Coffee Processing: Natural vs. Washed

You probably noticed that our coffee bags have a label describing a few important characteristics of that specific coffee on them. One of those is the way the coffee was processed. Anyone who has been around specialty coffee has heard terms like wet processed, semi-pulped, and natural processed. The way a coffee is processed is one of the biggest determiners in its quality.


The two main processes are wet/washed and natural/dry processed. What separates the two is what happens before drying. Washed process coffees have all of the coffee cherry fruit removed  before drying, while natural process coffees are kept inside the fruit to dry before being hulled. Typically, natural coffees tend to be brighter, fruitier and cleaner, while washed process coffees are more complex, sweet, smooth and heavy in body. This is not a rule, but generally speaking is true.


The natural process method was the first way coffee farmers processed coffee centuries ago. Generally, natural process coffees are picked when they are ripe and set out to dry with the entire coffee cherry intact. This allows the flavors of the entire coffee cherry to lend complex and obviously berry notes to the final bean. It is best suited to regions with long dry seasons such as Ethiopia, Kenya and Brazil. These regions are known to produce coffees with very obviously berry/fruity and complex, wine-like notes.


Coffee processed the natural way is sorted by hand multiple times to ensure the highest quality, whereas coffee that is washed before drying is easier to sort by machine. Natural process coffees are more cost-effective in the sense that they require minimal equipment, but also require more labor. Natural processed coffees are typically more eco-friendly as well, as they don’t require massive amounts of water, and thus produce less wastewater.


The typically complex, berry-punch-in-the-face, heavy-bodied characteristics of natural processed coffees are beloved by coffee consumers with discerning palates.We try to have at least one option for natural processed coffees available to roast at any given time, such as this Honduras Natural


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