From Bean to Brew: Comparing Washed vs Natural Coffee

Coffee lovers tend to try to learn about the coffee, such as regions, flavor, and processing methods. If you are researching the subject, you may also wonder about washed vs. natural coffee. What are the differences?

Generally washed vs natural coffee differs in processing method, with raw coffee cherries drying first before being de-pulped. This happens on the reverse with washed coffee. As a result, washed and natural coffee may differ in flavor, consistency, and resources required to process the beans.

In this article, let’s explore the differences between washed and natural coffee. We will also discuss whether washed or natural coffee is better. 

How Different Are Washed And Natural Coffee?

Washed and natural coffee differ in how they are processed and the regions where they are commonly applied. They also differ in flavor, taste consistency, and the resources needed to conduct the processing. As a result, they produce a rather different flavor profile.

AspectsWashed CoffeeNatural Coffee
ProcessingDepulping before dryingDrying before de-pulping
RegionsUsed worldwideWorldwide, but more popular in Brazil and Ethiopia
FlavorHighlights Natural FlavorMore Complex Flavor
ConsistencyAcidic, Consistent TasteMore Surprises In Taste, may Be Fruity and Berry
Resource UseHighLower

Processing

The biggest difference between washed and natural coffee is how they are processed. Processing is basically the process of fresh coffee cherries transforming into dried coffee beans, ready for roasting. 

Natural Processing: Natural processing may also be called dry processing. Fresh coffee cherries are first placed in a water tank with natural processing to remove under-ripe and over-ripe ones. Then the cherries are placed in a flat, raised bed to dry under the sun. 

Workers may turn the beans over to ensure even drying. It may take up to six weeks to complete the process. Once done, the cherries are de-pulped, removing the peel, mucilage, and parchment, keeping only the beans. 

Washed Processing: Washed processing may also be called wet processing. The process starts by placing coffee cherries in a tank full of water to remove under-ripe and over-ripe cherries. 

The remaining cherries undergo several processes where the peel, mucilage, parchment, or other parts are removed. The remaining beans are then sent into a fermentation tank for 72 hours. The beans are then taken out to dry. 

Resource Use

Washed processing is more resource-intensive, often requiring machinery. This means washed processing also uses much more electricity and water since water is needed to wash the beans and ferment them. You also need expert workers to operate the machinery as well.

This is compared to natural processing, where little water, machinery, or electricity is needed. The processing is, however, much more human-intensive, requiring human labor to dry and de-pulp the cherries.

Regions

As a result, you may see natural processing methods more prevalent in coffee farming regions that do not have much energy or water. Natural processing is particularly popular in Brazil and Ethiopia, where water is less available, and labor costs are rather cheap.

Washed processing is more applied worldwide, especially in larger coffee plantations where more consistent product quality and supply are needed.

Flavor

There is a reason why both washed and natural processing remains in the coffee industry. They produce very different coffee flavors, which may appeal to different sets of drinkers. 

Natural processing tends to produce coffee with a more complex flavor. Drinkers often love its fruity, berry taste and slight sweetness. This is because, during the drying process, the beans have more time to break down the sugars and other materials in the coffee cherry.

This is contrasted with washed processing. It tends to produce a more acidic flavor that accentuates the actual flavor of the coffee bean itself. This is because it ferments independently, without additional input from the other parts of the coffee cherry. This may be preferred by people who find their coffee’s fruity, berry taste a turn-off. 

Consistency

When it comes to flavor consistency, washed coffee tends to perform much better than natural processing. This is because there are simply fewer factors influencing the fermentation process in washed beans compared to natural beans. 

Drying and fermenting in natural processing may be influenced by coffee cherry, which may affect how the final coffee tastes. This factor is removed in washed processing since the beans ferment without the cherry.

As a result, larger coffee houses tend to prefer washed coffee since they can roast and produce larger batches of coffee that have a consistent taste. Smaller or artisan coffee houses may like naturally processed beans since they may give a more unique flavor profile to experiment with. 

Is Natural Coffee Better Than Washed Coffee?

Natural or washed coffee may be better for different people, depending on their tastes. This is because they produce coffee with a different taste profile, which may appeal to or be disliked by drinkers. 

You may encounter some coffee snobs preferring one type of coffee and then looking down on the other. You may also hear some coffee aficionados preaching about the evils of washed coffee since they are more resource intensive. 

However, in the end, the debate about whether natural vs washed coffee beans is better is down to you. Specifically, which do you prefer?

If you enjoy complex coffee with a fruity and berry taste, you are likely to enjoy natural coffee. Natural coffee also suits those who like to experiment with their coffee and enjoys being surprised by unique coffee tastes once in a while.

If you enjoy a more acidic and consistent taste in your coffee, you may enjoy washed coffee. Washed coffee is also easier to get since many major coffee houses sell washed beans. 

There may be other things that may decide whether natural or washed coffee is better. These are, however, not too important to too many coffee drinkers. 

If you are an eco-warrior, you may find washed processing a little wasteful of water and resources. This may mean you could be more inclined to pick natural coffee over washed coffee as the better option.

Some coffee purists may prefer to drink washed beans since they think they want to drink the coffee bean, not the cherries and other parts of the coffee. If you agree with their thoughts, then you may enjoy washed coffee more. 

Final Thoughts

Washed and natural coffees differ in the way they are processed which affects the taste and flavor of each type. Knowing the differences between these two types of coffee can help you find the best coffee for your taste preferences.

Washed coffees generally have a cleaner and brighter flavor profile while natural coffees can be more fruity and sweet. 

Whether you’re a fan of washed or natural coffees, exploring the nuances of each is part of the enjoyable journey of becoming a coffee connoisseur.

If you are looking for the best organic coffee beans, we have taste-tested different beans from different companies.

Similar Posts