The Ultimate Coffee Glossary

Natural Process

In Coffee, what is a Natural Process?

Natural Process, also known as "dry process," is a method of processing coffee cherries where the whole fruit is dried in the sun without the use of water or machines to remove the fruit. This method is one of the oldest ways of processing coffee and is still used in many regions around the world, particularly in countries such as Ethiopia, Brazil, and Yemen.
The process begins with harvesting ripe coffee cherries from the tree. After harvesting, the cherries are sorted to remove any under-ripe or overripe fruit. The sorted cherries are then spread out on large tables or patios to dry in the sun. The cherries are turned regularly to ensure even drying and to prevent mould growth.
During the drying process, the coffee cherries lose moisture and the fruit begins to shrink, eventually exposing the green coffee bean inside. Once the cherries are dried, they are hulled to remove the dried fruit and reveal the green coffee beans. The green beans are then sorted and graded based on their size, shape, and quality.
Natural Processed coffees are known for their bold and fruity flavours with a heavier body and a distinct sweetness. The process can be risky as the cherries are exposed to the elements, and if not monitored properly, can develop undesirable flavours or mould. However, when executed correctly, natural processed coffees can be of exceptional quality and offer a unique taste profile.
In addition to the steps mentioned earlier, during the natural process, the coffee cherries are spread out on drying beds or patios in a single layer, and turned regularly to ensure even drying. This process can take anywhere from one to four weeks, depending on weather conditions and the desired moisture content. As the cherries dry, they shrink, and the outer skin and fruit of the cherry naturally separate from the coffee bean inside. Once the cherries have reached the desired moisture content, they are hulled to remove the dried outer layers and sorted by size and density to ensure uniformity.
The natural process tends to produce coffee with a heavier body and more fruit-forward, winey flavors, often with notes of berry, chocolate, and other sweet and complex flavors. However, because the coffee beans are in contact with the fruit during the drying process, there is also a greater risk of defects or spoilage, and natural process coffees may require more careful sorting and quality control measures. Additionally, the natural process can be more time-consuming and weather-dependent than other processing methods, and may not be feasible in areas with high humidity or rainfall. Despite these challenges, many coffee producers and roasters value the unique flavor profile of natural process coffee and continue to produce and enjoy it.
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