Coffee lovers around the world are familiar with the two main methods of processing coffee beans: washed and natural. While both processes produce high quality coffee, washed coffee is more popular than natural processed coffee in many countries. The reasons for this are complex and multifaceted, ranging from flavor profile to market demand.
To understand why washed coffee is more popular than natural processed coffee, it's important to first understand the differences between the two processes. Washed coffee, also known as wet-processed coffee, is a method in which coffee cherries are first mechanically pulped to remove the fruit, then the beans are soaked in water to ferment , remove any remaining fruit pulp and wash off the slime layer. called mucilage. Once this operation is completed, the coffee beans are sun-dried or machine-dried to remove the moisture. The result is clean, bright and nuanced coffee with pronounced acidity, often showcasing floral, citrus or fruity notes.
On the other hand, natural processed coffee, also known as dry processed coffee, is where the coffee cherries are left to dry naturally in the sun, without removing the fruit, until the cherries are completely dry. The dried fruits are then removed to reveal the coffee beans. The resulting coffee is often sweeter and has a heavier body, with flavor notes of dried fruit, chocolate or hazelnut.
So why is washed coffee more popular? One reason is that washed coffee has a cleaner, brighter flavor profile that appeals to the contemporary palate. The acidity of washed coffee is often more pronounced and the flavors are more nuanced and complex. This makes it more appealing to specialty coffee shops and third-wave roasters, who value unique flavor profiles and distinctive characteristics.
Another reason why washed coffee is more popular is that it is easier to maintain consistent quality. The process of fermenting and washing washed coffee can help remove unwanted flavors or inconsistencies, leading to a more consistent end product. This is especially important for commercial coffee roasters who need to ensure the same quality and taste over large quantities.
Additionally, washed coffee is generally considered to be of higher quality and commands a higher price in the specialty coffee market. Coffee growers are often incentivized to produce washed coffee because it can fetch a higher price than natural processed coffee. In many coffee growing regions, washed coffee is the traditional processing method and farmers have been producing it for generations. As a result, there may be a cultural bias towards washed coffee in some countries.
In contrast, natural processed coffee can be more difficult to produce consistently due to weather, pests, and other factors. The natural drying process can also take longer, increasing the risk of spoilage or mold, which can impact the flavor and quality of the coffee.
In conclusion, while natural processed coffee certainly has a place in the specialty coffee market, washed coffee is more popular for its cleaner flavor profile, consistency and higher perceived quality. This preference is driven by a combination of consumer demand, cultural traditions and market incentives. Ultimately, both processing methods have their own unique characteristics and can produce exceptional coffee when done correctly. It's up to coffee lovers to explore and appreciate the nuances of each process and decide which one they prefer.