Coffee Knowledge Base

15 February 2024

The dry coffee bean processing method

The dry coffee bean processing method

When harvesting or picking coffee berries, the beans must be processed or removed from the berry. There are four different methods to do this, and each method may vary from country to country and between regions. There is the dry method, the wet processing or washed method, the semi-dry method, which may also be called the semi-washed, pulped natural, or the honey method depending on the country, and there is the fairly new anaerobic method. Here we will explain the dry processing method. 

Dry Processing Method

To safeguard coffee quality, processing must be done within eighteen hours after harvest. Processing usually takes place in the evening and night following the daytime picking. The processing method is crucial for the flavor in the cup, but no particular method is better or worse than another. Each method, dry or wet, produces a completely different flavor spectrum, and growers often use different methods to create distinct flavor profiles. After processing – and regardless of the method – the beans are always dried because a coffee bean must have less than 12% moisture content before it is suitable for transportation.

The dry processing method originated in Ethiopia, where a lack of water led to a quest for an alternative. Dry dehusking means simply letting the berries dry in the sun. The coffee berries are laid out on large tables covered with an anti-rooting membrane and allowed to dry for up to 25 days, depending on the area and weather conditions. The berries are turned over a few times a day to prevent yeasting (mould formation). This method ensures that each side of the bean is exposed to sunlight for the same amount of time. A harvested coffee berry comprises 60–65% water, which must be reduced to 11–12%. After the drying period, the berries have a dark purple color. It goes without saying that the drying process is only applicable in conditions of low humidity and when it is not raining. That is why this method is used primarily in very dry areas, such as Ethiopia.

Dry processing produces coffee with a very fruity, sweet, and full flavor. Leaving the coffee berries drying in the sun causes the sweet mushy part of the fruit pulp to penetrate the bean, which in turn leads to a unique sweet flavor. But you should know that this flavor is only achievable if the process is strictly applied and carefully checked.

Dry-processed coffee is often, but incorrectly, considered to be of inferior quality because, in some cases, growers use this method to process their lowest-quality beans. Using this method allows them to avoid investing time and resources in drying the beans, and they don’t monitor it either. So, they don’t spend any time on turning the beans, which leads to molds and suchlike affecting the coffee beans. But if, on the other hand, this method is performed with great care and finesse, it can also deliver fantastic coffee.

As mentioned in the beginning there are 4 different types of processing coffee beans. If you would like to know more about the other 3 methods, we recommend you to read the following blogs:
The washed coffee bean processing method
- The pulped natural coffee bean processing method
- The anaerobic coffee bean processing method