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Many people enjoy a good cup of joe to start their day. Ever wonder what process the coffee bean goes through before it is packaged and shipped out for consumption? The farmers make this decision based on the environment the beans are grown.
For example, if they are experiencing a long, dry season, they may go with the drying process — natural, sun-dried method. If the farmers grow in a high tropical environment — they may have an amply water supply — this would allow them to use the wet (washed) processing method on their coffee beans.
Farmers could also choose three other methods to process their coffee:
- Pulped Natural Processing.
- Semi-washed Processing.
- Aquapulp Processing.
After the beans are prepared, they are generally bagged in 100-pound, 132-pound, or 154-pound sacks and distributed worldwide as green coffee beans. This means the beans have been milled but not yet roasted. They are roasted after they have been shipped to various companies.
Wet (Washed) Processing Method
This method involves soaking the coffee cherries and allowing them to ferment. The wet method allows the processor to separate the cherry from the bean itself. This can also be done by sending the cherries through a mechanical depulper to remove the bean.
Once the beans are removed, they are washed to remove any residual residue. They are then placed outdoors to dry on a raised bed or patio. This process results in a more”pure” coffee than any other method.
Once the bean has gone through processing, coffee suppliers use different methods to add fragrance and flavors to the final product. This all depends on where the coffee is produced.
The wet processing method is an extremely invasive method compared to dry processing. During the wash processing method, all the skins and pulp of the coffee fruit are discarded before the beans are dried.
Steps Used For Wet Processing
The steps required for the fully automated approach are:
- Sort and clean the coffee cherries. All the soil, leaves, and overripe berries are scraped away.
- Then the coffee beans are passed through several machines. This process removes the flesh and pulp from the beans.
- Next, the beans go into a large water tank filled with natural enzymes for 24 to 36 hours. The enzymes eliminate anything that was not removed during the pulping and washing cycle. This is known as the fermentation process.
- In the course of fermentation, the beans are washed with clean water and sent for cooling. Once the coffee moisture is 12.5 percent — instead of 60 percent — the drying process is complete.
- During the hulling process, the beans are washed one last time to remove any leftover residue.
Due to the cleaner color, appearance, flavor, and aroma, many people prefer drinking java processed with the wet method.
The Drying Process
This method involves drying the freshly picked coffee fruit in the sun. They are laid out for a period of time on large patios, where the cherries are repeatedly raked. The cherries are turned and raked until the green coffee beans are freed from the dried fruit. Then the dried fruit is either disposed of or turned into coffee flour.
The humidity of the beans is now at about 10.5 percent. This process can also be done with automatic dryers.
Brazilian, Ethiopian, and Yemeni coffees are all processed using the drying method. This method usually pushes the coffee toward a sweet and fruity flavor. It also allows the brew to have more body than that brewed from coffee processed by the wet method.
Many experts believe the wet process produces a superior brew than unwashed dry processed. Of course, it all depends on the consumers’ taste buds.
Flavoring the Beans
Adding flavor to the beans helps extend their shelf life. This is done by coating the beans with flavor compounds that supplement their natural taste. Adding essence of flavor has been done in one form or another for centuries. In the 1990s, the gourmet coffee boom increased the interest in exotic flavors in people’s coffee.
Today people can choose to brew a cup of joe with flavors like:
- Chocolate Swiss Almond
- French Vanilla
- Irish Creme
- Georgia Pecan
Some people add flavor packets to their cup of joe — many enjoy the flavor of cacao. This product has the aroma and flavor of pure dark chocolate. Cacao is packed with flavonoids that can help lower blood pressure, prevent blood clots, and improve blood flow to the heart and brain.
According to WebMD, cacao could reduce a person’s risk of diabetes by helping increase insulin sensitivity. This product also has a lot of potassium; the mineral has been shown to lower body inflammation and stress on cells. This has been known to decrease a person’s risk of heart disease.
Adding cacao to the health benefits that coffee already holds gives people an extra boost to start their days.
Written by Sheena Robertson
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Images Courtesy of McKay Savage’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License