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What is Washed Coffee?

Posted by Bean & Bean on
What is Washed Coffee?

You may have seen the coffee milling process  described as “fully washed” while browsing our products on Bean & Bean, or as mentioned on the packaging of other speciality coffees. What does it mean exactly? 

Before we discuss what “washed” coffee is, we need to get some context on how coffee is cultivated and processed. 

Where coffee beans come from

Coffee beans start out as “cherries” that grow on coffee trees. Once the farmer picks the cherries from the trees,  they have to remove coffee bean from inside. The beans are a part of the cherry pit and are actually the “seeds." Each pit contains two seeds which, when dried and processed, are the coffee beans we know and love. 

But to get to the point where the beans can be roasted, shipped and sold, the cherry seeds have to be extracted. 

The cherry seed is encased in multiple layers of fruit consisting of the silver skin, parchment, pectin, pulp and outer skin. To remove this organic matter, the beans have to be dried and can only have up to 11% moisture levels. The activity of removing these layers to get to the coffee seed is called “processing."

Coffee processing

There are multiple ways to remove the different layers of the cherry to get the coffee bean. 

There is the “wet process," the “dry process” and the “semi-dry process." Coffee that is processed via the “wet process” is called “washed coffee."  “Naturally processed” coffee is more popular in the market and involves removing the layers as soon as the cherry is picked. 

All about “washed coffee” 

During the wet process, the fruit covering the seed is removed before the seeds are dried. This requires the use of specific equipment and large quantities of water as the coffee cherries are immersed in water and sorted. 

Bad or unripe cherries float to the surface while the ripe fruit sinks. The skin of the cherry and some of the pulp is then removed by pressing fruit in the water using a machine. 

There will still be a significant amount of pulp stuck to the bean that needs to be removed. This can be accomplished in one of two ways, either through the “classic ferment” and “wash method," or a newer method known as “aquapulping."  

The beans are literally “washed” to remove the organic matter off them, hence the name “washed coffee.”

Washed coffee vs natural coffee

As opposed to washed coffee, when coffee is processed naturally, the coffee cherry is dried before the fruit around the bean is removed. As the fruit and bean are in contact the whole time, the bean absorbs some of those fruity flavors and notes.

This changes the whole profile of the bean.

Difference in taste

If you’re wondering whether the processing methods have an impact on the coffee’s taste, the answer is, yes

A washed coffee doesn't have any of the fruit’s taste around the bean, hence the taste of the bean is dominant. While naturally processed coffee will taste more fruity or floral. Washed coffee can be a perfect choice if you’re trying to taste the earthy, chocolatey and rich flavors of coffee. 

Whether you prefer washed coffee or naturally-processed will be up to your own taste profiles. There’s no one “perfect” coffee for everybody!

Our recommendation

Complex and yet packed with a velvety explosion of caramel, the Peru Las Damas is our recommendation if you’re looking for an ideal washed coffee to try. With notes of dark chocolate and caramel along with fruity flavors of lemon and orange, it's perfect served black without milk or sugar. 

Packed with antioxidants, a cup of this blend makes for the ideal start of any day. 

Additionally, the blend is created by a women-led cooperative that actively promotes gender equality and fair wages. 

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