Coffee Processing Methods

One of the long-standing problems with people buying and drinking coffee is the lack of contact between consumer and the people growing, processing and roasting the beans. Coffee is often grown in developing countries such as Africa and Central and Southern America. So there can often be a mental barrier between your morning cappuccino and the farmer whose livelihood is growing the coffee plant.

The long journey to your cup doesn’t end there, however. Many consumers don’t realise the manpower, complicated processing, shipping, roasting and packaging (the list goes on) that goes into creating great coffee. In the end, it all boils down to thirty seconds of espresso extraction! Here’s a rundown of the different processes that the coffee in your morning brew might have gone through.

What is a ‘washed process’ coffee?

There are two main ways that a coffee cherry, or fruit, eventually becomes the brown shrivelled bean we are used to seeing. Once the fruits have been picked, the sticky flesh remains coated on the inner seed. The most common method of separating the leftover fruit from the bean is called the ‘washed process’. It involves vigorously washing the fruit until it’s free of residue. The beans are then dried out and ready to be roasted. This often creates a cleaner tasting, brighter coffee, smoothing out any off-flavours.

What is a ‘natural process’ coffee?

Some coffees go through a much simpler ‘natural’ process, a procedure probably used since coffee beans where first cultivated. It involves laying out the coffee cherries on beds to dry in the hot sun. The beans are then slowly and naturally dried out, keeping much of the fruit’s natural sugars. This ultimately produces a sweeter, fruiter coffee with ‘funkier’ flavour profiles. Natural process coffees are often found across African countries like Ethiopia, Kenya and Rwanda but also Central and South America. A place where the machinery and large quantities of water required for ‘washed’ coffees are less easy to come by.

Other processing methods, ‘Honey or Pulped Natural’ and ‘Wet hulled’ coffees.

Another, less well-known, processing methods exist and often sit somewhere between natural and washed process coffee beans. For example, the ‘pulped natural’ process has become synonymous with coffees from Brazil and is a hybrid technique taking the best of both methods detailed above. The beans are only partially de-pulped, leaving much of the fruit left intact on the bean itself and then put out on parchments to dry. In some places this is called ‘Honey’ process. This is because of the golden runny liquid that is produced during the semi-fermentation stage that these beans go through. Ultimately, it gives all the sweet and fruity notes of a natural processed coffee but retains an element of clean acidity and clarity usually gained from the typical washed process.

‘Wet-hulling’ is another unique processing method, mainly used in Indonesia. It follows a similar procedure to the washed process but, effectively, the drying stage is interrupted and the beans are hulled from the fruit before they are fully dried out. The beans then go through a secondary drying stage to develop a coffee very unique to the area. Sumatran coffees, for instance, often display deep spicy, chocolatey and woody tasting notes, making them great for espresso blends and interesting filter beans.

In the new fangled age of third-wave coffee, more and more consumers are leaving coffee shops feeling alienated, and quite rightly. The plethora of complicated jargon and stigma surrounding speciality coffee, especially in more up-market areas in London and other metropolitan centres, can often become overwhelming. As a barista who has worked on both sides of the track, the line between the commodity coffee market and the more speciality culture is becoming visibly narrower. High Street chains, for instance, are making an effort to break into more niche products –  flat whites and cold brew coffee being some obvious examples. On the other hand, the independent coffee shop scene is constantly trying to bridge that gap between high-end and the high-street.

So the question is, how important is accessibility in coffee products to the average consumer? There will always be those who seek out speciality, but the customers we are focusing on here are those without background knowledge. Do we make a huge, and sometimes futile, effort to educate people or do we tailor service to a level that is accessible and understandable for the everyday customer?

Much of working in hospitality is chatting to people on a day-to-day basis. This is a great starting point, from a speciality perspective, for subtly enlightening customers in the merits of great coffee. As an industry, it’s then up to us to tweak and alter the way we work so that new customers are made to feel comfortable, not overwhelmed and, simply put, to keep on coming back. A policy of ‘If you don’t like it, there’s the door’ will always lead to a bad reputation and, overall, stunts the slow bridging – and eventual collision – of these opposite worlds of coffee. Ultimately, it is about finding a healthy balance to keep moving forward and flourishing as a coffee business in a world that is fast-paced and full of niche, cool and trend-based ideals.

In the aftermath of the Hull’s fabled year of being titled City of Culture; trendy food and drink establishments in the city are on the rise. With developments in areas like Humber Street and the Old Town well underway and the independent appeal of The Avenues; Hull has its fair share of great spots to grab a fine cup of coffee.

The heart of the Hull Coffee Scene

A peruse through Dan Saul Pilgrim’s book ‘Coffee Shop North’ will show you the rich, colourful coffee shop culture in the north of England. Local favourite, Thieving Harry’s, makes an appearance. A bustling and charmingly rag-tag building situated on Hull’s marina, nestled amongst a strip of new bars, shops and restaurants. As well as offering a great cup of coffee from Hull’s finest The Blending Room, they also cook up a menu of indie cafe staples – poached eggs and sourdough galore. You’ll find the space has an attractive up-cycled feel, with staff often styling a seemingly unofficial uniform of utility style overalls or jackets.

Stalwart fixture and small-batch coffee roaster, The Blending Room, has always been at the spear head of Hull’s independent coffee scene. A visit to inner city spot, Caffeinated, in the recently reopened Trinity Market will guarantee you a taste of the roastery’s flagship ‘Jones’ blend. Located amongst a collection of eateries, trinket shops, butchers stalls and chocolatiers, Caffeinated serves up some of the best coffee in the city to a rich variety of passers-by and dedicated regulars.

A fresh new arrival

A newer face on the block, Two Gingers, has also established a following since opening in early 2017. The small but cosy, plywood-clad coffee shop has an air of confident simplicity. Providing its minimalist furniture and pleasing array of plants and greenery. With coffee from various sources, each cup is prepared with a particular eye for detail, so you always know you’re in for a treat.

The cone-shaped coffee dripper at the pinnacle of hipster coffee shop culture. Ornate-looking apparatus often wielded by bearded, beanie-sporting, flannel-wearing baristas. Even Mcdonald’s have poked fun at the fiddly, over-complicated nature of this particular mode of coffee brewing. Broadcasting their TV advert damning the fussy nature of today’s trendy coffee scene. You may have even wandered into an upmarket cafe and been offered one of these mystical cups of coffee in the past. But what exactly is a v60?

Hario, the Japanese company who manufacture these small cone filters that sit atop your coffee cup, are a dab hand in the industry and have been making coffee paraphernalia since the 1940s. In true Japanese pragmatism, the simple reasoning behind the name ‘v60’ refers to the 60 degree angle of the ‘V’ shaped dripper. At it’s heart, the concept of the v60 very much reflects this logical approach. It’s a cone that you put ground coffee beans in and then pour hot water over, it’s as simple as that. However, as with most things in the strange sphere of artisinal food and drink, many complications are constantly flavouring the mix. How coarsely should I grind the coffee? How hot should the water be? Am I pouring the water too fast?

Just like making a good cocktail takes time and practise (and a certain degree of showmanship), pouring the perfect v60 coffee can depend on several factors. However, this shouldn’t deter people from buying one of these nifty drippers for use in their home. They are one of the most enjoyable ways to experiment with brewing coffee and can be bought for as little as £5. The perfect gateway to the world of coffee geekery.