What is Natural Processing
Written by Allana Kennedy, Roaster at Outpost Coffee Roasters
Natural processed coffee leaves all the fruit on the seed to dry, as you can see in the photo above.
Natural processing (also known as the Dry process) is when the coffee seed is dried inside the cherry and no part of the outer cherry is removed before drying. This process originates from Ethiopia, the birthplace of coffee. This process may have started as a necessity as it requires less infrastructure for farms with little to no water, machinery and workers.
What does this taste like?
Naturally processed coffees tend to be fruitier as the sweet mucilage and skin from the cherry dry on the seed and are absorbed into the seeds taste. Natural processed coffees also tend to have a muddled flavour as all the cherry and mucilage can hide and overpower the taste of the actual seed itself.
You may be asking why isn't every coffee a natural if it doesn't require any water or processing machinery? While the process requires little infrastructure it still requires a lot of technique and control to make sure the bean and cherry dry at the right rate.
Some regions are not suited to natural processing as a dry climate is crucial. If the region is too wet, humid, or rainy it could lead to inconsistent drying, or mouldy coffee. Optimal coffee growing is in higher elevations, however in these elevations rainfall is more typical. In the mountains of the coffee growing region of Nicaragua, rainfall is a daily occurrence and in Huehuetenango, Guatemala it can be very cold during harvest time which can slow down the drying and make natural processing difficult and costly.
Now that you know about the three main ways of processing coffee, see if you can taste the difference next time you make a cup!