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What is Natural Process Coffee? The Delicious Facts

natural coffee process of robusta cherries dried in the sun

Learning that there are several ways to process coffee is a bit shocking for some people. Most of us think it’s all done the same. Luckily, that is not the case in the coffee world. If every bean that makes it to our cup were to be processed the same, there would be no flavors, varieties, or other options we love.

There are two main processes used when removing coffee seeds from the fruit, the natural process and the washed process. (Yes, in case you didn’t know, coffee beans are seeds that are found inside cherries that grow on the coffee trees.) Natural process coffee is a more traditional method where no machinery or water is used. For many, this is the preferred method. Let’s learn more about this process and why so many lean toward a more traditional way of drying coffee.

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How Does It Work?

Natural process coffee is often referred to as the more traditional method. This is the way coffee was processed long before machines came into play and often to aid farmers when access to clean water wasn’t readily available. Once the cherries are picked, they are then placed in water to float. After this, each cherry is carefully inspected so that under-ripe and overripe fruits can be removed. Coffee is then placed on raised beds, known as patios. These beds are used to allow air to flow around the entire fruit and help offer a more even drying process.

This drying process can take anywhere from 3 to 6 weeks. During this time, however, the coffee is turned or raked several times per day. This helps the cherries dry more evenly and even safeguards against the possibility of bruising which can change the eventual taste of the coffee. Once the fruits are completely dry, they are then sent out for hulling. This is where the seed is removed from the fruit. After hulling, the final step in the process is dry milling or removing the skin from the seed. When all of these processes are complete, the seeds are sent to roasters.

natural coffee process drying coffee cherries
Image Credit: MarcusVu, Pixabay

What Does Natural Process Coffee Taste Like?

Natural process coffee has a distinct flavor. Thanks to the act of leaving the coffee beans inside the cherries longer, most people note a very full-bodied , fruity flavor. You’ll also detect quite a bit of sweetness thanks to the infusion of the natural sugars found inside the cherries that are allowed to stay with the coffee beans longer.

When it comes to people’s taste buds, natural process coffee can be hit or miss. With so many people never tasting coffee processed in this way, they are often shocked by the sweetness and overly fruity flavors. It is difficult to determine what the exact flavors will be during this process. This gives those who are willing to sample a taste of natural processed coffee a unique experience with each cup.

If you want to try a delicious variety of naturally processed coffee, we recommend taking a look at Volcanica Coffee’s Natural Process collection. We were fortunate enough to try the Kenya Natural, and it was out-of-this-world tasty!

Volcanica Kenya Natural Processed Coffee

Where Is Natural Coffee Processing Used?

Being the more traditional method, natural process coffee has been around for quite some time. It originated in areas where coffee farmers had limited access to clean water. The washed process, the other method for processing coffee that many use nowadays, requires this access as well as machinery to complete. Natural process coffee works best in places where there is limited rainfall, to allow for the drying of the cherries, and low humidity. Areas such as Yemen and Ethiopia still use this process today.

Advantages of Natural Process Coffee

Possibly one of the biggest advantages of natural process coffee is the taste. This coffee is unique and can be quite life-changing for those who taste it. This process is also great for farmers who aren’t fortunate enough to purchase the machinery needed for other processes or have access to clean water. This allows them to stay in the coffee game by sticking with traditional methods that have been passed down for generations.

sun dried coffee cherries_Dang Cong_Unsplash
Image Credit: Dang Cong, Unsplash

Disadvantages of Natural Process Coffee

Unfortunately, time and quality are the biggest disadvantages of natural process coffee. Using the washed process, the one more popular in current times, is much faster and requires less hard work by the farmers. Natural process coffee requires weeks of drying time before it can make its way to the roasters. It is also quite difficult to determine the quality of the beans after the process.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What other names does natural process coffee go by?

Natural process coffee can also be referred to as sundried coffee or dry process coffee.

How do I know if the coffee I buy at the store is natural process coffee?

Luckily, most coffees will be marked according to what process they’ve used. Often you’ll find sundried process, washed process, experimental, or even pulp natural written on the packaging. Simply take note of which process is marked or highlighted and you’ll know which process that roaster used to make their coffee.

Is natural process coffee better for the planet?

Yes, natural process coffee is considered very sustainable. Without the use of machines, farmers can dry coffee and avoid putting any toxins into the air or relying on electricity to do the work.

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Final Thoughts

While natural process coffee may not be found on every store shelf, it is clear this traditional method is still quite popular with coffee farmers. If you’ve never tried coffee made with this process, you should definitely consider it. You will have the opportunity to taste new flavors and may find yourself shocked that coffee can taste so fruity. If you’re a true coffee lover, open your taste buds and give this tradition a try.

Featured Image Credit: Sodamika Photo, Shutterstock


Melissa Gunter

Melissa has been a fan of coffee since the first sip she stole from her Granny's cup when she was just a girl. Now, she spends each morning writing with a hot cup of coffee at her side. With a love of sweet and creamy bliss, Melissa and her daughter, Amber, stop by and try out every local coffee shop they see. Neither are afraid to try something new and have a long list of favorite coffee beverages they simply can't do without. When she's not freelance writing about her 2 passions, coffee, and pets, Melissa spends her time with her husband, 2 kids, and 5 fur babies. She also loves diving into the fiction world under her pen name, Rena Marin. If she isn't at the laptop or with the family, Melissa is out enjoying the mountains of East Tennessee she calls home.

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