What Is The Difference Between Natural Coffee And Washed Coffee?

A natural coffee? Funny expression ... There would be synthetic coffees? And a washed coffee what does that mean, a washcloth soap and rubs?

Behind these somewhat mysterious formulations are in fact the two main methods of drying coffee: an essential step in extracting the coffee bean from its envelope, the coffee cherry.

In the specialty coffee sector, cherries are harvested manually and only at maturity: yes, depending on the regions and the weather, the latter do not ripen all at the same speed. The agricultural workers are thus made to make several passages in order to pick only the ripe cherries and in good condition, which is why the crops spread more or less long depending on the country. Once picked, the cherries will be sent to washing or drying stations to remove the coffee beans inside. This process is carried out mainly in two ways: by dry method or by washed method. 

The dry method is to let the whole cherries ferment on the grains. For 10 to 30 days depending on the region, the coffee cherries are spread out in the best case on raised African beds, failing on a concrete floor and dry quietly in the open air. In order to protect them from the nocturnal humidity, they are protected at night with tarpaulins. The cherries are finally peeled to keep only the green beans. 

What result in cup  : the long fermentation of cherries on the grain offers tasting notes of very pronounced, lively, ripe or more jammy fruit depending on the coffee. We will also detect a more marked sweetness and a denser body. A natural coffee can also be easily identified in the nose with an intensity of red fruits sometimes referring to the middle of the wine.

The washed or wet method proceeds in three stages. The first step is to de-pulp the coffee cherries (the skin and a large part of the pulp are removed) using a device called a "pulper". A stream of water then allows to take the grains in large tanks where they ferment for 6 to 72 hours - and more generally between 12 and 36h: the fermentation is made possible by the temperature (40 ° C max) coupled to the fine layer of pulp still present on the wet grain and called mucilage. The second step is then to wash the grains after fermentation: they pass through water channels and are stirred for several tens of minutes with large rakes to remove the remaining pulp. 

This step also allows a first sort: the floating grains, of lower quality, will be sidelined. Finally, depending on the country, the grains are dried on African beds, on patios or in wind-blowing sheds for 1-3 weeks in order to reduce the humidity rate to 10 or 12%. ideal for good conservation. 

What outcome cup  :  in general, a washed coffee will provide a clearer cup a coffee with a natural acidity stronger.

What Is The Difference Between Natural Coffee And Washed Coffee?

Purgator at Hallo Fuafate car wash, Ethiopia - photo taken during our trip 2018

What Is The Difference Between Natural Coffee And Washed Coffee?

Fermentation tanks at the Dimtu washing station, Ethiopia - photo taken during our trip 2018

What Is The Difference Between Natural Coffee And Washed Coffee?

Drying of grain on African beds at Hallo Fuafate car wash, Ethiopia - photo taken during our trip 2018

The honey process is a method combining the characteristics of the dry and washed methods: it associates the pulping of the cherries used in the washed method and then directly the drying in the open air used in the dry method. There are different degrees of honey (white, yellow, red, black) that correspond to the percentage of mucilage left on the grains. The grains are then dried for 7 to 25 days. 

What a cup result  : a technique that tries to offer the best of both methods. The cup is clean enough and has more body and less acidity than a washed coffee, all closer still more than a natural coffee. 
Hambela Dimtu - Ethiopian Coffee, Guji

Do you dream in secret of a big bowl of red fruits although it is not the season? Hambela Dimtu, our new natural Ethiopian, will please you.

The Dimtu washing and drying station, located in Hambela in the Guji region , was created by Aklilu Kassaat a time not so distant where there was still no road in the region. Aklilu's family has worked in coffee for three generations: it was his grandfather who received a subsidy several decades ago to buy 500 hectares of land. Then his father who marked the coffee history of Guji by creating the first private washing station. Aklilu and his brothers and sisters all worked there and for many years even worked to build roads worthy of the name to preserve the integrity of the cherries during their transport. Since then, Aklilu has followed the family's destiny and now manages several washing stations hand in hand with ... his son, Biniam. A family story we tell you! 

Hambela Dimtu is a natural Ethiopian coffee grown at 2100m altitudeby about 6500 small producers and composed of old and wild varieties, commonly called "Heirloom". The nature of the soils, of clay type, gives the grains specific characteristics, especially  a pronounced body . Dried naturally for 12 days, this coffee offers a powerful body, intense berry notes and a nice sweetness typical of so - called "natural" coffees. A treat for the taste buds in search of a coffee of character! 

