Are fruit bombs, tropical flavours, & complexity your thing? Well, welcome to the wild and wonderful world of natural processed coffees!
There's no hiding the fact that we are absolutely crazy for natural processed coffees at Proud Mary. When it comes to coffee, there are few experiences that can rival natural processed Geishas from Panama, natural Pink Bourbons from Colombia, or everyone's favourite, an Ethiopian natural! These are the types of coffees we live and breathe and we LOVE sharing them with you! Here's our FYI on what natural processing is and why these coffees taste the way they do.
WHAT IS NATURAL 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)
With its roots traced back to Ethiopia, natural processing is not a new thing. While washed coffees have their fruit removed (pulped) before drying, natural processed coffees are left to dry with the whole cherry intact (pulp, mucilage etc.), nothing removed! It may seem like straightforward and a hands-off process, but it takes great skill and experience to develop great-tasting natural processed coffees.
Natural processed coffees are typically dried in two ways.
1. Patio: a large cement pad that is exposed to the sun or can be covered to protect from rain.
Coffees are raked into thin rows and are constantly re-raked to rotate the drying cherries, ensuring even drying.
^ Whole cherries drying on a concrete patio
2. Raised beds: Raised off the ground and supported by breathable mesh material, drying cherries have increased airflow which ensures even and consistent drying. It is also easier to cover if unexpected rain appears.
This method is very common for smaller lots and rare and expensive coffee lots as it is often considered a superior method for drying natural processed coffees.
^ Whole cherries drying on a raised bed
BREAKDOWN OF HOW NATURAL PROCESSING IS DONE
(Image credit: beannbeancoffee.com)
Fruit Removal: After drying
Fermentation: Occurs inside the fruit mucilage surrounding the seed and under the pulp, will take place as long as there is fuel available to the microorganisms (e.g. sugar, moisture, acids, etc); the seeds typically become inhospitable to microorganisms when they reach 11% moisture
Drying Time: Up to 30 days on average, weather permitting
TYPICAL FLAVOURS & TEXTURES OF NATURAL PROCESSED COFFEES
Flavours of coffee are very regional (farm to farm, country to country) and variety influenced (Parainema vs. Geisha). Processing provides a different "lens" to see the coffee through.
Natural processed coffees often show flavours like:
Red and black fruit, tropical fruit, winey flavours: Cherry, strawberry, blueberry, blackberry, pineapple, mango, passionfruit etc.
Florals: Sweet florals, jasmine, tropical flowers etc.
Sweetness: Fruity, tropical, chocolate, confectionary
Textures and mouthfeel:
Natural processed coffees are often syrupy, juicy, sometimes thick in texture and mouthfeel. The farmer can influence the rate at which moisture % loss occurs when drying the cherries (drying in thicker piles vs thin piles). This can impact the end flavours and textures. A coffee that has dried slowly (thick piles) might have more syrupy, jammy and pronounced flavours and textures than naturals dried in thinner piles.