Dry Processing in the Coffee Industry

Coffee Cherries

September 17, 2016

This week, I’d like to focus on dry processing. While most of our coffees are washed, every now and then we will find a really nice dry or “naturally” processed coffee and bring it into the café. There are many different variations between natural and wet processed included all the honey processes and pulp-naturals. However, to keep things simple, I am focusing on the very basics of the natural, or dry, process.

Quick review: Last week, we focused on washed coffees. In the washed method, farmers remove the cherries from the coffee beans (or seeds) before they dry the beans in the sun.

What is Dry Processing?

CherriesDry Processing: In dry processing, farmers let the beans dry in the sun with the cherries still on. They are dried on a sun patio with a specific depth based on moisture. The beans are raked regularly to keep them from molding. They are then gathered up and stored in dry storage for several more weeks. They dry for up to four weeks and end up looking a bit like raisins. Once properly dried, the skin is removed  and the beans are ready to go to the dry mill. If farmers are very careful during dry processing, the result can be a sweet, fruity, complex coffee. If they are not careful, the coffee will be overly earthy and in some cases even rotten.

Dry processing requires a lot less money and equipment than wet processing, but it takes significantly more time and is weather-dependent. That is not to say that all naturally processed coffees are cheap. You can find good ones, but they come at a higher cost because more care goes into creating them.

dry processing

Naturally processed Ethiopian coffee.

Dry processing only works in dry climates. If there is too much moisture in the air, the cherries will just rot on the beans. Most of the dry coffees we’ve carried have come from Africa and specifically Ethiopia. Right now we have a spectacular coffee from the Banko co-op in Ethiopia. It is naturally processed and noticeably sweet and fruity. It is very consistent and clean as well, which indicates the high level of care that farmers put into tending it as it dried.

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