The coffee that we enjoy every day originates from the seeds of a ripe, red cherry, also known as a coffee cherry. This means that in order to make a cup of coffee, the first thing we need to do after harvesting is to remove the husk to obtain the coffee beans.
With the wash coffee processing, or wet processing method, this involves removing the outer layers of the coffee cherry, fermenting and drying the beans to obtain the coffee beans.
Currently, if done correctly, this processing method can be considered the most stable in terms of coffee quality. However, it comes with a significant environmental impact.
Wash Coffee Processing
Common coffee processing methods. Source: bruvi.com
The process begins with harvesting ripe coffee cherries from the tree. These cherries are then washed and floated to remove any low-quality or unwanted cherries, as well as any branches or leaves. The cherries are then passed through a hulling machine to remove the outer layers, leaving only the slimy mucilage and coffee beans inside.
Coffee after removing outer layers. Source: Internet
The beans are then fermented in water for a period of 12 to 48 hours. This fermentation process helps to break down the mucilage surrounding the coffee beans. The duration of fermentation may vary depending on factors such as temperature and altitude.
After the fermentation process is complete, the coffee beans are thoroughly washed to remove all remaining mucilage and flesh, ensuring cleanliness before being placed on raised beds.
Coffee raised beds. Source: Perfect Daily Grind
Wet processing coffee creates an impressive flavor profile characterized by a bright, complex acidity compared to other processing methods. This is a popular method in regions such as Central and South America, as well as East Africa.
The flavor and quality of wet-processed coffee
Due to the nature of wet processing, which completely removes the fruit from the coffee bean, the sugar content of the fruit will not participate in the fermentation process. Therefore, characteristics such as dried fruit flavor, tropical fruit flavor, or rich sweetness are usually absent in this processing method.
However, it does not mean that wet-processed coffee lacks its own unique characteristics. Flavors from citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons, and grapefruits, along with a bright and sweet taste, promise to satisfy even the most discerning customers. Moreover, this method does not give you a feeling of being too strong or overwhelming when drinking, making it suitable for daily use.
Coffee enthusiasts prefer this method partly because they believe it is the way to fully and deeply appreciate the intrinsic flavor of coffee beans without the synergistic effect of the fermentation process. Factors that affect this intrinsic flavor include coffee variety, soil, and environment, among others. Therefore, coffee from different countries will have a very distinctive influence from the land where it originated.
In addition, the wet processing method is very friendly to processors because it is less affected by weather and the surrounding environment, making the processing process more convenient. At the same time, the quality of the final product is also very stable.
Wet processing and its environmental impact
Because of the use of a large amount of clean water and electricity in the washing process, as well as the continuous discharge of a large amount of coffee fermentation water (which contains a high level of acidity) into the environment, wet processing has left a very negative impact on the surrounding environment of coffee processing stations.
To achieve sustainability in the coffee processing process, processors nowdays have come up with positive solutions to treat wastewater before it is returned to the environment, even though it is a very costly process. This is a very positive sign for the coffee industry.
Have you ever experienced wet processed coffee? Please leave a comment below to let us know. See you in the next article!