How is Coffee Processed and Roasted?

This guest post is written by Andrew Russo, owner of Craft Coffee Institute. Craft Coffee Institute conducts a unique and innovative program that gives students the opportunity for peer learning, hands-on experimentation, and live lectures from the comfort of their own homes. They are committed to helping all levels of coffee professionals and enthusiasts expand their knowledge of the coffee as a plant, a roast, and a beverage.

coffee plant 1

Processing Methods

After being grown and picked, coffee must be processed to remove the outer layers of the coffee seed. Processing methods are distinguishable regardless the region where coffee is grown. The two dominant processing methods are the washed and the natural methods. Washed Processing is a method that is used in areas where there is access to abundant water. After the coffee cherry is picked, a mechanized process removes its outer skin. This exposes a sweet, sticky layer known as the pulp. At this stage the pulp is either removed by a depulper or dropped into a fermentation tank where natural enzymes, some bacteria, and other microbes remove it.

The coffee is washed with water (or, less frequently, in its own juices), and the remaining mucilage is removed, revealing the parchment. At this point the coffee is ready for drying, and both mechanical and sun drying techniques are used. Once dried to an appropriate level, the coffee is hulled to remove the parchment, exposing the bluish-green seed and silver skin.

Coffee that has been washed correctly will tend to be bright, with subtle fruit notes, and uniform in taste and color. It will possess less depth of body than the same coffee processed using a natural method, but has a better chance of being consistent bean to bean and thus cup to cup.

The Natural Process is so named because it is the original  ‘natural’ way of producing coffee, dating back to the first commercially produced beans from Yemen for the Ottoman Empire. Instead of being picked, pulped, and washed, these cherries are picked from the plant and then placed onto a drying bed. When the cherry dries it is easily stripped off and only the bean remains. These coffees are not as consistent as coffees processed using the Washed Process, and can suffer quality problems if not sorted properly. However, they possess a subtle tartness that we detect as fruit or berry while they temper acidity.  They also result in earthiness and body in a coffee that can be perceived in depth and complexity. Natural coffees that have not been processed properly possess a fermented, almost sour wine-like taste.

coffee roasting

Roasting Coffee

Coffee, being a seed and an agricultural product, needs to be roasted to prepare it for consumption. This process uses heat and time to turn the green and raw seed into a brown or black coffee bean. Generally, a roast lasts from between 10 to 15 minutes and undergoes a wide range of chemical reactions to impart flavors and aromas on the finished product. Lighter roasted coffees will possess more ‘terroir’ notes such as floral tea, fruit, and berry. Darker roasts will be smoky, bittersweet chocolate. As the roast progresses form light to dark, the characteristics of the coffee will change. To use sweetness as an example, a light roast will begin with sugarcane, progress to raw sugar, caramel, and onward towards maple syrup.

As you have seen with Bean Box, roasters all put their unique spin on coffee. This is the art of coffee roasting. The science is the roaster attempting to repeat their recipe, fight variables, and maintain a consistently delicious product for you to receive and brew at home.

When you receive your coffee, it has been transformed from a raw seed into something that fuels our lives, creates a social atmosphere, and brings enjoyment to millions of people every day. Our Joy of Coffee class dives into this and explores coffee’s history, production, and tastes to you and your home. New experiences that allow you to taste, evaluate, and thoroughly enjoy the masterfully crafted coffees that arrive at your door. Make the most of every bean that reaches your hands and learn to brew and master the art and science of coffee.