ops.