Dry / Natural Process
Once picked and sorted, ripe coffee cherries are spread in a thin layer to dry in the sun. This could be on concrete patios or on a raised platform or ‘bed’ that allows for better air circulation. The cherries must be frequently raked to ensure even drying and to prevent mold or over-fermentation. Depending on weather conditions, the drying process can take up to a month; when the cherry is fully dry the outer skin and fruit fibers are removed. Due to the prolonged contact of the bean and surrounding fruit, natural coffees often have a sweet and fruity flavor profile.
Wet / Washed Process
After harvest, the outer skin and fruit fibers are mechanically removed (depulping) and the beans are sorted and soaked in order to ferment away all remaining fruit fibers. After fermentation, the beans are washed again and then moved to drying patios/beds. Washed coffees are often prized for clarity and bright acidity in the flavor profile.
Pulped Natural Process / Honey Process (White, Yellow, Red, Black)
The outer skin is removed from the coffee cherry (using a depulper or forced demucilage equipment), leaving the flesh around the bean. The cherries are then spread out to dry and the dried flesh is removed from the beans when drying is complete. In honey processing, careful attention is paid to the percentage of fruit left on the bean before drying and the color spectrum refers to these percentages. Honey process is specific to Central America, where honey (or miel) refers to the fleshy part of the coffee cherry.
Semi-Washed / Wet-Hulled Process
Coffee cherries are first de-pulped and briefly dried (to a higher moisture content than other processes). Then the beans are hulled (removal of the parchment layer, which in all other processes happens just prior to shipment) and dried again. This process is specific to Brazil and Indonesia.