Most of the world’s coffee beans are processed in one of two ways. Dry or “natural” processing means the fruit is left on the beans while they are drying. The organic coffee processing in Costa Rica is limited. The fruit or cherry contains many different sugars and thus ferments quickly so this method depends on relatively low humidity to be successful. Too much humidity will cause excess fermentation and the subsequent loss of the crop.
The second method is referred to as “wet processing” and means that the fruit is removed the same day that the coffee beans are picked. At the same time most of the sugars are washed from the beans and they are spread out to dry. This creates a controllable and consistent drying environment. The weather in the mountains of Costa Rica is relatively humid, so this is the preferred method. The downside of this method is the use of large quantities of water to remove the excess sugars which results in environmental problems.
There are, however, other methods used by small growers the world over. On our small organic coffee farm in Costa Rica, we use a hybrid process most closely compared to something called “wet hulled”, which is most popular in parts of Indonesia. The same day that our organic coffee is picked we separate the fruit from the bean and wash about eighty percent of the sugars from the beans. This is accomplished by using a new type of machine which uses water pressure to remove the sugars instead of the traditional high volumes of water. We are also certified organic for processing because of this new equipment. After the “defruiting” and washing the coffee beans are placed in our new dryer that collects heat from the sun and then dries by convection. After carefully drying the beans to eleven or twelve percent humidity they are placed in burlap bags to “rest” for about forty five days. The next step is to remove the one more layer or hull from the bean. This layer is called the pergamino. There is one more layer remaining which we call parchment or “chaff” and will protect the beans during shipment and storage. This last protective coating will separate in the roasting process and our organic coffee beans are ready to be enjoyed.