Have you ever been sitting in your local coffee shop enjoying a cup of coffee and see coffee processed by the "natural method"?
It can be quite confusing. Some coffee shops are proud of the processing methods used and are very open about them, while others are vaguer with the details.
Once you understand how the processing method works you will be able to find coffees that fit your preferences. There are three processing methods the washed, honey, and natural. This method is bold and exotic.
What are the steps of the natural processing method?
The natural process has differences and similarities depending on which coffee community you are in.
There is no right or wrong way to accomplish the end result. All of the processes start the same with the cherry from the coffee plant. Inside that cherry is two seeds or what we call coffee beans.
The cherries are harvested by hand or by machinery. Some farms even put together a co-op station to work together and save time and money. The natural method is usually manufactured in warehouses with raised plots or beds to dry the coffee beans and heavy machinery.
The sorting process
The cherries are hand sorted by workers according to the ripeness. They will separate the perfectly ripe coffee beans into one pile. The remaining coffee beans will be sorted into a variety of piles according to their ripeness levels. No one said the natural process was cheap.
The drying process
The drying process is long and excruciating. It takes a lot of work to continuously rake the coffee beans to prevent the mold, bacteria, and insects from taking over your beans. It could take anywhere from 2 to 4 weeks for the drying process to be completed depending on the weather.
This part of the process is extremely important. If you do not rake them enough they will ruin and be sour tasting, and if you allow them to dry too much they will crack during the next stage and be no good.
The hulling process
This process will remove the cherry from the coffee beans. The cherries are sent through hulling machines that will remove the dried fruit from the coffee beans. Once the cherries are removed the beans can be roasted.
Who uses the natural process?
Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee and the natural process. The Natural Method was the first processing method used to decaffeinate coffee.
They used the environment to assist them in creating decaf coffee beans. The regions with a small amount of rainfall benefit from this process. Places like the Middle East, Ethiopia, Africa, and Brazil all use this decaffeinating process to this day.
This process takes an incredibly long time to be completed. The long time can lead to serious issues like mold, bacteria, and insect infestations to occur and ruin your coffee beans.
You could come across over fermented coffee beans or sour-tasting coffee with the natural process. Most naturally processed coffees are not of high-quality. There are some that will explode your mind with the flavors.
What do natural coffees taste like?
Naturally processed coffees are wild and complex. They are rich and bold with fruity flavors from the long fermentation in the cherries. This process will put off aromas that will make you smile inside.
The cherry flavor will sort of muddle the other flavors making the flavor clarity become a little lower. It doesn't remove the other flavors at all, so the coffee is still rich and bold with complex flavors.
The naturally processed coffees are mild in acidity and have a heavier body. Ethiopian coffees are commonly naturally processed. You will find them fruity, rich, bold, exotic, and rich in flavors.
The next time you sit down with a cup of coffee, try to taste and describe the flavors of your coffee. You will eventually be able to taste how your coffee was processed.
The only real way to taste the differences in the processing methods is to drink the different coffees back to back. That is the only way to give your flavor descriptions and memories fresh. Check into the washed and honey methods to find out which one suits your preferences.
You will gain a whole new confidence once you understand more about the drink you love so much.