Hambela Dimtu - Ethiopian Coffee, Guji

Fermentation Tables at Dimtu Station, Ethiopia - Trip 2018

Hambela Dimtu - Ethiopian Coffee, Guji

Cherries covered before dark - trip 2018
Cupping Or The Art Of Coffee Tasting

I cup, you cup, he cup. Okay, according to the Bescherelle it does not really combine. However, you are sure to have heard that in the mouth of a good coffee buddy. But what is a cupping?

Under this sexy anglicism hiding is actually the main method of tasting coffees. Responding to a precise and detailed protocol by the Specialty Coffee Association, an association that promotes specialty coffee in the world, cupping is the essential way for green coffee buyers and roasters to evaluate with the utmost precision the quality and aromatic profile of a coffee. Each coffee has its own identity which is the result of a multitude of factors: variety, region, altitude, climate, nature of the soil, fermentation method, roasting profile ect. Composed of several stages, the cupping allows to discover the personality of a coffee, both its olfactory properties that taste. But if the cupping seems to be something reserved for the pros, it is not the case: this practice is accessible to all and is even a great way to work your palate and discover the great aromatic diversity that exists between coffees.

Cupping is an art, or almost. To discover and appreciate a coffee at its fair value, it is necessary to respect some basic rules. If you wish to make a cupping at home, you will need: a bowl of cupping or a glass of about 20cl, a cupping spoon (4-5ml) or a round spoon, d a scale, a mill and a chronometer. 
Let's go :

  • First, roughly mold 12g of coffee in a cupping bowl or a glass
  • Smell the freshly ground coffee: this stage is called the "  dry nose  ". It helps to identify the aromas that emerge from coffee and must be carried out immediately because of the volatility of the aromas. You can lightly tap the cup if you wish. What do you feel? Floral, herbaceous or rather spicy notes? Note everything, there is no wrong answer. It can even be memories, like a Proust madeleine.
  • Pour 94 degrees water over the entire grind and up to the edge of the bowl or glass. A crust will then form on the surface. This is normal, and forget your aversion to the word "crust", we will use it more than once in this article.
  • Let infuse 4 minutes .
  • Once 4 minutes have elapsed, break the crust with the back of the spoon by "pushing" it three times towards the bottom of the bowl or glass and place your nose just above to inspire the gases released by the grind.
  • Part of the crust will then fall to the bottom of the bowl, remove the moss and excess grind remained on the surface and smell again: this is the stage of the "  wet nose  ". Which flavors do you identify? The same as during the dry stage or new ones?
  • Now wait 6 to 8 minutes for the coffee to cool down and "open": too hot, you will not be able to detect its aromatic profile again (and you could burn your tongue with the name!)
  • After this moment of patience, the tasting can then start: fill your coffee spoon and suck it strongly in order to diffuse aromatic molecules throughout the palate and taste buds. To avoid an excess of caffeine, do not hesitate to spit in a cup, or so on the ground but we advise you, you could slip.
  • Make at least 3 passes to "cupper" at different temperatures (a few minutes of patience between each pass is enough). Cafes often reveal new facets of their personality when they warm up and some may even be very nice when they are almost cold. You can now compare your feelings with dry nose, wet nose and tasting. Do not worry if you do not always find a match, there are not always. Coffee remains a living product that can sometimes be full of surprises.

We just saw the methodology pure and hard to achieve a cupping but all that does not tell us how to really meet the coffee that comes to us, discover it, describe it, analyze it briefly, know it. Coffee is a rich and complex product offering over 800 different aromatic compounds. Here is a short guide to learn how to describe your coffee during a cupping.

The aromas
The aromas are the perfumes identified with dry nose and wet nose. They are derived from terms of everyday life such as fruits, flowers, food and so on. The Specialty Coffee Association and World Coffee Research also updated in 2016 a rich tool of qualifiers to describe the aromas and flavors of coffee: the Coffee Tasters Flavor Wheel , called in French the "wheel of flavors", iconic resource and recognized in the world of coffee. 

Cupping Or The Art Of Coffee Tasting

The flavours
Once the aromas are determined, one can begin to taste and identify the flavors present in the coffee. We also speak of "flavor", namely the synergy between the aromas and flavors of coffee. The idea here is to measure the levels of acidity , bitterness and sweetness and to associate them with concrete terms. It is also the harmonious combination of these three flavors that contributes to obtaining a balanced cup . This balance depends on the types of coffee (regions, nature of the soil ...) but also methods of treatment (washed, nature, honey) and roasting selected. The acidityis often associated with the term "bright" and contributes to the vitality, sweetness and fresh fruit notes of a coffee. 

