No one would contemplate the existence of coffee before it ends up in the cup. However, many people probably have heard “washed” or “unwashed” on product labels.
But do you know what exactly it is?
In this article, we will be talking about the processing of coffee and the difference between a Washed coffee and Unwashed coffee? How does each one affect the flavour of your coffee? and which is ultimately better?
First, let’s first understand the basics of the composition of coffee beans and how they are prepared. It will facilitate your comprehension of the various mechanisms we’ll be identifying later on.
Let's start with the coffee bean itself. Coffee is a type of fruit that contains layers of two seeds.
After harvesting the coffee berries from the plant, the first step of processing is separating the seeds from their cover. These seeds will eventually become coffee beans.
Removing the seeds from the outer layers is easy and can be done through various methods, i.e., Washed Method and Unwashed Method.
What is Coffee Washing?
It removes the cherry pulp and discoloured skin by rinsing the seeds in water. The coffee bean is then dried and used to produce brewed coffee.
This process removes any debris that is present in the seeds at the time of harvesting. For many years, it was known that washing removes undesirable flavours in coffee beans, including any bitterness.
The process can be done manually or through mechanical means, depending on the method used.
For manual washing, farmers would first separate the seeds from the cherries using their bare hands. Then they would place them into a tub with water to soak and remove as much debris as possible.
The beans are usually placed in a device that removes the pulp and discoloured skin for mechanical washing.
It usually involves running water through a machine that mechanically pulls out the seeds' cherry pulp and discoloured skin.
What does Washed Coffee Taste Like?
Many people are asking questions about washed coffee. Washed coffee is a style of processing that removes mucilage from the bean.
So how does this affect the taste of coffee?
When trying to describe washed coffee, some people refer to it as “clean.” Since removing the mucilage eliminates most of the sweetness in coffee, it is easy to focus on tasting what you are drinking rather than any additives.
As a result, washed coffees have a clean taste coupled with hints of fruit and acidity that make them popular among many different drinkers.
Additionally, because their flavour is raw and not tinted by other processing methods, washing allows you to experience all the attributes that make the coffee a unique offering.
What is Unwashed Coffee?
Unwashed coffee, also known as dry processing or natural processing, allows coffee beans to ripen completely on the plant.
Then, they are harvested, dried, and processed into brewed coffee beans. It's fast and provides coffee beans to retain most of their flavour.
In addition, unwashed coffees are known for their low acidity, which allows them more time to be properly fermented.
It's important to note that while the process is excellent for retaining most of the flavour, it does not mean that it is pure coffee and has not gone through any method. Unwashed coffee is often a blend of different coffees.
How is unwashed coffee made?
Well, first, the coffee cherries are washed and laid out to dry. This process can last for several weeks while the cherries are rotated regularly to prevent spoilage.
The result of this is that unwashed coffee is typically found in countries with hotter climates, like Brazil and Ethiopia, since the unfettered sunshine leads to much quicker evaporation of moisture in the fruit.
Once this happens, it’s time for green berries to expel from fermented fruit. This step can be tricky, but it’s not as tricky as making washed coffee which requires more skill and equipment; thus, most manufacturers go for unwashed instead (especially when the price is a concern).
What does Unwashed Coffee Taste Like?
Coffee that is not washed before roasting will produce a different taste than the washed variety. The unwashed method will yield coffee with a more weighty body compared to the washed way.
Unwashed coffee also retains its sweetness, characterized by a smoother and more complex taste."
We can say that unwashed coffee has more prominent fruit and acidity notes, making it ideal for those who enjoy tasting the character of coffee rather than its processing.
Unwashed coffee will often have a fruity taste that can sometimes even taste like blueberries or strawberries when you brew it.
Which Is Better Washed or Unwashed Coffee?
If you haven’t tried either before, knowing what to expect can help you decide which one you prefer. Try tasting both washed and unwashed coffee to find your favourite.
Taste buds are unique, and the preference is ultimately yours!
If you like coffee that has fruity notes, then unwashed coffee will be proper for you. If you want coffee that is strong in flavour, then washed coffee will be best for you.
You should be aware that some coffees are still available that fall somewhere in between the two categories.
Is washed coffee better?
Unwashed coffee, also known as dry processing or natural processing, allows coffee beans to ripen completely on the plant. We can say that unwashed coffee has more prominent fruit and acidity notes, making it ideal for those who enjoy tasting the character of coffee rather than its processing. Unwashed coffee will often have a fruity taste that can sometimes even taste like blueberries or strawberries when you brew it.
What does washed coffee taste like?
Coffee that is not washed before roasting will produce a different taste than the washed variety. The unwashed method will yield coffee with a more weighty body compared to the washed way. Washed coffee also retains its sweetness, characterized by a smoother and more complex taste.
Is washed coffee more acidic?
Yes, washed coffee is more acidic. Washed coffee is a style of processing that removes mucilage from the bean, and this process increases the acidity level.
What is Hybrid washed coffee?
Hybrid washed coffee is a style of coffee processing that combines both berry and washed coffees. The result is a complex coffee that has a slightly sweet, fruity taste.
Why are some coffee beans oily?
The oil on the beans absorbs more moisture, which causes the oils to rise. Moist air is drawn into the coffee beans during roasting, and those oils are heated with it. When coffee beans dry out, their compounds become more resistant to heat and light.
Is all coffee fermented?
Fermentation is a natural process of decomposition in which microorganisms break down the organic material and release carbon dioxide, acids, alcohol, and methane. In coffee processing, fermentation is not normally a natural occurrence because coffee beans receive very little respiration after harvesting.
The main purpose of fermentation in coffee processing is to cause the coffee beans to swell so that they can be removed from their fruit.
Ultimately, both washed and unwashed coffees do have their taste profiles. However, in the end, it comes down to your preference.
Do you like coffee that is sweet, or are you looking for something more robust? Taste test the two (or more) styles of coffee to see which one fits your palette.
I hope this article helped you understand the difference between washed and unwashed coffee. One thing is sure, both the processes will create you a unique coffee experience with delightful flavours.