What happens to ripe coffee cherries after the harvest? It takes a few steps to turn freshly picked coffee cherries into the delicious, 100% Kauai Coffee you sip from your favorite mug.
Processing coffee is an essential step in coffee-making because different methods impart flavors and affect the resulting cup in a variety of ways.
Coffee Processing Methods
The coffee bean you grind and brew to make your favorite cup is the seed of the coffee cherry, and the fruit must be removed before the bean can be dried and roasted. There are a few methods for removing the coffee fruit and other protective layers from the seed, including natural, wet, and a combination of the two.
Natural or dry processing coffee is the oldest and most manual method of removing the fruit from the coffee bean. After harvest, ripe coffee cherries are laid out in the sun and hand-turned or raked to ensure that the fruit dries evenly and without mold or fermentation. Once the coffee is dry, the skin and inner layers are removed from the green coffee by machine.
Wet or washed processing is how we process most of our coffee cherries at Kauai Coffee. First, harvested cherries are placed into a water system to separate the ripe cherries from under-ripe cherries. Unripe cherries float on top of the water while the denser, ripe cherries sink to the bottom.
Once the cherries are separated, the ripe fruit is stripped from the bean by a mechanical pulper. At Kauai Coffee, we reuse our cherry pulp as compost and soil nutrient, so nothing goes to waste. The coffee beans then ferment in clean water to break up the mucilage layer, which is then washed away.
After washing, the coffee beans are dried, rested and sorted by size and shape. Following sorting, the final protective parchment layer is removed from the dried coffee beans, and green coffee is bagged and prepared for roasting.
Honey processing lies somewhere between natural and wet processing and includes elements of both. Honey processing may remove the outer fruit with a wet process but leave the mucilage layer intact to dry in the sun. While most Kauai Coffee is wet-processed, Kauai Coffee Roast Master and Licensed Q Grader, Mike Shimatsu, created the Seed to Cup project to experiment with different methods. Our Sun Dried Typica was one of the first small-batch, artisan coffees to come out of the project and scored a 90 by Coffee Review.