A word about naturals

Natural process coffee in Honduras

We’ve been talking a lot about natural process coffees on these pages, but not everyone reading our blogs may know quite what the ruckus is about. Isn’t coffee coffee, and all of it delicious? Yes and no. And maybe.

So-called “Naturals” have a bad rap in coffee. But first, what is a “natural”? Coffee starts as the seed of a fruit. Before it can be roasted, it must be processed. There are two major ways to process coffee. The first is washed process, wherein coffee is picked, the skin of the fruit removed, a natural fermentation happens, the remaining sugars are removed and the coffee is dried. The other is natural or dry process. The coffee is picked and dried (often on big concrete patios). Natural process is by far the simplest procedure, pick and dry.

Naturals are notorious for being inconsistent and/or over-fermented. Because of this, often, natural process coffees are discarded as low quality simply because they are naturals. But several years ago some people in distant corners of the globe started to use the natural process with incredible dedication and attention to how the coffee was dried and managed.

Nowadays there are fantastic naturals, but there is no grading system for this particular kind of coffee, and therefore no separation of these “super naturals” from the low quality naturals that have always existed. The biggest challenge with natural process is control. Each bean is its own universe. When processed correctly, they can produce sweeter and more complex coffee than washed. Who doesn’t want rich, sweet complex coffee?
We don’t know either.