When it comes to specialty coffees, honey process coffee is an interesting method of processing the beans that produces a unique and flavourful cup. However, despite the process becoming increasingly common among specialty roasters, knowledge about its effects on coffee flavour remains surprisingly limited.
In this blog post, we’ll explore the concept of honey-processing and examine how this unique approach affects flavour and body compared to other processing methods.
What is honey processed coffee?
Honey processing is a technique that has been used in Latin America for decades, but it has only recently become popular among specialty coffee producers around the world. The process borrows elements from both wet and dry processing in order to produce a unique cup of coffee with its own set of characteristics.
Rather than removing all of the mucilage (the sticky layer of fruit surrounding the seed of the coffee cherry) as you would in dry processing, the honey process leaves some or all of it on during the drying stage. This gives the beans more body and sweetness, as well as a unique flavour profile.
Honey process coffee taste
Honey process coffee is characterised by a unique flavour that results from both the fruits of the coffee cherry and the fermentation process. The sweetness and body of honey-processed coffee beans are more intense compared to regular washed or natural coffees, and contain fruity and floral notes that are not always present in other processing methods.
The different shades of honey process coffee
The amount of mucilage that is left on for drying can range from completely dry (where all of the mucilage has been removed) to fully honey processed (where all of the mucilage remains).
Depending on how much mucilage remains, the coffee can be classified as white honey, yellow honey, red honey, or black honey. The colour of the beans increases as more mucilage is left on, and each shade results in a different flavour profile.
- White honey: 80-90% of the mucilage removed
- Yellow honey: 50-75% of the mucilage removed
- Red honey: 0-50% percent of the mucilage removed
- Black honey: minimum mucilage removed
White honey process coffees have the lightest body and cleanest cup flavour, while black honey process coffees are fuller-bodied with intense sweetness and fruity notes.
The process of turning coffee cherry into honey processed beans
The process of turning coffee cherries into honey processed coffee beans is a crucial step in delivering a truly unique and delicious product. This method involves a careful balance of pulping and drying, resulting in a flavour profile that is sweet and fruity.
During the pulping stage, the outer layer of the coffee cherry is removed, leaving behind a sticky substance known as mucilage. Leaving some of this mucilage intact during the drying process allows for fermentation to occur, which can greatly enhance the flavours present in the final product.
Constant turning and raking is necessary to avoid any over fermentation or rot as moisture is brought down to the optimal 10-12%. The coffee beans at this point typically look like candied nuts - hence the name honey process. The coffee is then stored until it is ready for hulling and distribution, at which point the honey process is complete.
The benefits of honey process coffee
Honey processed coffee is an increasingly popular option for specialty roasters and consumers alike. The unique flavour profiles that result from this method have made it an interesting choice, but the benefits of honey processing also extend to the environment.
The process eliminates the need for large amounts of water in the production of coffees, as there is no need to wash the coffee beans in water and more mucilage is left intact. This not only reduces costs and labour for producers, but also has a positive effect on the environment.
What's more, honey processed coffee also offers farmers greater control over the flavours of their coffee and more opportunities to experiment with processing techniques. This has allowed farmers to produce unique coffees that may not have been possible with other methods.
Honey process coffee is a unique way of processing that offers a range of benefits for farmers and consumers alike. It results in a cup with more body, sweetness and intense fruity flavours, as well as being better for the environment. The amount of mucilage left on during drying can vary greatly, resulting in different shades of coffee with their own unique flavour profiles.
With its increasing popularity, honey process coffee is sure to become a staple of specialty roasting for years to come!
Try honey process coffee today
Here at Rave Coffee, we offer our Costa Rica Hermosa No.65 - coffee that has been honey processed to allow 70% of the coffee cherry pulp to be left intact with the seed during the drying process. The result is a cup of coffee with a heightened natural sweetness, making it a perfect choice for all-day drinking and versatility.