Do you love washed coffees? All about that clean flavour, sparkling acidity and florals? Great! A lot of people loved washed coffees, but don't really know what it means or why washed coffees taste the way they do. Here is our FYI on washed processing.
WHAT IS WASHED PROCESSED?
First of all, coffee is a cherry with a few important layers.
Pulp - outside skin
Mucilage - slimy thin fruit layer
Parchment - the protective shell that the beans sit inside
Coffee bean(s) - normally two, but sometimes only one - the rare peaberry!
(Image credit: Seattle Coffee Works)
Washed process is a method of preparing and drying the coffee cherry. Processing has considerable impacts on the flavour and texture (mouthfeel) of the coffee you drink.
Washed process is an intensive method and involves pulping, removing, and washing off the main layers, so that the beans are not in contact with the pulp or mucilage when drying. All this extra work ensures that crisp, clean tastes that associated with washed coffees.
Above: Javier & Nahun Fernandez conducting some QC with their washed coffees
BREAKDOWN OF HOW WASHED PROCESSING IS DONE
(Image credit: beannbeancoffee.com)
Fruit Removal: Typically de-pulped (skin removed) or de-mucilaged (skin and pulp removed) within 24 hours of harvest
Fermentation: Depulped coffees are typically held in “fermentation tanks” for 12–72 hours; de-mucilaged coffees are not commonly held in tanks but moved to drying surfaces or equipment. Fermentation may occur from the moment of harvest until the seeds reach an inhospitable moisture content for yeast / bacteria (11% moisture)
Drying Time: On average, 18–36 hours mechanically; 7–15 days on patios, raised beds, or in parabolic dryers
Washed coffees can be quite energy-intensive to process and often require a lot of water. The washed coffees that we do buy (where possible) are from farmers and washing stations that continually work towards reducing their energy and water usage. We're always seeing new innovative techniques and methods that address efficiency, recycling, and reuse.
TYPICAL FLAVOURS & TEXTURES OF WASHED COFFEES
Flavours of coffee are very regional (farm to farm, country to country) and variety influenced (Parinema vs. Geisha). Processing provides a different "lens" to see the coffee through.
Washed coffees often show flavours like:
Crisp, high acid flavours: Lime, lemon, grapefruit, white nectarine, apple, etc.
Florals: Jasmine, bergamot, black tea, earl grey tea etc.
Sweetness: Vanilla, caramel, chocolate etc.
Textures and mouthfeel:
The texture and mouthfeel of washed coffees are generally thinner than honey and natural processed coffees. Very clean with lots of clarity. Sometimes buttery, silky, and velvety. We do search hard for washed coffees that offer non-traditional textures like creamy (lactic), and juicy.