Once the cherries have been picked and sorted, they need to be processed immediately to ensure a high quality drink in the cup. Here too there are a number of different methods used for processing, and experienced coffee roasters, particularly those who work in the specialty coffee market, have their own preferred method.
Dry process is a method of processing coffee beans to remove the fruit of the cherry and, as its name implies, dry the bean. Once picked, the coffee cherries are laid out in the sun on a concrete drying patio for anywhere up to a period of up to three weeks, after which the husk of the dried cherry is removed mechanically. This is the method used for roughly 95% of the Arabica coffee produced in Brazil but of course it’s not especially practical in regions where the humidity of the atmosphere is too high or where it rains frequently during harvesting.
In the wet process, the fruit covering the beans is removed before they are dried. This method uses special equipment and substantial quantities of water, but when properly done, the qualities of the coffee beans are better preserved, and the final green coffee has very few defects. Coffee produced using this method is usually considered to be of better quality and as a result commands higher prices.
Also known as the ‘wet-hulled’ process – simplifies the processing of washed coffees as it skips the fermentation phase. The outer skin is removed, just like in the wet process, but the mucilage remains on the parchment and is sun-dried. Then the parchment is removed.
Pulped Natural or “honey” processing is a relatively new method that removes the outer skin of the coffee cherry to expose the fruity layer, which is then allowed to dry in the sun. Most experts consider this method to be half way between dry processing and wet processing, as it requires more processing time and consumes more water than straight natural processing but offers a good quality cup.