The pulped natural (also known as honey) process is relatively new process that has been rapidly adopted in recent years. The process generates unique flavor which differs its cupping profile from both wet process and natural process.
The cup results generally show more cleanliness and uniformity than conventional natural process. The sugar-rich mucilage naturally increases sweetness and fruitiness as well.
The pulped natural is technically classified as a type of wet process according to ISO although water isn’t required. Indonesian’s unique wet hulling process called Giling Basah also falls into wet process based on ISO.
The increasing environmental awareness of the coffee community demands more eco friendly process of coffee as well as the less resources requiring characteristics helped the spread of the pulped natural process among farmers.
The pulped natural process has attracted a great deal of attention from different layers of people involved in the coffee industry. (Photo credit: Beneficio Monte Benny by Dennis Tang)
How the pulped natural is done
In the pulped natural process, a depulper removes skin and pulp from coffee cherry, and the seeds are dried while mucilage is still covering the parchment.
Some coffee intellectuals advocates the supremacy of the cleanliness with no process flavor, so the coffee producers, especially Brazil, where coffee is mainly processed naturally, has tried to capture the gourmet coffee market by experimenting with the pulped natural process since 80s.
The motive of the development of the pulped natural process was originally to achieve the clean cupping profile as the wet process does. Finally, the cleanliness with none process flavor was put into practice by the pulped natural process, but it wasn’t necessarily welcome, mainly because of its lack of unique characteristics.
The pulped natural process today doesn’t only pursue cleanliness but also unique characteristics by adjusting the amount pulp and mucilage remaining on the beans during drying. Some consider pure coffee bean flavor is better, but it looks like the majority enjoys additional flavor from coffee cherry. They call the flavor of the dirt “earthy” and love it, too.
There are details about different types of pulped natural processes in Kenneth Davids’ Honey and Pulped Natural Coffees.
In Central America, the pulped natural is getting adopted due to the increased awareness and value in environmental preservation while Brazil is the pioneer of the pulped natural process.
A large amount of water is required in wet process. In order to produce a shipping container full of wet processed coffee, more than a quarter-million liters of water. The high volume of waste water released into local water ways contains high amount of acetic sugar which could only be decomposed with oxygen. That amount of acetic sugar is way above the capacity of what oxygen in the natural environment can normally breakdown. As the results, the pollutants flow into the river and the ocean, and they cultivate bacterias that are harmful to human or other organisms in the water.
One benefit of the pulped natural is no need of water.
Even considering the some difficulties in the pulped natural process in this region, some coffee producers find better opportunity in shifting to the pulped natural from wet process.
Traditionally, in such regions as Central America, the wet process is normally adopted due to high humidity and amount of rain. The climates greatly affect the completion of drying process. If it’s not done right, the fermentation progresses and mold grows. The amount of defectives and cupping results are severely affected by the climates.
The consumers in the US and other countries now see the value in contributing to the preservation of environment, which can be also seen in the rise of certified coffees. The pulped natural coffee’s ecological aspect is getting recognized and the farmers adoption of the process can be rewarded.
In addition to the potential extra incentives from consumers’ ecological awareness in the pulped natural process, its economical factor is another important advantage. The cost of depulper/mucilage remover with African bed used in the pulped natural versus the washing station with mechanical dryers are incomparable.