Honey Process: a sweet and tangy coffee

Jao Joel

Honey Process café coffee Brûlerie du Quai

On certain coffees from our Réserve Selecte collection or our Prestige collection , you can read the words “ Honey process ” in the “Processing” section.

What does this information consist of? This is the method chosen by growers and exporters to process their coffee cherries.

Read this article to learn about all the stages of this process which is the particularity of coffees processed using the Honey Process method.

Honey Process: both washed and natural

It is no longer rare these days to see coffee labeled Honey Process , which is the perfect mix between washed and natural coffee. It is often used in Central American countries. In this treatment, the mucilage is preserved hence the name Honey, since honey in Spanish means mucilage.

With the Honey Process , freshly picked cherries are sorted in a flotation tank (sometimes also by hand). Foreign bodies, waste and leaves are removed and discarded.

The ripe, healthy fruits are then pulped using a machine , taking care to remove the minimum of removing a specific percentage of the flesh. Once pulped, the coffee cherries are placed in the sun to dry : they are often spread out either on an African bed, on a patio or on a concrete slab. With larger amounts of pulp left on the fruit, there is a greater chance of defects once the grain is dried.

Once the cherry has been pulped, the remaining mucilage around the grain caramelizes: it takes on a more amber color. In addition to taking on this beautiful golden appearance, the grain absorbs the sugar contained in the mucilage . The Honey Process does not go through a fermentation stage: the dried grains are then stored for a month to complete the drying.

Also, what is mucilage? It is the small film that covers the coffee bean, once the pulp has been removed. This is where you find a lot of the natural sugars in coffee.

The Honey Process is halfway between the two Natural and Washed processes.

  • The Natural treatment begins with sorting by density (flotation tank) and then boils down to drying the selected cherries in the sun, before storing, winnowing and packaging them.
  • Coffee obtained by washed processing was sorted, pulped and fermented before being washed. After pulping, the fermentation stage serves to remove the remaining mucilage stuck to the grain. The coffee beans are then washed to completely remove all mucilage and dried in the sun.

Specificities and complexities of the Honey Process

Sometimes it is possible to find micro-lots with an indication of " red honey process ": there are in fact several possible variations. Why is coffee gold, red or black honey ? How to get white/yellow honey coffee?

Since the pulping machine can be set to remove a specific amount of mucilage, the difference between the Honey Process types mainly lies in the volume retained.

  • White and Yellow Honey : a lot of mucilage is removed
    Some farmers wash the coffee almost immediately after pulping, which creates confusion with another processing method called Semi-Washed Process.
  • Gold, Red and Black Honey : we retain a lot of mucilage

It should also be noted that the final result of the Honey Process varies depending on the humidity level of the terroir, the heat and the principle of oxidation. Particular care must be taken when drying in the sun to avoid any possible fermentation of the grains. To do this, growers must stir the grains regularly: they at the same time reduce the risk of mold.

  • Black Honey : lots of humidity, a longer and slower drying process, more or less shaded installation
  • Red and Gold: dried in a warm, low humidity climate (faster drying)

A particularity of the Honey Process is the fact that depending on the processing “recipes” (drying time, volume of mucilage, climate, etc.) the coffees are certain to have different and unique final tastes. If this mention is not specified, it is because sometimes the quantity of mucilage that the producer has decided to keep on the grain does not modify the final product and the mention Honey is sufficient.

But either way, a cup of Honey Process has plenty of body like natural coffees and has a milder sweet and acidic taste like washed coffees.

to find out more about the other two treatments

Find the coffees we offer with this process by clicking here: Honey Process

Good tasting !

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