What is wet processed coffee?

How Coffee Cherries Become Coffee Beans

Once coffee berries (or cherries) have been harvested, the outer portion of the fruit must be removed to produce the green coffee beans. There are two methods commonly used: wet processing and dry processing. Multi-step wet processing is more expensive, but it results in higher quality coffee. It is the method that is generally used in South America and parts of Africa. The slideshow below illustrates the process.

How Coffee is Wet Processed

• The cherries are first washed by feeding them through water channels that remove impurities and further sort the fruit as the unripe will sink to the bottom.

• The fruit is then fed through de-pulping machines that strip the flesh from the seeds.

• Next the beans are allowed to ferment for several days in water, a process that dissolves remaining traces of fruit pulp and the sticky coating that surrounds the beans. This step is also important to the final flavor of the beans.

• After fermentation, the beans are again washed. At this point in processing, the beans are commonly called parchment coffee because of a parchment husk that still covers the beans.

Drying, Sorting, and Grading Coffee

• Now the parchment coffee is dried. Traditionally, the coffee beans are spread out in the sun and turned several times a day to ensure that the beans dry evenly. The process can take as much as five or six days depending on weather conditions. Larger-scale cultivators now use drying machines that dry the beans in about a day.

• At this point, the golden beans, called pergamino, must be hulled, which is done by machine. Hulled, the beans are usually green in color, although some high quality varieties can produce blue beans.

• Finally, the beans are sorted and graded according to size and shape. Sorting is done by machine that mechanically separates the beans according to size. Afterwards, the beans are visually inspected by workers who separate them into grades. There are now some machines used for this process.

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