Beautiful rich berries and a sweet finish.
In the dry or 'natural' process which is the traditional Ethiopian process, coffee cherries are dried whole. This is usually done using raised 'African' drying beds, though some coffees are also dried on the ground, especially coffees intended for the local market. Raised beds made out of wood posts, about waist-high, are covered in a material like burlap or nylon netting. Producers lay the coffee cherries, skin and all, out to dry on the beds. Over time, the skin and sticky juices of the cherries dry out in the sun. This process can take several days to a few weeks, depending on the temperature and the intensity of the sunlight. At night or in case of rain, the coffee is covered up. During the drying process, the cherries shrink in size and eventually become hard and completely dry. Once the process is completed, sacks of dried cherries are taken to a hulling station for the removal of the outer cherry.
Care must be taken to ensure even drying of cherries, and to avoid any contact between the cherries and contaminating substances, such as direct contact with soil. Insufficient attention to these details can lead to muddy, dirty, or fermented flavors in the cup. The great advantage of natural processing is that it does not require any water, nor any elaborate machinery or facilities. As a result, one finds more naturally processed coffees in drier areas, as well as poorer or more remote areas.
Honey processing does not involve honey.
This process is midway between the fully washed and natural processes described above, and produces an end-product of medium acidity and notable sweetness. In this case, ‘honey’ refers to the sticky, slimy mucilage around the bean. The coffee is dried together with some or all of the mucilage encasing the parchment, which means that a small amount of natural fermentation takes place before the bean becomes fully dry.
Anaerobic processing – the coffee cherries are fermented in sealed tanks in the absence of oxygen or water, which means the cherries do not take on other elements from the environment. This coffee is totally different in terms of taste and character. The coffee can be very sweet with a lovely citrus and berry flavours, (between honey and natural processes) not very acidic or intense, but is balanced and smooth.
Produces incredibly bright & clean coffee.
In the washed or ‘fully washed’ style of processing, the outer skin of the coffee cherry is removed immediately after harvesting, usually the same day the cherries were picked. This is done using machines which ‘pick’ or scrape away just the outer layer of the cherry, leaving behind the parchment coffee covered in sticky mucilage.
The mucilage-coated beans are then immersed in water in large, cement fermentation tanks. Good cherries will sink and bad or unripe fruit will float on the surface. Meantime, the process of fermentation breaks down the sugars in the mucilage and frees it from the parchment. This usually takes around 24 hours, though shorter or longer fermentation times are possible depending on the local climate, altitude and other factors.
Once fermentation is complete, the coffee is released from the fermentation tank and pushed manually, with the help of flowing water, down long channels. This agitation frees up any remaining mucilage and separates it from the parchment coffee. At the end of the channels, the coffee enters another tank where it is rinsed with fresh water.
The result is wet coffee in parchment, free of the sticky mucilage. From the final washing tank, the wet parchment coffee is taken to dry in the sun, usually on raised ‘African drying’ beds. This process of drying happens quickly until the dry beans ideally have a water content of around 10%.