Semi washed coffee, also known as honey processed coffee, is a coffee product made from the honey or wet-hull method which produces coffee beans with a yellow color like honey.
- 1 Semi washed coffee general information
- 2 Semi washed coffee origin
- 3 Semi washed coffee classification
- 4 Pros and cons of semi washed coffee processing
- 5 Differences among dry, washed vs semi washed coffee process
- 6 Conclusion
Semi washed coffee general information
Semi washed coffee is a coffee product made from the honey or wet-hull method.
- In this technique, the outer skin is removed by machines, much like washed coffee, but the mucilage (inner-mesocarp) is left on the parchment and sun-dried to be fermented. The parchment is then removed.
- The second drying step begins with the inflated white beans. The coffee turns dark green at 10% – 12% moisture content, resembling semi washed coffee. Depending on the duration of the drying process, it will produce the corresponding colors from yellow, red, and black. This processing technique, which is typical in Brazilian, Indonesian, and Vietnamese coffees, boosts the body and intensity of the coffee.
- The phrase “honey processing” leads many people to assume that the honey used to make coffee or the coffee itself tastes like honey – but in reality, that is not the case. This process as well as the coffee gets its name from the sticky, honey-like feel of the coffee beans before being dried. When the coffee bean is separated from the rind, it will be covered by mucilage that, when dried, will continue to reabsorb moisture from the air and become sticky.
Semi washed coffee origin
It is almost impossible to find a uniform name for this coffee as well as the processing method. It is sometimes known by the trade names semi-dry, semi-washed, or hybrid coffee, and each region (as well as each period) in which this technique is used has a different name.
- Early 1950s to 1980s
The Institute of Agronomy Campinas (IAC) in Brazil was the first to experiment with semi washed coffee processing, which is called the pulped natural technique, in the early 1950s. It wasn’t until the 1980s that a few farmers in southern Minas Gerais implemented it on a commercial scale for the first time with positive quality impacts.
This led to widespread adoption after Pinhalense, a well-known industrial equipment company, developed milling machines, installed pilot plants in various Brazilian production regions, and introduced new products for domestic and foreign roasteries. The first products from semi washed coffee processing in Brazil were called “Cereja Descascado” or CD.
- Late 1980s to 1990s
After a slow start in Brazil in the late 1980s, the new natural process began to be widely used by roasteries in the 1990s. While the wet processing system was originally developed to deal with quality problems, it is also used, on the other hand, to exploit more distinctive flavors and qualities.
And so it was extended from Brazil to other regions such as Central America, where it is known as honey process coffee, and dried for a longer time with higher humidity, resulting in a richer flavor and a richer taste.
Semi washed coffee classification
Semi washed coffee technique is a method that requires control over the fermentation process as well as elaborate levels of processing. Therefore, coffee processed by the honey method has a relatively high price. Even the price will increase according to the color of the coffee beans.
The yellow color indicates coffee beans are most exposed to light. More light means more heat; thus, this color coffee usually takes about a week to reach the standard 10% – 12% moisture content. Moreover, drying time always depends on weather conditions, temperature, and humidity.
Red Honey is usually be dried for two to three weeks and is offered for sale outside, specifically in the shade. If it is sunny, farmworkers will have to cover the dried coffee for a longer time to reduce exposure.
Black Honey is the longest drying process, at least two weeks, and is dried in a greenhouse to avoid direct sunlight. This is the most difficult to control fermentation and the most expensive coffee.
Pros and cons of semi washed coffee processing
The most obvious benefit of semi washed coffee processing is the improvement in the efficiency of the drying process, as well as the flavor properties through fermentation. On the other hand, this technique contains many risks during fermentation compared to wet processing.
Completely different from wet processing, which uses a large amount of water and pollutes the environment, the semi washed coffee process only takes a very small amount of water. That is a plus point in coffee processing for some places where water is extremely scarce. Not only that, but the semi washed coffee beans also produce a rich flavor that is highly appreciated. Especially, for coffee varieties with high flavor qualities such as Arabica, this method helps develop the maximum flavor in the bean.
With more mucilage on the seed, the chances of fermentation and spoilage are higher during drying. Therefore, semi washed coffee requires extreme control over the fermentation process and the price is also higher than that in dry processed or wet processed coffee.
Differences among dry, washed vs semi washed coffee process
Understanding a little about these procedures might help coffee lovers appreciate the differences in flavor and quality of the coffee. It can also help coffee drinkers in predicting, comparing, and critiquing how a cup of coffee could or should taste.
Dry process coffee
Dry processed coffee retains the most sugar, so the beans will have the richest flavor. However, the dry processed technique is only suitable for places with a lot of sunshine, difficult to mass-produce, and expensive if done right.
Washed process coffee
Sugars and amino acids are released from the mucilage layer through fermentation. This is responsible for the coffee’s delectable flavor. The amount of mucilage layer breakdown and the strength of the coffee taste depends on how long the fermentation process lasts.
Among the three coffee processing methods, this is the most popular and often produces high-quality coffee. However, it requires a great deal of skill and water in order to process successfully. This method produces some of the world’s best (and frequently most costly) coffees.
Semi washed process coffee
The semi washed technique is precisely how it sounds. This is a more recent hybrid process that incorporates elements of both washed and unwashed processes. Therefore, the flavor of semi washed coffee is more distinctive than that in wet processed coffee but not as good as dry processed one. This coffee processing is suitable for areas with little sunlight. However, the price is usually more expensive than the two other coffee types and it is easily fermented during storage.