Coffee Processing 101

Coffee Processing 101

Once coffee cherries are picked and sorted, they need to be dried and there are 3 main processes for doing this:

  • Natural process
  • Washed process
  • Honey process

We’ll break this coffee speak down:

Natural Process. If you see “Natural process” on coffee, this is what it means:

The coffee cherries are left to dry naturally, skin intact, in the sun.

Inside the coffee cherry is the coffee seed (which we know as the coffee bean). And between the coffee seed and the skin, there are some lovely, juicy layers, including some delicious sugars.

When coffee is left to dry with its skin intact, the skin dries up in the sun and the sugars contained within the skin caramelise and intensify inside.

Whereas, in Washed and Honey processing, the skin, or “pulp” is removed before drying. More on those next time.


  • is the oldest system used in processing coffee: just the whole cherry, sun, air.
  • the most affordable system and conserves water the most, which is in short supply in some coffee-growing villages.

What about the taste?

Full-bodied, complex flavours.

Blue Turaco Coffee uses a unique combination of Natural and Washed Coffee processes which is unusual in the world of Robusta. It’s part of why our coffee is strong, full-bodied and smooth.


When you see coffee that says it’s “Washed Process” on coffee, this is what that means.

Once coffee cherries are picked and sorted, they need to be dried. You can dry them as they are - that’s called Natural Processing - or you can take the outer skin off.

When you take the outer skin off, you have a choice. Do you give the cherry a wash or not?

There are lots of layers and sugars in a coffee cherry between the outer skin and the seed or bean.

Once you’ve taken the skin off your coffee cherry, you’ll see what is called mucilage - lovely sugars. The coffee Cherry is now called Coffee Parchment.

This is the bit you wash off if you are are using the Washed Process.

  • First, you soak the parchments in water for 24 hours.
  • Then you rinse them well in fresh water.
  • Then you dry them in the sun and natural air.

What about the taste?

Cleaner, fruitier - less body than Natural processed coffee, where coffee cherries are dried with their skin intact.

Washed coffee processing has one big drawback; it uses a lot of water which could be a scarce resource in some villages.


When you see coffee that says it’s “Honey Process” coffee, this is what that means:

When coffee cherries are dried, you can dry them as they are (Natural Processing). You can take the outer skin off and wash them (Washed Processing). Or you can take the outer skin off and leave them as they are - that’s what happens in Honey Processing.

The coffee cherry has a few layers before you get to the seed (or bean as we know it). The layer under the outer skin is called the Parchment. And in-between the Parchment and the outer skin are the juicy coffee sugars called mucilage.

In the Honey Process, the coffee parchments are left to dry in the open air with these lovely sugars left on. They caramelise under the sun.And because those sticky parchments sometimes touch each other as they lie next to each other, they ferment, just a little bit.

This gives the coffee the fruitiness that is associated with Washed coffees (where the mucilage is cleaned off before drying) as well as the body that’s associated Natural coffee (where the sugars caramelise under the skin).

Best of both worlds. It would be Goldilocks’ choice!

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