Honey-treated, sun-dried, washed - which treatment is best for your taste buds?
Release time: 2023-10-13
What does honey treatment, solarization, washing ...... mean exactly? Or, perhaps more importantly, which treatment is best for your taste buds?
The three main types of processing
Traditionally, there are three main ways to treat coffee: washing, solarization and honey treatment. Of course there are many other treatments, but they are rarer, like the Indonesian wet planing method.
Washed coffee focuses only on the flavor of the bean itself, which is designed to allow you to taste the flavor within the bean, not the flavor attached to the surface of the bean.
Sun-dried or honey-treated coffees require the coffee cherries to have flavor. However, washed coffee flavor is almost 100% dependent on the natural sugars and nutrients absorbed by the bean during its growing cycle. This means that variety, soil, weather, ripeness, fermentation, washing method and drying process are all absolutely critical.
Washed coffee reflects both the perfect science of farming and the fact that the farmer is an integral part of creating the flavor of the coffee bean. When we approach washed coffee, it's clear that origin and environmental conditions play a crucial role in adding flavor.
This means that the washing process can highlight the true characteristics of a single-origin bean as much as any other process - which is why so many fine coffees are washed.
"Washed Ethiopian and Kenyan have extremely well-defined flavors, and when handled correctly, their premium flavors come through perfectly."
Solarization is a back-to-basics treatment that originated in Ethiopia. The pulp is left on the bean and little is destroyed during the drying process. Although it requires less investment, it still requires certain climatic conditions to ensure that the pulp and seeds are dried in a timely manner.
Over time, solarization has been recognized as a lower quality treatment because it does not guarantee consistency in the flavor of the coffee. This inconsistency is usually the result of the interaction of unripe and ripe coffee cherries.
However, many believe that solarization actually has the potential to create the most flavorful coffee - a comeback is just around the corner. If consistency can be achieved, solarized coffees can have the same clear flavor profile as washed coffees, while also offering some more interesting aromas.
Carefully selected and processed sun-dried coffee beans can deliver incredible cup-tested flavor and provide consumers with a surprising amount of sweetness - "Some sun-dried coffees taste more like a tropical fruit salad or fruit platter than coffee."
In addition, solarized coffee beans are the most environmentally friendly.
If handled correctly, honey-treated coffee beans taste like someone added honey and brown sugar to their coffee - although the name actually comes from the fact that the consistency of the beans during processing is honey-like. In many ways, honey-treated is somewhere between washed and sun-dried: it has a fruity flavor, but it's not as over-the-top as some sun-dried beans. Its acidity is often more rounded than that of washed coffee beans, and it has an intense sweetness and complexity.
The honey treatment is closely associated with Costa Rica and in recent years a range of treatments has developed: yellow, red, golden, black and white honey. This reflects the impact of this treatment on the flavor and overall character of the coffee. This is most likely a highly scientific process that can influence the sweetness and body of the coffee by controlling the amount of gum. typically, the more gum left on the bean, the more intense the sweetness.
How do you decide which method to use?
Most coffee producers want to produce the most profitable and flavorful coffee possible, but they are limited by their environment. Coffee beans are more closely tied to their surroundings than most foods.
Producers usually look at the amount of rainfall and decide whether to wash, honey treat or solarize. If the rainfall is too high, it is difficult to produce good sun-dried coffee beans; if the rainfall is low, it creates good processing conditions for honey-treatment and sun-drying, which retains more of the sugar in the coffee.
The future of coffee processing
Some traditional coffee-producing countries favor one treatment process over another. For example, Rwanda and much of Central America have historically used washed processing, while Brazil favors honey or solarization.
This is changing due to popular demand for fine coffee. More and more coffee farmers are willing to experiment with alternative processing methods when environmental and climatic factors allow. For example, in Nicaragua, Guatemala and
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