Coffee Processing? What is it?

Coffee processing: it’s how we remove the fruit and end up with the seed (green coffee).

Let us back up just a bit – Coffee is a fruit that is found on a shrub or small tree that can grow anywhere from 4 – 15 feet tall, depending on the variety. Coffee plants also grow in altitude – the higher the altitude, usually, the better quality the coffee.

This is because with higher elevation, comes cooler temperatures, cooler temperatures lead to slow maturing fruit.

So how does the fruit end up in your cup?

Once a fruit is ripe, it is picked and brought down the mountain to the mill. There are a few processes that it can go through before it comes to coffee roasters like Unravel. 


Natural Processed (Dry Process)

The Natural Process, also known as the Dry Process, involves the entire fruit drying with the seed still inside. To get here, producers gather all the cherries and place them on drying beds to dry in the sun. These beds can consist of patios or drying tables. Drying times take anywhere from two to six weeks. The cherries will go through a natural fermentation and producers take care to rake/turn the fruit in order to prevent spoiling. 

During this time, sugars and mucilage (a sticky, honey-like, substance that coats the seed) will bind to the seed and develop flavors that enhance their sweetness. Once the fruit is fully dried, the fruit is put through a machine which separates the pulp and skin from the seeds.

Natural processed coffees are usually jammy, juicy and some of the sweetest coffees you’ll ever taste. They’ll also smell like a fruit bomb! You’ll usually smell some sort of berries.

Flavor profile: Jammy, juicy, fruit-forward, funky, wild

Current Unravel Coffee offerings: Nechwey, Dexterity

Washed Processed (Wet Process)

The Washed Process, also known as the Wet Process, is when the fruit is picked and sent to the mill. Before the fruit goes any further, it goes through a sorting process where the ripest fruit is selected. Something that you’ll see in most origins now is what is called “floating” – the fruit is tossed into a tub of water and all the “bad” fruit floats and is removed. Once received at the mill, it is put through a machine called a depulper, where all the seed is removed from the cherry. 

When the fruit is removed, the seeds are placed into tanks/tubs of water where the mucilage is removed from the seeds. This removes any additional fruit that is caked onto the seeds. After the fruit is completely removed the seeds are then sent to dry in the sun – again, either on patios on drying beds.

Washed Processed coffees are like a blank canvas. They’re usually super clean and crisp, compared to Natural Processed coffees. Something that’ll stick out is the variety. Different varieties have very different flavor profiles – think apples or grapes. Washed coffees are still fruity, but it’s a cleaner, brighter fruit.

Flavor profile: Clean, bright, balanced, stone fruit, chocolate (some times), citrus

Current offerings: Ashew, Koki, Illumination

Honey Processed (Semi-Dry Process)

We’ll briefly touch on this method, because we want get to another process that you see in our Unravel cafes. Honey Process, or Semi-Dry, is a process that involves both the Dry and the Wet Process. There are varying grades of honey:

White: Most of the mucilage is removed before drying, about 80+%. These coffees are more related to Wet Processed coffees.
Yellow: 50-75% of mucilage is removed
Red: Less than 50% of mucilage is removed
Black: Very little mucilage is removed. These coffees are closely related to dry processed coffees.
The Honey Process helps showcase how combining the best components of both processes brings out very different complexities.
Flavor profile: depends on the grade of honey.

Carbonic Maceration

This is a fairly new process that has been introduced to the coffee industry in the last decade or so. It is an experimental process that has gained tons of momentum across the world of coffee, in addition to many other processes. Carbonic Maceration is a fermentation process that is used in the Wine Industry, where tanks are injected with carbon dioxide (CO2), where fermentation happens inside out.

In the coffee world, harvested coffee is placed in airtight containers (usually stainless steel or plastic barrels) before being injected with CO2 and creating a CO2-rich environment, which brings the temperature down to about 10 degrees celsius. This allows the cherries to break down (or macerate) slowly often producing bright and winey coffees with deep fruit flavors.

Flavor profile: winey, complex

Current offering: Gedeb Bilaki

With that, we leave you with all the base knowledge of how to translate coffees and help you choose the right flavor profile you’re looking for. At Unravel, we don’t typically follow the common “light to dark” roasting methodology. We all roast based on what the coffee has to offer and how we can best bring out all the complexities that our coffees have to offer. Check them all out here.

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