June 3, 2016

Coffee Processing: Understanding Pulped Natural Coffee


Pulped natural coffee – what does that even mean? And how does it affect the cup sitting in front of you?

If you find this enigmatic processing method a bit confusing, don’t worry because we’re here to explain it all. We’ll look at what it is, how it tastes, and if it has any advantages compared to other methods. So read on to discover how your pulped natural coffee goes from cherry to cup.

Spanish Version: Procesamiento del Café: Entendiendo el Café Despulpado Natural

Pulped Natural Coffee: An Explanation

Let’s talk through the basics first. The method was pioneered in Brazil around twenty years ago, where it was originally called Cereja Descascada or “peeled cherry”. This is because the process involves removing the skin of the fruit before letting the coffee dry with almost all of the pulp still on the beans.

It’s essentially a middle ground between the dry and wet processing methods. During the natural (or dry) method, the beans are dried entirely in their natural form, while the washed (or wet) process sees all of the soft fruit residue, both skin and pulp, removed before the coffee is dried.

coffee processing

Coffee being processed. Credit: CeCafe

There are other processing techniques which may be considered a variation of pulped natural, such as the honey process (especially the red honey process) and the semi-washed or semi-dried processes. This is when a portion (but not all) of the fruit pulp is removed by parchment remover machines before drying.

In general, the difference between each of the techniques is the amount of mucilage (or mesocarp) that is removed after the peel. Remember, with pulped natural only the peel is taken away.

pulped natural

The pulped natural process involves removing the skin. Credit: CeCafe

So How Does It Taste?

Now that’s the science part done, so let’s look at the important question: how does it taste?

According to Brazilian agricultural specialist and coffee producer Ana Paula Scanavachi, this method is all about separating ripe fruits and highlighting the sweetness of the coffee – making pulped naturals a consistent aromatic beverage with a superior quality.

After the harvest, producers can cut costs as the coffee needs less space, both on the patios and in the drying machines. However, they also have to invest in equipment that will improve drying, storage and processing operations, treat wastewater, and be used for wet processing.

pulped natrual coffee

Pulped natural delivers a consistent aromatic beverage. Credit: Ana Paula Scanavachi

SEE ALSO: Processing Improvements: The Key to Specialty Grade Naturals

How Does It Compare to Other Processing Methods?

One of the biggest advantages of this process is that, by removing dried and green beans, you increase the cup quality and decrease the possibility of defects. However, when compared to the natural process, it’s more expensive and requires a larger amount of water.

Cup characteristics: These coffees normally have the body of a natural coffee and the sweetness and acidity of washed coffees.

Location: This processing method is suitable for countries with low humidity, as coffee covered in mucilage needs to dry quickly to avoid fermentation.

Advantages: It produces a high-quality beverage that can be sold for more. Fewer workers are also required.

Disadvantages: Due to the expensive machinery, there are higher costs involved, and more water and energy is used.

So there you have it: everything you need to know about pulped natural coffees. Next time you see that on the label, you’ll know you’re in for a sweet, aromatic brew that the farmers put a lot of time and effort into producing.

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Edited by H. Paull.

Feature Photo Credit: @timjcoffee

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