The Honey Process: What It Is and How it Affects the Coffee Taste

When choosing your next bag from your favourite coffee store take a moment to check what's the processing method of that coffee. You'll find that most specialty coffee has been processed either via washed method or natural dry method - but there are other ways of processing your coffee that can affect how your coffee tastes such as anaerobic fermentation and honey process.

What is honey process coffee?

Honey coffee is a term used to describe coffee that has been processed in the honey method which allows for coffee beans to be dried with their mucilage intact. This processing method aims to retain more sweetness and body making it less acidic than other coffee methods.

The coffee honey process was developed in Costa Rica, where coffee farms were looking for a way to produce more coffee beans but had less water available due to an earthquake. Coffee farmers found that the lack of water helped them produce sweeter tasting coffees with lower acidity levels as well as higher body (coffee oils). The inclusion of fermentation and drying with mucilage intact also contributed to its sweetness and fruit forward body.

The result? A coffee tasting note you'll find described as "honey" - sweet, balanced, fruity even chocolatey at times!

So what are these various ways of processing coffee? Let's give you an overview so you know your options next time you are purchasing specialty coffees from your favourite Toronto coffee roasters:

Natural Process Coffee (also known as Natural Dry Mucilage)

Natural coffee is coffee that has been dried as a whole cherry with the mucilage (sugary substance attached to coffee bean) still intact after picking. Once this coffee dries, the outer skin of the coffee beans will be mechanically removed to separate the green bean that is then roasted.

The natural process results in different, more complex flavour profiles than those achieved through washed processing method because they are dried and fermented with the coffee cherry as a whole. The flesh of the coffee fruit imparts the flavours into the coffee. Wet processed coffee, on the other hand, will have a cleaner taste as the fruit itself is stripped away and not fermented with the seed.

Wet Processed Coffee (also known as Washed Process).

Washed coffee is coffee that has had the flesh removed and then dried like natural process. However, after removing the outer layer of fruit from coffee cherries they are submerged in water for up to 12 hours which allows for mucilage to be easily knocked off. The coffee beans must then be fermented overnight before being washed again and finally laid out on a patio or raised bed covered with nets where it can dry under direct sunlight.

This processing method results in coffee that is sweet with bright acidity and a cleaner cup. Some people describe this type of coffee as having a certain complexity that highlights the origin and climate of the country or region in which it was produced.

Honey process coffee

Honey coffee is similar to the washed coffee processing method but has no additional water usage during fermentation. It gets its name from how sticky and sweet coffee cherries are after they've been harvested, processed - presenting a different kind of honey-like texture that results in sweeter tasting coffee notes with lower acidity levels.

Specific amounts of mucilage are left around the coffee seeds and this careful control of reduced flesh and mucilage compared to natural process prevents over-fermentation. The remaining mucilage provides sugar that enhances the overall sweetness and body of the coffee, resulting in a balance between natural and washed coffees with the fruit-forward sweetness of naturals and the brightness and cleanliness of washed.

How do I know what process my favourite coffee was made from?

Don't worry about trying to remember all of these different methods next time your purchasing coffee beans. Specialty coffee roasters will typically let you know on their website or in store which coffee processing method they use for each of the coffee types available - this is usually indicated by either a washed coffee type or dry natural coffee type with an indication as to whether it was honey process, natural etc. If not all that clear what those different coffee names mean? It's okay! Talk to your local Toronto roaster and ask them about their various coffee bean processing methods - they'll be more than happy to explain everything so you can find your next favourite bag of coffee!

The honey coffee processing method is a little more time consuming and costly to produce - but you'll find that it gives coffee drinkers a fantastic coffee drinking experience! Keep your eyes peeled for this interesting coffee type.

Buy honey process coffee

 


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