We’ve already covered the two most common processing methods, washed and natural. The last main one that we will cover is the pulped-natural AKA honey process. Honey’s certainly have the most appealing name, however the name isn't so much a descriptor of flavour as it is a description of how it looks.
If you have read the other two posts we did on coffee processing then honey processing will be super easy to understand. If you haven’t (you should) let me break it down quickly for you.
· Natural coffees are coffees that are dried intact, in the whole cherry.
· Washed coffees are pulped to remove the cherry and then soaked in water.
Pretty simple right? Okay… Obviously there is more to it than that like how long the naturals dry for or how long the washed coffees soak for and so many more intricacies.
So how are honey processed coffees different?
Honeyed or pulped-naturals all go through the same pulping process as washed coffees but they skip the water part and go straight to the drying. Then, much like some naturals, the seeds are laid out on raised beds to dry.
Doesn't sound too crazy right? The thing that makes Honey’s a little different is how much fruit is, or is not, left on the seeds after pulping.
If you think back to the post on washed coffees, I mentioned that Costa Rica doesn’t do washed coffees to prevent water wastage. The closest processing method used in Costa Rica is called white honey. The colour adjective is based on the colour of the seeds after they’ve dried with white being the lightest and black the darkest.
Washed < White < Yellow < Red < Black < Natural
The darker the colour, then in theory the more fruit left on the seed with black having only a little removed for black honeys. It is possible however that the altitude can affect the colour of the seeds, with higher altitude and therefore lower oxygen levels slowing down the colour change that occurs due to oxidation. Like when you leave fruit out and it starts to go black.
When it comes to flavour, the more fruit left on the seed, the flavour will be more like a natural processed coffee with the opposite also being true.
For quite a long time, most coffees in Brazil have been processed with the honey processed (more commonly called pulped-naturals). Brazil’s coffees are quite low in acidity and strong in cocoa and nut flavours so some sweetness from processing can create very delicious and balanced coffees.
Thanks for reading and as always… Go buy some coffee!