Coffee Roasts

Coffee: Washed vs. Natural Process

A few months back we posted a blog about how roast levels affect the flavor experienced in the cup. We put a lot of energy into our craft of roasting at Backyard Beans, seeking to always pull out the best in every coffee we offer. Roast, however, is only one aspect that can alter the flavor profile in coffee. If we aren’t starting with high quality, specialty grade green coffee then we can’t magically make it taste great with the perfect roast.

What we want to highlight this month is how the processing method affects flavor. 

The coffee bean is encased in many layers: silver skin, parchment, pectin, pulp, and outer skin. There are three primary methods to process the coffee and extract the bean: washed/wet-process, natural/dry-process, and pulp natural. Some Indonesian coffee’s employ a separate method, wet-hulled, but that is for another day. We want to focus in on natural vs. washed. 

We have in our shop (online and in-store) a great example of how natural vs. washed affects flavor. We have a natural and a washed coffee from the same family run farm, Buenos Aires in El Salvador. 

Dry processed (naturals) coffees are dried in the full cherry prior to de-pulping. Wet processed (washed) coffees are dried without the cherry. Washed coffee’s are de-pulped then fermented to promote the separation of any remaining tissues from the bean and parchment, then washed clean prior to drying. 

Naturals tend to have more fruit and fermented flavors because the bean has more time to interact with the natural sugars from the cherry as enzymes break down the mucilage around the bean. If producers don’t carefully dry naturals, turning them often and removing over-ripes then funky flavors will emerge in the roasted coffee. The Buenos Aires natural has intense aromas that remind us of fruity pebbles when it is ground. The cup has a nice big body with notes of honey and strawberry. 

Washed coffee’s are prized for their clarity and vibrant notes. Removing all of the cherry prior to drying allows the intrinsic flavors of the bean to shine without anything holding them back. Fruit notes are still found in washed coffees, however, fermented notes and berry notes are less common. The Buenos Aires Kenya style washed has notes of mixed nut trail mix, ripe cherries and chocolate. Kenya style washed is in reference to fermenting and washing the coffee twice to promote increased clarity and cleanliness. 

It’s exciting for us to have these two delicious coffees on our menu for a limited time. The unique flavor experience is made possible thanks to the collaboration between renowned coffee producer Aida Batlle and the J. Hill family who own Buenos Aires. For a limited time only, we're taking $4 off a limited edition two pack, while supplies last.