Once the fruit has been harvested, the coffee needs to be processed immediately to ensure freshness and prevent any potential spoiling. Coffee is processed differently all over the world, with each origin having unique methods that have become common practice over the years. As the world of Specialty Coffee grows, we are seeing more experimentation as knowledge and techniques are spread and applied across different continents.
Each coffee fruit is made up of four main layers, and processing refers to the careful removal of these different layers to isolate the seeds, more commonly referred to as the bean. There are several ways to go about this, but they all require fermentation. The vital fermentation stage is where enzymes and bacteria break down the mucilage that coats the coffee bean. Fermentation can be controlled and manipulated to produce a wide spectrum of fruity and winey flavours – although it can also bring about unpleasant flavour defects and spoiling if done incorrectly.
There are always new and exciting things going on in the realm of processing – to provide just one example, a new machine the Becolsub, can remove mucilage from the beans without fermentation in less than 40 seconds per bean.