Honey Processing For Coffee

What is Coffee Processing Exactly?

In coffee, there are a few buzz words around coffee processing methods that you may have seen before. You've probably seen descriptions of coffee being washed, natural or honey processed on your bags at home. These are the most common ways to process coffee cherries. But what does that mean? Well, to begin, let's define coffee processing in its simplest terms. This is when producers remove the cherry surrounding the coffee bean, including the skin, pulp, and mucilage. Regardless of method, coffee processing is a vital step in producing the nuances of flavor and texture in coffee.

What Makes Honey Processing So Distinct?

Before we can answer that question, let's consider the washed and dry processes first. The washed process involves de-pulping to remove the skin pulp of the cherries around the bean. Next, the coffee beans are fermented naturally for about a day or so. This fermentation breaks down the mucilage, a sugary substance around the coffee bean, and begins to crystalize its flavor. Once the coffee fermentation is complete, the coffee is washed with water.

The natural process is part of the drying process. This is when ripe cherries are immediately placed on raised beds or patios to fully dry over the course of a few weeks. Once the cherry is dried, the fruit is removed from the bean using a de-pulping machine. Because the fruit is tethered to the coffee bean during this process, the coffee derived from this method tends to be extremely fruity and sweet in flavor.
So how does all of that affect honey processing? Well, in short, it's somewhat of a mixture between the washed and dry processing methods. The honey processed cherries are de-pulped as they're harvested, with a portion of the fruit and pulp remaining however on the bean, and laid out on beds to slowly dry. As you can probably guess, there are several variations on how this can be done, so there are a few classifications that make up honey processing - Yellow, Red, Black or White. A coffee's classification is primarily determined on the amount of pulp (mucilage) on the coffee as it dries. The fruit and pulp render a sticky residue (hence the term "honey"), which gives the coffee its fruit-forward notes. As a result of honey processing, you tend to get a more balanced cup of coffee. It's heavy with fruit and floral notes, but it maintains the characteristics of traditional coffee in terms of acidity and body. You will no doubt experience its great complexities and why honey processed coffee is so unique.