Washed coffee (Sometimes referred to as wet coffee) is a process which does not impact the taste of the coffee, as both the cherry and mucilage around the coffee are removed rather quickly after harvest. As a result washed coffee's are often referred to as more 'clean'.
The process of washed coffee begins with a ripe bean harvest. The beans are usually sorted immediately after harvest whereby farmers will immerse them in large water basins. When the coffee cherry sinks, it is rip and free of any defects. Likewise , if the coffee cherry floats, the bean inside of it is not ripe, or there is a defect present in the bean. The floating beans are immediately sifted away to ensure a consistent bean quality and taste.
The coffee cherries are then removed from the water bath and the seed is squeezed out of its shell, or de-pulped. This usually happens very quickly after the harvest (between 8-12) to ensure that the beans do not begin to ferment inside of the cherry.
The next process is fermentation. After de-pulping , there is still a sticky and tacky membrane layer surrounding the coffee bean known as the mucilage. This layer must be removed in order to expose the underlying bean. If the mucilage layer is not removed, the quality and taste of the coffee changes dramatically when roasting. The beans are usually left in an open pit overnight to naturally ferment (Where the mucilage breaks down).
After a brief fermentation period, the farmers will now wash the coffee beans, in order to ensure that all the excess mucilage is washed off of the bean. They do this by filling the bean pits full of water and thoroughly washing them, constantly agitating the coffee with a stick or by hand. The water is then drained and the process is repeated until the farmer is happy with the standard of coffee bean.
The beans are then transferred over to raised or flat beds , where they will be left to naturally dry until the moisture content is around 10-12%. Once this moisture content is successfully reached the beans are packaged and sent for shipping and roasting.
Check out this awesome video on Washed processing below :
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