Have you ever bought a package of Red Honey coffee and wondered what we mean when we talk about honey or semi-washed coffee? Is it better than the natural process of coffee you bought last week?
Why is it called honey?
The three popular methods for processing coffee worldwide are: natural, washed and honey. Natural process coffees are dried with a cherry before threshing. Washed (or wet) coffees are pulped and then fermented to remove the mesocarp (also known as mucilage) before drying and threshing. The honey process is the bridge between wet and natural coffee. The cherry is pulped and then dried even with the layer of mucilage left on the parchment.
But wait. Where’s the honey?
The title “honey process “makes many people think that honey is used during the coffee processor that the taste of coffee has flavor notes similar to honey, but in reality, none of this is true. This process gets its name from the sticky feeling of the grain before drying, as well as the honey. After the grain is separated from the cherry, it is left covered with the mucilage layer, which, when dried, continues to absorb moisture from the air and becomes sticky.
Why is the Honey process popular with producers?
The Honey process originally became popular in Costa Rica, where they adopted it after seeing consistent improvements in grain quality since then its popularity has expanded.
But, why did Costa Rican producers decide to try the honey process? Well, a producer who wants to improve the quality (and consequently the price) of his coffee have only three options: he can change the type of variety he grows, change the land, or change the processing method. And like most of you who would change the grinding and dose of your mill before making volumetric, pressure, or machine temperature adjustments, most producers prefer to experiment with processes before going to extremes to move their farm or invest in a new varietal that may require years to be productive.
Honey process: A long and delicate work
It is not easy to produce honey coffees since it takes a long time and you must be very careful. So what does producing this type of coffee entail?
The first thing growers should do is collect the most mature cherries from the trees. The grains are then pulped, as mentioned above, and the mucilage layer is left behind.
You must take the time correctly, and it is important that you do not dry the beans too quickly. If you do, the flavors will not go from mucilage to grain. It is also important that you do not dry the beans too slowly, you must be fast enough to avoid the fermentation of the beans; otherwise, you will end up with a moldy coffee.
So how do you get to this balance? Well, once the coffee is put on drying beds or on concrete sheets, the beans should be moved or shaken several times every hour until they reach the desired humidity percentage. It’s extensive, right? Sun-dried honey coffee takes this time because each night the beans collect moisture from the air, requiring more drying time the next day.