Washed

Compared to the Natural process, the 'washed' or 'wet' process requires significantly more investment and care but really helps to preserve the qualities in the cup. To start, the cherries are separated from the beans by a pulping machine. This crushes the cherries either by one moving and one fixed rotating surface or by adjustable blades. To preserve the quality of the coffee beans, pulping must take place within 24 hours of the cherries being picked, but ideally within 12 hours. If left too long, the beans become difficult to separate from the pulpy flesh and can lead to damage of the beans. The beans are now washed away via concrete channels with plenty of water. These channels are designed to seperate unripened (lighter) beans from those that have matured (heavier). The water in this system can be re-used. The next stage is fermentation, which is how the slippery mucilage covering the parchment is removed by the action of enzymes. Beans are held in fermentation tanks for 12-36 hours, depending on the atmopshoeric temperature, the thickness of the mucilage, and the enzymes present. With the beans still in their parchment casing, they contain around 50% moisture and this has to be dried to arounf 11% so that the beans can be stored in a stable condition. The degree of moisture is critical, at 10% moisture the beans will be over dried and lose their blue/green colour. Too much moisture will risk fungal attack. After spreading the parchment out over concrete/brick patios, they are left to dry in the sun, as per the natural method. The beans are turned regularly to ensure they dry evenly. The process takes between 12-15 days. To summarise, the main difference to remember is that ‘Natural’ processed coffees are are dried with the cherry fruit still attached. With ‘Washed’, the cherry is removed almost immediately and then the beans left to dry.

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