What is Honey Processed Coffee?

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Production Insights

In coffee production, the soil, location and climate of the regions in which our coffee is grown determine its taste. But what happens to the coffee immediately after harvesting plays an equally important role when it comes to aroma. And this is where the honey processing method stands out.

Kaffeekirschen am Strauch

We started working with the Asprovega and Asproaurora coffee cooperatives in Colombia at the end of 2021. The members of these cooperatives use a new processing method to produce their coffee known as honey processed.

Until recently, the dry process and washed process have been the dominant processing methods used in coffee production. The honey process combines elements of both techniques to create new aromas and subtle differences in flavour. And compared to washed coffee, this method also requires less water And compared to washed coffee.

Dry processed coffee

Dry processed coffee is made by leaving the harvested and sorted coffee cherries to dry in the sun. In other words, the beans are still completely encased in the fruit. During the drying process, this fruit will undergo a transformation similar to that of a grape turning into a raisin. This can take up to 4 weeks. During this time, the fruit naturally begins to ferment. Complex flavours and sugars then develop, ultimately imparting our coffee with fruity notes reminiscent of berries or citrus. Since this is the traditional processing method, these coffees are also known as natural coffees or naturally processed coffees.

Washed coffee

To produce washed coffee, the pulp is completely removed from the coffee cherries after sorting. This process is also known as pulping and is usually done by machine. After pulping, the beans are washed and then placed into fermentation tanks for between 12 and 72 hours. Once the fermentation process is complete, the beans are washed again to remove any remaining pulp. Finally, the beans are left to dry in the sun for 8 to 10 days. Today, this is the mostly widely used processing method.

Honey processed

To make honey processed coffee, the pulp is removed from the coffee cherries after sorting, just as it would be for washed coffee. However, the key difference is that the beans are not washed after pulping. Instead, they go straight to the drying and fermenting stage. As a result, there are still traces of fruit pulp attached to the beans. This residue has a consistency similar to that of honey, lending this processing method its name.

It's also this sticky layer of residual fruit that lends the finished coffee its flavour profile. Similar to dry processed coffee, complex flavours will develop during the fermentation process, resulting in intense fruity notes. Since the beans are not washed before or after fermentation, this processing method doesn't use a lot of water. As with dry processing, water is only used to sort damaged or unripe coffee cherries and to remove dirt from the fruits.

Yellow, red and black honey processing

Honey processing can be further broken down into three categories: yellow, red and black.

Yellow refers to the quickest processing method. Once the beans have been sorted and pulped, they are immediately placed in the sun to ferment and dry. After around 8 days, the beans turn light yellow and have achieved their ideal moisture content of 12.5 per cent.

For red honey coffee, the beans are dried on cloudy days. This prolongs the fermentation process, and the residual fruit turns red due to the extended period of oxidation.

To make black honey processed coffee, producers try to leave as much fruit residue on the beans as possible. The beans are then dried on racks covered with dark or black tarpaulins. This prolongs the fermentation and drying process, the fruit residue turns black, and the beans develop a more intense fruity aroma.

Generally speaking, the longer the drying process takes, the more the beans ferment and the more pronounced the coffee's fruity aromas will ultimately be.

Honey processed coffee at gebana

We source our coffee from the Asprovega and Asproaurora cooperatives in Colombia. The members of this small cooperative produce their coffee in harmony with nature, but they have no official organic certification. The 9 producers argue that certification is too expensive and doesn't add any value to the product. We believe that this very much depends on context. Certification is valuable to us when we're not able to work together on the basis of trust, like when we don't have any direct contact with the producers.

Asprovega and Asproaurora have chosen the honey processing method as it requires less water. The cooperatives process their coffee at a central location – the farm of one of their members. They create jobs for around 25 seasonal workers. Most of the workers are women and each processing step is carried out by hand.

Asprovega and Asproaurora supply us with yellow honey coffee. Depending on the weather, the beans ferment for between 12 to 18 hours, drying in direct sunlight. Once the beans arrive in Switzerland, they're sent to the Rast Kaffee roastery where they are roasted to create a cafe creme that produces a thick, dark crema reminiscent of caramel. On the nose, a nutty fragrance unfolds with just a hint of marzipan; on the tongue, it conveys a gentle bitterness with pronounced berry aromas. On the palate, it delivers full-bodied flavour with lingering fruity notes.

The beans are also suitable for making espresso. However, this will intensify the fruity notes, resulting in a coffee with prominent acidity that still blends well with the bitterness. An espresso made from these beans has a fairly light crema.

Honey processed coffee is available in our online shop in 500-gram packs. For the time being, the coffee is only available as whole beans.


https://beans.at/en/kaffeewissen/kaffeeernte-kaffeeverarbeitung/trockene-aufbereitung-kaffee (accessed on 22 March 2022)

https://bigislandcoffeeroasters.com/blogs/blog/what-is-a-honey-processed-coffee (accessed on 22 March 2022)

https://www.kaffee-partner.de/de/magazin/lesen/was-ist-honey-processed-kaffee (accessed on 22 March 2022)

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