So, if we all know it has an impact, what is the impact? How do we describe it? The Coffee Research Institute attributes nutty, sweet flavors to dry-processed Brazilian coffees when compared to wet-processed coffees from the same region. This agrees with the general sentiment about dry and natural processed coffees. But do we know this, or do we just feel it? Is there data?
I gathered cupping scores from Sweet Maria’s Latin American and African offerings and compared the averages of the dry-, natural-, and wet-processed coffees. The graph at the top shows those averages. Surprisingly, the wet processed coffees were sweeter on average, and dry-processed coffees were no more complex than wet coffees. Does this mean that any given coffee would be sweeter if processed wet than if it were processed dry or natural? Not at all. This only demonstrates the lack of good information.
The problem is that every location is different in climate, soil, management practices, and varieties grown, so even coffees from the same region are very different before processing. So when a taster tastes the coffee and says one is sweeter than the other it’s impossible to tell whether the sweetness comes from the processing or from the climate, soil, or variety. I have not found a single academic study that compared the various methods side-by-side. If anyone has solid information, let me know.
Over the next few months I’ll be gleaning what I can from the flavor literature, looking at what the possible impacts might be based on what scientific knowledge we do have. This is probably the biggest gap in current understanding of knowledge of quality along the coffee supply chain. Processing is an essential component of coffee quality, and the coffee world needs to know the different impacts the various methods have on flavor components.