Comparison: Dry Process vs Wet Process Coffee
To select unique and remarkable coffee, and match it to your own, individual palate, it is important to understand the difference between "wet" and "dry" process beans. This can be viewed as a first fork in a flavor tree, or maybe as two circles of a flavor venn diagram (with blends or "honey process" being in the center). This break in coffee variety takes place after coffee cherries are harvested, when the coffee beans (cherry pits) are ready to be "processed" from the cherries. Most of us are probably more familiar with "wet" or "washed" process coffee. The coffee has this name because the coffee fruit is literally "washed" off of the coffee bean before it is set to dry. Wet process coffee, to me, tends to be more full-bodied, nutty, and is more likely to have strong herbal and citrus notes. In contrast, "dry" or "natural" process coffee, is somewhat of a different genre. Dry process coffee gets its name from the fact that the coffee cherry is left to dry, prior to removing the fruit and pulp from the coffee bean. The length of time which the fruit remains on the bean varies, depending on the crop, and has drastic effect on flavor. Dry process coffee, to me, tends to be very fruity. It can have notes of flavors such as jam, chocolate, and red wine. There is also a third method, known as "honey" process. This is (arguably) an "in-between" of the dry and wet processes, as the outer-most layer of the coffee cherry is removed, but much of the fruit mucilage is left on the bean to set, before being removed at a later time. Honey process coffee, to me, tends to be a more subtle bean, but is fully capable of many of the same notes as wet and dry process beans. These, of course, are not hard and fast rules. Farming practices, regionality, storage, age, the roast process, and many other details attribute to the nuanced flavors of an exceptional cup of coffee. However, knowing these differences can be a great starting point for pinpointing the origins and processes that you love in your cup.
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