So what is washed coffee?


Let's talk about coffee, specifically, processing coffee.

Processing coffee is removing the outer layers of the coffee cherry fruit so we can get to the coffee bean that we ultimately make into a delicious beverage. There are 3 common ways to remove the fruit to get to the bean, these are coffee processes: honey, natural and washed.

Here, we'll talk about the washed process, probably the most popular process for everyday coffee drinkers.

Washed coffees are easy drinking, often described as clean in flavour because you’re tasting the actual coffee as opposed to an added effect of the processing method, compared to other processing methods (natural and honey) that are fermented in ways that add fruity flavours and distinct flavour profiles.

In the washed process, like the other processes, the ripe coffee cherries are selected. Pickers need to have great skills for this as there is a very fine line in the selection process.
The cherries are then passed through water tanks. The best ripe cherries stay at the bottom and damaged/unripe fruit float to the top so they can be easily separated. Once we have the best fruit, it’s then time to depulp the coffee cherry. Imagine you have a peach and remove all the fruit and all that’s left is the stone, except in this process, the stone is the coffee bean!

After the beans have been depulped, there is still a sticky coating called mucilage on the beans. With this sticky coating they are taken into tanks to ferment, without water, for 18-24 hours.
Once fermentation is complete, the tanks are filled with water and the washing begins again. If some beans float, they are removed since this means they're in bad condition.

Now the beans are clean, the drying process begins, on patios or in green houses, where they are spread with rakes and stirred several times a day to ensure even drying. The beans need to reach an optimal moisture content of around 10-12%, which can take 1-3 weeks depending on the country and the climate.

When the beans are dry, there is a thin skin (parchment) that needs to be removed and then the coffee beans are ready to be packed and sent to the destination country.

This process is called 'washed' because the fruit is washed with water multiple times. Of all the coffee processing processes, this one uses the most water, but there are some farmers that are consciously working to reuse and save water to decrease the environmental impact.

Next time you’re drinking coffee, take note of the process and work out your preference, is it washed, honey or natural?


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