Coffee Processing: Dry versus Wet
There are countless variables that contribute to the complex flavors of your favorite coffee before it even reaches your cup. Many people know that the country of origin, coffee tree varietal, and roast color have an immediate impact, but fewer people know about the on-the-farm processing methods that also play a huge role in the flavor profile of the finished product.
The ripe cherries are picked and immediately put on the drying patio in the sun to dry. The skin and pulp remain attached. The skin shrinks, locking the fruit sugars in. The cherry raisins up and drys hard around the seeds. The mass, when hard and dry, is milled (like white rice) to remove the hardened pulp and skin.
The taste produced is sort of like blueberries or strawberries as the fruity flavors penetrate the porous seeds within. A mix of sweet and sour fruit. The acidity is softer and mellower.
When the cherries are ripe they are picked, the skins and pulp removed mechanically, and the seeds are wet and slippery, gooey with a honey-like outer taste. They are allowed to sit, slightly fermenting in the heat of a day/night rest in contact with each other. They are then soaked for 12-36 hours in a water bath, washed, and removed to drying patios where they will dry down to about 11-12% moisture over a 2-4 day period.
The wet process produces a citric-like acidity or brightness with a slightly lemony flavor. In the extremes like coffees from Guatemala and Ethiopia and Kenya, the brightness is palatable. However, wet process coffees produce a softer plum-like acidity as well. Wet process coffees are more forward on the palate than their brothers and sisters of the Dry Process.
We produce two blends that combine these processes into one flavor profile: Mocha Java Blend and Paul’s Blend. However, these Ethiopian coffees presented to you today are the most clarifying examples of two on-the-farm processes. These distinctive flavor profiles are not caused by varietal differences, country of origin or agricultural practices.
In this offering, we give you the opportunity to actually taste the words on this page. Try them straight at first and then see how they taste as a 50/50 blend or any combination. I prefer my coffee a bit on the fruity/ jammy side so I use a 70/30 blend with the Dry Process in the majority. But the reverse will do quite well for those who prefer a bright and lively acidity on the citric side but want a bit more body and fruit. Enjoy!
We would like to acknowledge Hasbean Coffee in the UK for their excellent videos about coffee processing.