Top view of coffee beans of different processing processes
Food - Drink
What Makes Honey Process Coffee Unique?
An alternative to traditional dry and wet processing methods, honey processing is a special treatment for coffee "cherries," the fruit that eventually becomes coffee beans. Coffee cherries have a sticky mucilage coating that is left intact during the fermentation process, and the yellow hue and thick texture of this coating is the "honey" in question.
During honey processing, the skin of the coffee cherries is removed, but instead of being washed off, the mucilage is left to oxidize and change in color, which ultimately affects the flavor of the coffee, per Coffee Affection. These color changes, from yellow to red to black, indicate how fruity and sweet the coffee becomes.
Honey processing requires nothing but time, but intervention by the farmer/processor can also affect coffee's color and taste. The first stage is yellow honey processing, in which frequent turning of the beans makes them dry more quickly, lessens fruit-forward flavors, and removes about 50% of the mucilage.
The second stage is red honey processing, which leads to sweeter beans and removes 25% of mucilage, while the last step, black honey processing, creates the fruitiest flavor and retains all of the sticky coating. Comparatively, in the popular "wet" or "washed" coffee processing, all of the mucilage is washed off before fermenting.