There are a number of standard coffee processing techniques that you may be aware of. The two main ones are washed coffee and natural coffee. For washed process coffee, the skin and fruit (mucilage) of the coffee cherry is removed by a machine called a depulper and the coffee cherry is washed down to its parchment before being spread out to dry. As it sounds, the washed coffee process uses water to rinse away any leftover mucilage, which is why many washed coffees are produced near streams or in areas with abundant fresh water.
Washed vs Unwashed Coffee
Washed coffee beans make up a majority of the coffee produced in the world today, and are probably what you're drinking most of the time. Washed coffee generally gives a sweeter and cleaner-tasting cup than other processing methods, and has been the go-to for specialty coffee producers looking to showcase their beans' quality. Other methods such as honey processed coffee and natural processed coffee involve leaving different amounts of the coffee cherry's fruit and skin on the bean while it dries, which produces different flavors. For farmers that don't have access to abundant water for washed processing or who want their crops to stand out among the many washed coffees being produced in their area, natural or honey processing is a great option. As the specialty coffee market continues to grow, many farmers now use multiple processing methods on their farms to diversify their crop offerings and see what brings the best flavors our of their coffee.