The natural processed method of producing coffee is the first way in which farmers have removed the beans that make our favorite beverage from their cherries.
How to Get to the Bean
400 years ago when coffee was discovered and started being consumed as an energizing beverage there was no machinery that could easily remove the pulp of coffee seeds right after harvest. In order to get to the beans one had to find a way to make them easier to pulp. One method is to allow the coffee cherries to dry on the branches and collect them as needed or when they reach that important 11% moisture. More on that later.
Nonetheless coffee farmers needed a method that would not only speed up the process but make it possible to control the variables such as sunlight and airflow to get a consistent outcome. And so farmers developed a way to dry their beans out in the open sunlight.
Keeping Nature at Bay
Although it sounds simple enough, there are risks to the natural processed method as mold and other harmful microorganisms can fester in the cherries. Farmers need to strike a delicate balance. They need to allow fermentation by useful bacteria and yeast to happen while preventing an infestation by harmful ones. To prevent this farmers spread the beans out until there are only about 2 or 3 beans stacked at any one place, on raised beds, patios or drying tables. The beans are also raked periodically to circulate the air and ensure the drying is even. In areas where there is frequent rainfall farmers even have to cover the beans so they are not exposed to the weather.
Once the cherries reach 11% moisture content they become inhospitable to microorganisms and they are ready to be sent to mills to have their hulls removed. At this dryness the husks around the coffee beans can be removed by manual shaking with sieves or modern powered machines.
The sun dried process leaves the bean with a “pulpy” taste that can be described as boozy or fermented. As for the body, natural processed coffee is heavier or syrupy.