Coffee Processing Methods In Rwanda: Washed vs Natural
How are washed coffee beans different from natural (dry) process coffee beans? They both come from the same plant, but are processed differently. Both washed and dry processed coffees are popular in Rwanda, with the natural increasingly becoming more popular. The dry processed variety has more fruit and fermented flavors because the bean has more time to interact with the natural sugars from the cherry.
Coffees that have not been subjected to any further processing are referred to as (natural (dry processed)). Selected beans are dried in the entirety of the cherry before being pulped. Wet processed, or washed coffees are dried without the cherry. Washed coffees are usually fermented to loosen any remaining pectin that remained adhered to the bean then washed clean before drying.
This article will outline in more detail how each type of processing method works to create these two uniquely different tasting coffees.
In the washed process all of the fruit flesh is removed from the coffee bean before the beans are dried. To remove some of the natural oils that would otherwise remain on them after drying, the fruit (beans) is soaked in water through a process of fermentation. Washed coffees are sought after for their transparency, clean and distinct aromas. All of the cherry is removed before drying, allowing the bean's tastes to shine through. Fermented and earthy cherry notes are less prevalent in washed coffees, however fruity scents and aromas are still present.
A machine called a de-pulper is used to remove the fruit flesh from the fruit. Next, the beans are transferred to a water tank where fermentation will continue to remove any remaining fruit flesh.
The length of time the process takes is dependent on the weather and altitude. In hotter climates similar to Rwanda, fermentation will take less time, whereas in cooler areas it will require more time. This process generally takes 24-72 hours.
The coffee beans are washed in clean water after fermentation is complete, removing any leftover flesh, and then they're ready to dry after hand sorting to remove any damaged beans.
In the washed method, beans are dried in the same manner as they are in the natural dry process. The beans are rotated on a regular basis, just like in natural production to assure uniform drying. Beans may also be dried by machine, particularly in regions with limited sunshine or high humidity although using machines to dry is not needed for the equatorial weather of Rwanda.
The washed technique results in a flavor with brighter and more acidic tastes. Because of its complexity and cleaner taste, it is particularly popular among roasters and baristas and milk chocolate lovers.
When compared to natural coffees, washed coffees are said to have a white wine taste. Many farmers and producers prefer the washed technique since it lowers the risk of flaws while also being more stable than other processing techniques. It does, however, require more water than other processing methods, so it's both more expensive for farmers and producers.
Natural Coffee (Dry Processed)
Natural processing, also known as dry processing, is the most traditional but work intensive approach to process coffee. The coffee cherries are collected from the coffee trees and spread out in thin layers to dry in the sun. Fruit is dried without any treatment except for picking off any dirt or pieces of leaves that may be clinging to it before floating the beans with water to separate the beans by their density. Drying stations can vary from farm to region, but in general they are constructed of a similar design. Some farms and regions use brick patios, while others utilize unique raised beds (or tables) that allow air to flow around the cherries, helping to ensure more uniform drying.
The cherries are turned regularly to avoid degradation and mold of the coffee beans. The cherries are dried and the skin and dehydrated fruit flesh removed using a machine. The green coffee is then stored and sits before being exported.
The flavor of a natural coffee's cherry is more fruity and chocolaty,, owing to the bean's greater time interacting with the natural sugars in the cherry, which are then broken down by enzymes. If dried beans are not dried correctly, by turning them frequently and removing over-ripes, pungent and strange flavors may develop in the roasted coffee.
In areas where there is low access to water, such as Ethiopia and certain parts of Brazil, a natural method is typical. In the places where the process is used, the technique is typically traditional, with little change in natural processing over time.
Natural processed coffees are sought after by some coffee lovers, connoisseurs and enthusiasts. Though, not all coffee lovers agree on liking the flavor; some love them and others hate them. Even if you're using the same variety and growing region, roast level, or brewing method, there's no denying that natural processes contribute tastes to your coffee, such as fruitiness and sweetness.
Natural processed coffee may be described as having a natural, earthy flavor profile with berry notes, tropical fruit, and honey as common tastes. Also, wild flavors and alcohol notes can also be present.
When compared to washed coffees, natural coffees are frequently described as having red wine-like tastes. Natural processed coffees may be very beneficial for roasters and baristas in demonstrating what coffee can taste like and opening consumers' eyes, but they may also be off-putting to individuals who dislike fermenteding and wild tastes in the cup.
Matriarch’s Gasharu Fully-Washed Grade A1
Gasharu washing station is on the banks of Lake Kivu, a stone's throw from Nyungwe National Park, which is one of Central Africa's largest montane and most protected montane rainforests with diverse species and about 25% of Africa's primates. Coffee trees thrive in this area's climate, soil, and altitude. When the cherries are harvested and brought to the washing stations, they're floated and crushed with a disc pulper. The beans are spread out in a tray and wet parchment is placed on top. The moist parchment is then dried for 12 to 14 hours in a dry setting, during which time mucilage is washed away. Beans are classified into three categories based on their density in the grading channel: Grade A, Grade B, and Grade C.
The beans are picked and processed before being hand-sorted at the pre-drying tables, where they're then dried on raised beds with a mesh bottom for more air circulation. The coffee is sun-dried between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., depending on the intensity of the sun. The drying process takes 14 to 20 days, depending on the weather. When dried, the coffee is kept well until it is hulled and classified by nearly 180 trained women before being hulled and packed in Grainpro and Jute bags for export. Matriarch Coffee only carries Grade A Gasharu Fully-Washed coffee GRADE A.
Gasharu Natural Grade 1
Coffee plantations in the Gasharu area are close to the Nyungwe National Park, which gives them the soil, the weather, a steady supply of water, fruitiness and density well suitable to natural processing . They receive enough moisture to make the cherries more juicy and the coffee fruitier.
The cherries selected for Matriarch Coffee are collected at altitudes between 1700 m and 2100 m. When they are received at the washing station they are sorted and floated to ensure consistent and good density beans are separated from the others. They go through rigorous sorting at the pre-drying tables and are afterward dried on raised African beds for 25-30 days. After drying, the coffee is well kept and stored in proper conditions before being hulled and sorted by skillful women. Young coffee farmers operate the washing station, and slightly older coffee farmers, mostly women, sort the beans on tables.
Beans from this region are exported to the United States in GrainPro bags in Jute bags that provide required protection from any degradation during and after the 2-3 months journey across the continents.
Select your option for Washed or Natural in our shop! Click here.