Natural processing – Apart from washed and honey processing, other coffee processing method that is also familiar in the ears of coffee professionals is the natural process. It is also being known as the dry process or sundried process. Well, the three of them is the same coffee processing, let’s just agree with the term of natural processing here onwards.
Quoted from highergroundstrading.com the majority of the world’s specialty coffee is processed in approximately the same way: handpick the ripe cherries, pulp (remove the fruit from the seed/bean), fermentation, wash in vast amounts of water, dry, mill/sort, export. But maybe, you will see another label on your coffee packaging like “natural process”.
Coffee is traditionally processed in three ways: washed, natural, and honey. There are alternatives, but these are both rare and typically localized, such as wet hulling in Indonesia. As we mentioned earlier, washed coffee processing is a popular one, a stable, balanced and of course best seller. And with honey processing, we will find an unique flavor notes and characteristic in our cup. Then what is so special about the natural process?
As we know that post-harvest process is really important and had an impact to the cup flavor, we need to know what type of coffee that we will get from natural processing. What is natural processing? How it works and what kind of flavor they’re gonna have? Well, prepare to know only the facts of them! Let’s dig in!
What is Coffee Natural Processing?
The natural process or often referred to as the dry process can simply be said to be a back-to-basics approach in the post-harvest coffee process. This variation moves the drying step to much earlier in the process—just after picking—and eliminates the washing/soaking completely, so that the coffee bean is in contact with its fruity cherry much longer than traditionally-processed coffee. This is the oldest method of separating coffee beans and does not involve machines and water.
Coffee cherries that have gone through the sorting process according to their quality will go through the drying process under direct sunlight. Some coffee producers sometimes dry them on a plastic mat or a special drying table with an airflow at the bottom. This process will make the coffee fruit naturally ferment and peel off by itself.
The coffee cherries that have been spread and dried are not peeled, but are dried with the skin and flesh of the fruit. During this process the coffee cherries have to go back and forth periodically to get an even drying result so as to avoid spoilage. Once they reach the ideal moisture level (no higher than 12%), their entire hulls are removed mechanically to reveal the green coffee seed.
Although it needs less investment, it still requires certain climatic conditions to ensure the drying of the fruit and seed in time. Over time, the natural process has become considered a lower-quality method that can lead to inconsistent flavors. This inconsistency is often the result of unripe fruit drying and turning brown alongside ripe fruits.
There is a lot of labor in the method because they will turn the beans regularly to avoid molding or spoiling. This process can take weeks, depending on weather, and is something to behold. Quoted from perfectdailygrind.com mentioned that there are many who believe this process actually has the potential to create the most flavorful coffees – and that a comeback is just around the corner. If consistency is achieved, then many argue that natural coffees can match washed coffees for clarity, and also provide some more interesting notes and characteristics as well.
Quoted from baristainstitute.com said that the natural process is common in regions where there is no access to water such as Ethiopia and some regions in Brazil. The process is commonly traditional in the regions where it is used and no big development is seen in the natural processing during past years.
How We Think About Natural Processing
Dr Manuel Diaz a coffee researcher and a PhD from the London School of Economics through perfectdailygrind.com said that many of us were biased against natural processed coffee. As long as we don’t have any special cupping formats or protocols for naturals, I would say that there definitely is a bias against non-washed coffees. That’s explain why many coffee consumers think that natural processed coffee will produce ‘inferior’ coffee.
In natural processing, we need a different approach when assessing naturals. The natural process is less controllable, so you have more uneven cups. If you apply the same standards as for washed coffee, you will end up with a bias against naturals and honey.
As we cleary know that quality and flavor is the ‘main’ concern here. Then let’s talk more about the flavor.
Facts About The Flavor of Natural Processed Coffee
Quoted from coffeecartel.com said that the main issue that arises with the use of this method is that the flavors of all the coffee beans can often be uneven, which means that stringent tasting and testing must be undertaken in order to ensure that the coffee is evenly flavored. Often beans that all come from the same batch must be separated from one another so that only higher quality beans remain in higher quality batches.
Natural processed coffee will have interesting and unusual flavor profiles with a heavier mouthfeel and more body, while also displaying less acidity. They are also friendlier for the environment, as there are less wastes produced once the final product is created.
On the other side, particularly, barista’s point of view, quoted by baristainstitute.com, it is mentioned that natural processed coffees definitely divide baristas’ opinions in terms of flavor; some love them, others hate them. The natural process definitely adds flavors to the coffee such as fruitiness and sweetness regardless of variety and region.
Common flavor notes for natural processed coffee are blueberry, strawberry, tropical fruits and honey but on the flip side, there can be also wild, fermented flavors and alcohol-like notes. Natural coffees are often described to have red wine like flavors when compared to washed coffees.
The natural processed coffees can be really useful for roasteries and baristas to showcase what coffee can taste like and open consumers minds but on the other hand they can also be really off-putting for people who don’t like fermented and wild flavors in the cup.
Fun facts! Quoted from coffeecartel.com dry processing (or “natural processing”) can also be performed a different way, via what is called the “pasa” technique. Coffee cherries are instead left on the tree’s branches in order to ripen further and dry there, rather than requiring the use of raised beds to dry the cherries. This yields a slightly different flavour however is still notably a dry-processed coffee.
Natural Processed Coffee Is Sell for Less?
Natural processed coffee is sell for less. Maybe some of you will be shocked knowing this fact because there’s a lot of specialty coffee with comparable price out there with “natural process” label on it. Why did it happen? From some coffee producing countries such as Latin America, natural coffee is usually ‘rejected cherries’ which are also described as ‘ripios’ or ‘passillas’.
In Guerrero, Mexico produces mostly naturals, since the area is very dry. However, the beans have an exquisite flavor – not unlike Yemeni coffee. In contrast, Chiapas, Mexico produces mostly washed coffee: nearly all their naturals are merely the rejected cherries from the washed process.
The problem is, market is not really able to differentiate between high-quality naturals and floaters or rejects from the washing process. This is explain why high-quality natural is undervalued just because it’s a natural. Yet even while natural coffee sells for less on average, they – along with honeys – are becoming more popular.
Quoted from sagebrushcoffee.com said that due to high market demand, many regions that do not traditionally produce natural coffees have adopted and implemented the techniques. Once roasted, these coffees tend to be brighter, and they are always more fruit-forward. Coffee buyers and consumers are easily able to distinguish the fruity notes of dry-processed beans, making them highly desirable in recent years.
CV. Buah Berdikari is an active coffee trading and exporting company that is based in North Sumatera, Indonesia. Our domain of expertise lays on sourcing Arabica green beans from North Sumatera and Aceh origins. We will help you finding the perfect fits for your coffee needs.