Honey Process - The Bee’s Knees


Here's Ewan to tell us more about coffee honey processing.

As the more eagle-eyed among you may have noticed this week at Brew Lab, we have been serving three different Has Bean coffees that have all undergone Honey Processing. Our new house espresso - Costa Rica Finca Kattia Herbazu, the latest addition to the brew bar - Costa Rica Finca De Licho and our most recent Syphon offering - Bolivia David Vilca Caturra Yellow Honey.

Honey processing is part of the natural family of processing methods, where coffee that is not fully pulped (has not had it’s fruit removed) is left to ferment and dry in the sun with some fruit left on the seed.

A fully natural coffee is left in the sun to dry for a number of weeks with all of it’s fruit left on the seed. This produces a particularly intense, funky and sweet flavour with quite a full, heavy mouthfeel. Honey processing is where the fruit is removed (or pulped) using a water pulper (or a mechanical scrubber if water is scarce) but some of the fruit’s mucilage is left on the seed. It is then left to ferment in the sun, just like a natural coffee - but for about half the length of time.

Honeyed coffee tends to lend some of that heavy mouthfeel and interesting funk that a natural coffee offers but thanks to the removal of the fruit, it is often much cleaner and more balanced than a fully natural coffee. This also makes honey processed coffee highly suitable for espresso.

Traditionally you can expect a distinct natural sweetness like you would find in Bee’s Honey - hence the name! Honeyed coffee will generally also carry enhanced fruit notes and a really sweet acidity.

At the moment, honey processing is the most environmentally friendly method of processing coffee as it can involve absolutely no water use whatsoever. This lack of necessity for water makes it a popular processing method in countries like Costa Rica, where water is an incredibly valuable resource. It also makes economic sense for the farmers, where the price of a mechanical scrubber is incomparable compared to that of a water pulper and a guardiola (a mechanical dryer).

There are three different grades of honey process - red, yellow and black. Red Honey is more-or-less the same as the Pulped Natural processing method. Here, only the skin of the fruit is removed from the seed and left to ferment, rather than the whole fruit removed and just the mucilage left. Yellow and Black Honey coffees are very similar, with Black Honeyed coffee involving much sweeter fruit at the peak of it’s ripeness. Yellow Honey is the most common of the three.

This is easily my favourite processing method and one that I would definitely recommend you keep an eye out for next time you’re in Brew Lab.

Our coffee roasters Has Bean have a great little video about honey processing here.

Follow Ewan on Twitter @GlasgowBarista