Strangely enough, world coffee production belongs in a 70% approximately to mainly family farms of less than 10 hectares. The cultivation and harvest aren't, therefore, very mechanized and demand many people’s work.
This is why the whole process that the coffee has to follow until it arrives to our cup is very important.
From the plantation of the coffee tree, there is a three to four- year window until it gives its first fruits. The quality of the variety, the micro climate of each farm, the characteristics of the land, the height, the shade of the coffee trees, the type of harvest and finally the process used to treat the coffee beans, will determine this cup. Any mistake along the way can affect negatively the bean and be reflected in the final quality.
When we refer to the processing of coffee or “coffee milling process” it means separating the two beans inside the cherry from its outer layers (mucilage and the outer skin) that are pasted in a very thin parchment that covers them and which is removed just before being packed in sacks once the beans are dry.
It is called dry method because it doesn’t require the use of water; it is the oldest and simplest method. Once the coffee cherries have been harvested, they are spread out in cement terraces for some weeks while they slowly dry and harden off with moisture loss. The cherries must be mixed continuously in order to ensure even drying.
Afterwards, the bean is freed from the outer layers manually or mechanically, phase called hulling.
Despite being a simple method, the coffee can present flaws if the drying has not been correctly done. The coffees treated this ways often give cups of coffee with good body, chocolate or fruit notes, but also earthy and without the finesse of coffees being treated with the wet method.
These coffees are called “natural”
It requires much more equipment. It is based on the fermentation of the mucilage by the combination of water and temperature. The water is used to transport the bean and the cherries with less density; when they float they are removed, being this the first selection for quality. Then, they pass through an area where the outer skin is removed.
Once the outer skin has been removed, the beans are placed in tanks for the fermentation of the enzymes that recover them. This phase takes between 12 and 36 hours and it can be done in the open or submerged in water. The coffee is then washed and spread in patios or mechanical dryers where they must be turned regularly until they reach 12% moisture to prevent unwanted fermentation during transportation.
These coffees offer cups with less body but cleaner and more uniform, more floral and fruity.
These coffees are called “washed”.
It is a combination of the previous methods. Here, the pulp of the cherry is removed as in the wet method, but instead of removing the mucilage through fermentation or mechanically, the mucilage remains in the bean and the coffee is dried in patios or mechanical dryers until reaching an ideal moisture degree.
The coffee is classified according to the percentage of remaining mucilage. The cup of coffee brings characteristics from both methods.
These coffees are called “semi-washed”, “honey” in Central America or “pulped natural” in Brazil.