Something About Coffee Honey Processing

Something About Coffee Honey Processing

Anyone who knows coffee knows that there are natural processes and washes, but what is the recent rise in honey processing?

Have you ever wondered what the honey processing of coffee is? Is it any better than the other processing methods you are used to drinking?

This article takes a look at what honey processing is, what it has to offer and what it means to baristas and roasters.

Why Is It Called Honey Processing?

There are three main types of coffee processing: solarisation, washing, and honey processing. Honey processing is a combination of the sun and washes methods: the pulp is sifted out of the coffee and the pectin layer is left in the coffee and exposed to the sun.

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So Where Is The Honey, You May Ask?

The term honey processing can lead many people to believe that the process uses honey to process the coffee, or that the coffee from this process tastes as sweet as honey, but in fact, it is neither of these two explanations. When the coffee pulp is separated from the beans, the outer layer of pectin is exposed to the sun and absorbs moisture from the air, making the pectin layer sticky.

Why Is Honey Processing So Popular With Coffee Producers?

Honey processing started in Costa Rica after people saw that it could improve the quality of their coffee beans, and it is now gaining traction.

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So why did Costa Rica's coffee producers start using honey processing in the first place? When coffee producers want to improve the quality or price of their coffee, they have three options: change the species of coffee, change the altitude of the planting, and change the processing method. Just like most people who brew coffee want to do it the easy way, like adjusting the ground scale and the amount of powder before adjusting the amount of water, pressure, and temperature in the coffee machine, most coffee producers want to change the processing method before considering planting new trees or relocating the farm, which requires an investment of time and money.

Honey Processing Is Time Consuming And Delicate

Honey is not easy to process, it takes a long time and must be handled with care. What steps are involved in honey processing?

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Firstly, the coffee farmer selects the ripe coffee cherries from the coffee tree and sifts through the outer pulp to retain the outer pectin layer of the beans, as mentioned earlier. The pectin layer retains a high percentage of the sugar and acidity that is essential for the processing of honey.

The next step is the most complex and elaborate part of the honey process: exposure. If the time is too short, the pectin layer will not be converted into the coffee beans, while the time must not be too long, as it must be done quickly to avoid the beans fermenting internally and becoming mouldy.

So how do you strike the right balance? The beans are placed on a sunning trellis or concrete floor and for the first few days, they are turned several times an hour until they reach the desired moisture content, a step that usually takes between 6-10 hours. For the next 6-8 days, turn them at least once a day. Time consuming, isn't it? The honey process is so time-consuming because the beans absorb the moisture from the air each night so that they take longer to dry the next day.

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Once the coffee has finished drying, it is almost ready to be dried and roasted, just like any other processing method.

Why Is Honey Processing So Wonderful?

When honey processing is so expensive, you may want to know whether it is really worth it.

Without a doubt, it is.

Honey-processed coffees generally have a great balance of sweetness and fruit acidity, and the flavour is generally less intense than sun-roasted coffees, but fresher and more aromatic - so why not?

The key to this difference in flavour comes from the sugars and acids in the pectin layer, which become more concentrated during exposure to the sun, and which leach into the coffee beans.

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What Is The Difference Between Yellow, Red, And Black Honey Processing?

When you buy a honey processed coffee, you will usually have the choice of yellow, red, or black honey. You may have also heard about the percentage of pectin retained in each of these honey processes and what this means.

Some will retain less pectin, which allows for faster exposure, while others will retain more pectin and require longer exposure times. Yellow honey (about 25% of the pectin layer is retained) is exposed to the least amount of shade (clouds, shade trees) to give it a yellowish appearance in order to get it done quicker. Red honey (approximately 50% of the pectin layer is retained) takes longer and requires some shade for exposure. Black honey (retaining approximately 100% of the pectin layer) is usually covered to allow for longer exposure.

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Which Is Better, Yellow & Red Honey Or Black Honey?

Black honey is probably the better, as the flavour of the honey process is affected by the sugar residue in the pectin layer, and the more pectin remains the more intense the flavour. (This is the opinion of the author of the original article, Coffee Mow believes that each processing method has its own characteristic flavour, which varies from person to person.)

For coffee producers, however, there is another commercial consideration. Although the benefits of processing with black honey are better quality and better priced coffee, the risks and costs are also significantly higher and may affect the willingness of producers to use black honey for processing. The longer the coffee is exposed to the sun, the more likely it is that bacteria will grow during fermentation, resulting in defective mouldy beans. This requires the more frequent turning of the beans and also takes up more space in the sun, up to twice as much as with yellow honey. It's not just about making high quality coffee, it's about getting the best out of the coffee producers.

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So what does honey processing mean to you?

Roasters: The Key To Honey Processing Is Consistency In Taste And Flavour

The challenge for roasters is to create recipe beans or to maintain as much flavour as possible in a recipe, even if most crops don't last more than one season. This means understanding not only the honey process but also other processing methods that can be useful in blending recipe beans. Beans can be swapped out more accurately to create new recipe beans and to narrow down the flavour choices that are filled when replacing beans.

However, there are still many different variables that affect and change the final coffee depending on the region, processing method, growing altitude, etc. Don't buy blindly just because it's a honey processed coffee, it may have great sweetness, acidity, and a fruity finish, but it's not always the same.

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Barista: Knowledge Of Coffee Is Valuable

Baristas make coffee for everyone every day, and knowing how it is grown, processed, harvested, and roasted from the ground up can be a great help in making a better tasting coffee, and by integrating it, you can make something that even you haven't tasted before. A coffee shop's recipe with a rich chocolate and caramel flavour may, before blending, result in a highly sweet, low-acid sun-coated Sorbian coffee.

It is important to know what you know and to seek knowledge, not just for yourself but also for the consumer. If you can tell consumers why sun-dried Ethiopian coffee is so much sweeter than the washed Indonesian Sumatran coffee they had last week, they will want to come back to your coffee shop. People are inquisitive, and when they think the barista next to them knows what they want, they will come back.

Tasting coffee is a learning experience. Take the time to experience the taste, aroma, and taste of coffee.