One can for example find notes of citrus, apple or red fruits referring to a positive acidity which gives all its character to the coffee in question, without it taking precedence over the rest and turns to the sour. Bitterness is also positive when it refers to notes of cocoa or grapefruit, for example. As for the sweetness , it is for example characteristic of so-called natural coffees (but not that), offering notes of sweet and matured fruits typical of this method of fermentation. Again, the wheel of flavors is useful to put in words what you detect in a cup.

The body
The body refers to the tactile sensation in the mouth, the texture that the coffee leaves on the palate and on the tongue. Is it a rather creamy, viscous, light, syrupy texture? Are you facing a juicy coffee, with a texture close to that of a tea? Or, on the contrary, in front of a silky coffee, with a velvety and generous body? For example, a Sumatra coffee will usually offer a thick texture, a certain consistency when an Ethiopian coffee will rather leave a feeling of lightness in the mouth. 

The final
This term refers to the persistence of coffee in the mouth, the after taste that remains on the palate and tongue once the coffee swallowed (or spit). Indeed, the coffee remains on the taste buds with the oils it contains and depending on the coffee, the final can be powerful as delicate, lasting many minutes as disappear almost instantly.

The Specialty Coffee Association has developed an evaluation grid to determine if a specialty coffee can be said. Evaluated first visually according to different criteria, importers of green coffees and Q graders then evaluate the taste qualities of coffees through cupping.

Cupping Or The Art Of Coffee Tasting

The rating system is as follows:
  • 90-100: Outstanding - Specialty
  • 85-89.99: Excellent - Specialty
  • 80-84.99: Very good - Specialty
  • <80.0: Below Specialty Quality - Not Specialty

At Belleville, for example, we only buy coffee rated at least 84/100. That being said, if ratings remain quality indicators, do not be overly concerned about them. Because what really matters is the pleasure you will feel when you sip your mug of good sock juice. 

David Flores - Coffee Of Peru, San Ignacio

The value does not wait for the number of years. This quotation from Corneille could as well concern David Flores, promising young farmer of the province of San Ignacio in Peru (extreme north of the region of Cajamarca). David is part of a group of 11 producers aged 17 to 23, all passionate about each other. This new generation, from the hamlet of Diamante, is the first to revolutionize the practices that have prevailed so far and pursue only one goal: the constant search for quality, at all levels of production.

David Flores - Coffee Of Peru, San Ignacio

Coffee has never stopped being part of David's life since his family moved out of the city of Cutervo in the 1970s to buy land near San Jose de Lourdes. But unlike previous generations, David and other producers of his age are the first to favor quality and long-term relationships, always seeking to improve their practices by participating in many workshops and investing in more qualitative structures (vats fermentation, drying beds, adapted warehouses etc.)

David Flores - Coffee Of Peru, San Ignacio

David's farm,  located at 1750m above sea level, is called El Morito and extends over two hectares. David cultivates the varieties Caturra and Bourbon and makes a point of honor to use practices respectful of the environment. It uses no pesticides but instead of compost that acts as a natural fertilizer. He implements water management techniques and seeks to maintain a diversity of fauna and flora on his land: shade trees such as inga (on which a fruit called guaba grows) rub shoulders with cedars and tangerines and it is not uncommon to see a monkey wander among the coffee trees. In 2018, he obtains the organic label but does not particularly seek to communicate on it, the quality of his coffee expressing itself for him.

This yellow caturra from the 2018/2019 harvest smells like bilberry on the nose. In cup, this coffee is both juicy and rounder while cooling, offering notes of licorice, molasses and dried apricots.

David Flores - Coffee Of Peru, San Ignacio

David Flores - Coffee Of Peru, San Ignacio

David Flores - Coffee Of Peru, San Ignacio

We are therefore pleased to introduce David's coffee for the first time as a result of the collaboration between our importer Collaborative Coffee Source and Origin Coffee Lab (OCL). Founded in 2017 in Jaen in Peru by Alex Julca and José Rivera, OCL accompanies producers in the Cajamarca region who want to focus their work on quality. The result ? Delicious coffees paid at premium prices, ie above market prices (35% on average, and up to double for the top rated micro-lots). For a long time, the purchase of coffee and transparency have not been paired in Peru but thanks to the work of passionate professionals such as the OCL team, Peruvian specialty coffees can finally find their market, and this for our greatest pleasure!

David Flores - Coffee Of Peru, San Ignacio

David Coffee Origin Coffee + Drying Coffee Beans