Honey vs. Washed – Why processing makes all the difference

We know that beans are grown. We know that they’re picked. We know they get roasted. But the steps between ripe and roasted are often overlooked – despite having a huge influence on the final quality and personality of the coffee.

 

There are a variety of approaches, often guided by the climate or tradition of the region, or the nuances of the bean. Each yields a different set of characteristics, hitting different balances between sweetness and brightness, fruitiness and fermentation. The processing stage is also delicate – and vulnerable to changes in weather. If drying beans are not covered during an unexpected rainy day, the final result will taste musty and damp, even after they’ve been roasted.

 

Coffee is a type of fruit with two seeds (beans) at it’s center. Surrounding the beans is a papery layer called “parchment” – which is in turn surrounded by a sticky layer called “mucilage,” around which is the flesh, and then the skin of the fruit. The vast majority of the “processing” stage of coffee deals with how and when the outer layers are removed.

Overall, there are four main processing techniques:

 

process_methods_chart_1

 

  • Natural  – The beans are sorted, then spread in the sun to dry. This process imparts a rich, fruity sweetness, and yields a smooth result.
  • Honey – Beans are stripped down to the sticky mucilage (this is where the name comes from) and dried for varying amounts of time. Some fermentation occurs, blending the sweetness of the fruit with a winey tang.
  • Pulp Natural – Everything but the parchment is removed, and the beans are spread on racks to dry. No fermentation occurs, and the result is a clean, smooth cup.
  • Washed – The skin and fruit layers are removed, and beans still coated in parchment and mucilage ferment for a few days in channels of water. While not as fruity, this process leads to a sparklingly bright and crisp cup.

 

This month, we’re featuring a unique duo of coffees. Straight from a single farm in Nicaragua, one small batch has been processed two ways – as both Honey and Washed! They’re siblings, but not twins – the Honey processed leans more toward a plummy, sweet, and winey warmth, while the Washed is crisper, brighter, and has notes of brown sugar and pear.

 

Jaime y Oscar

Jamie and Oscar with this year’s crop!

 

Decide which one appeals to you more – or even better, try both for an incredibly delicious compare-and-contrast!

Grab your bag here – and select which variety in the drop-down menu.

 

Happy sipping!