Have you ever found yourself standing in front of a shelf full of specialty coffee, eager to take home a bag of beans but unsure how to choose between all of the options?
Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Between roasting types, origins and processing methods, deciphering the world of specialty coffee can sometimes feel as complex as learning a new language. And while we won’t bore you with the technicalities, we’re here to give you a basic understanding of specialty coffee types so that you’ll be picking out your favorite bag of beans like a pro in no time.
Today’s focus: washed processed coffee. Let’s get to it 👉🏼
Why learn about washed processed coffee?
Coffee processing refers to the way in which coffee is cleaned and dried in order to get it ready for export. There are 3 main methods which are commonly used to process coffee: natural, honey, and washed.
The way in which coffee is processed can have a great impact on the resulting taste of the coffee. That’s why having a basic understanding of coffee processing methods can help you distinguish flavor profiles, identify tastes that you like or don’t like, and ultimately decide which coffee you’d like to take home or have a coffee subscription for.
Washed processing explained in 4 steps
‘Washed coffee’ or ‘wet processed coffee’ refers to beans which have all of their outer fruit layers removed before they are laid out to dry. It is one of the most common ways of processing coffee, and many of our partners, including Santos Isabel and Leonel Valladres, use variations of washed processing as their main method for cleaning and drying coffee.
While the process can vary depending on weather conditions, available resources and the desired flavor of the end result, here’s the four main steps involved in washed processing:
First, coffee cherries are depulped, a process in which as much fruit flesh as possible is mechanically removed from the coffee seeds (beans) inside.
Next, the coffee seeds are fermented in a water tank. During fermentation, the innermost fruit flesh that is stuck to the coffee seeds (called the mucilage) is broken down by enzymes in the water.
The loosened mucilage is then washed off of the coffee seeds. Water is effectively used to strip the coffee seeds of all of their outer layers (even the sticky mucilage).
Finally, the cleaned coffee seeds, or beans, are laid out and dried. Coffee seeds can be dried mechanically, through being exposed to the sun, or a combination of the two.
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What does washed coffee taste like?
And now, on to the most important part: what does washed processed coffee taste like? Washed coffees are generally described as:
- High acidity
- Clean flavor profiles
- Light body
The reason that washed coffees are described as having clean flavor profiles is that both the fruit flesh and the sweet mucilage layers are removed prior to drying. When some or all of the fruit flesh is kept intact while drying (like with natural or honey processed coffees), the coffee will take on some of the flavors of the surrounding fruit, resulting in an extra fruity or sweet coffee. The flavors that you taste when drinking a cup of washed coffee therefore emphasize the true, clean taste of the coffee itself.
Washed processing is also known for producing a more consistent taste than natural or honey processing, since machines are commonly used for depulping, fermenting, and washing the beans. The use of machinery allows farmers to exercise more control over the final taste of the beans.
Which specialty coffee should you choose?
Now that you’ve learned a bit more about washed processed coffee, it’s time to put your tastebuds to work. Do you love the clean flavor profile of washed coffees? Or do you prefer a fruit-forward natural or a honey that is as sweet as its namesake? There’s only one way to find out: taste them! Browse our selection of specialty coffee here.
Feeling inspired to try something new? Our coffee subscription is a great way to continue expanding your knowledge of specialty coffee. Each month, you’ll receive a coffee of your choice, as well as the ‘coffee of the month’ which we select exclusively for our members. The coffee of the month a chance for us to showcase our favorite processing methods and flavor variations, and you’ll get to taste bold and unique specialty coffees which we don’t usually sell in our webshop.