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A Deeper Dive into Natural Coffee

The world of coffee has often been described as a rabbit hole, and we are merely Alice, looking through the magical world, often with an expectation of what we hope to find. After all, this is one of the main benefits of roasting coffee yourself at home: you, the home roaster, get to tailor the coffee exactly to your preferences. Filter, lighter or darker, no problem. Resting time - well, that’s totally up to you. But sometimes we come across things, we can't quite put our finger on. The new or unusual can sometimes seem a little too wild, something that I, myself have experienced with Natural Processed coffee.

As you may have heard before, coffee is very much wine. Wine celebrates the producer. This is our mission with the coffee and producers we select and work with: To showcase the best producers, through relationship building to bring you the best coffee we can find. [Listen to our founder Andrew discuss this on the 5th Wave Podcast]

Natural wine can have funky, unusual smells and flavours, tending to be cloudier due to more yeastiness. Often with little or no intervention from the producer, the grape juice is left to do its thing. This most traditional way of producing wine, without sulfites or harsh chemicals, is often vegan and organic by nature. While I am not a wine expert, I do enjoy these unexpected and unusual flavours that natural wine offers. These wines are a new way to challenge my palette and add a point of reference when tasting my other favourite beverage, coffee. The new reference points offered by natural wine tasting help me to pick out flavours that I haven't had before to make comparisons while trying a coffee for the first time.

Likewise, natural process coffee can be characterised by these more funky flavours, unusual appearance and unfamiliar smells all of which have come to be so highly prized.

The natural process takes much longer and therefore means the producer has to wait longer before they can start to sell their coffee. Trade often occurs based upon the results of previous harvest and relationship building.

Natural process coffee is the oldest, most traditional process, often favoured where water is a more limited resource. Cherries are left on huge tables or mats to evenly dry out for 20-30 days. The cherries are regularly raked and rotated to prevent rotting or mould, a laborious task. When they are fully dried with a raisin-like appearance, they are then milled to remove the skins and muliegde.

Natural fermentation occurs which results in those funky and complex flavours that natural processed coffees are known for.

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In the past 100 years, the washing process has become more popular,as the harvest can be completed quicker and money can change hands sooner.

Recently, there has been more of a desire from consumers to have more new and exciting flavours, with producers looking to more experimental natural processes and fermentation. Such innovators of experimental processes, such as Ninety Plus (who keep their exact process closer to their chest) - these producers are creating coffees that are scoring high on cupping tables worldwide and have a costly price tag. Our recent Kambera Gesha, Al Qafr, Yemen, and Koke Natural coffees all use innovative natural processes.

What to expect

For this you will need a bag of our natural coffee - I can personally recommend the Al Qafr, Yemen

Upon opening a bag of natural coffee you can expect sour, funky, fruity notes-not dissimilar to vinegar. I experienced a similar smell when I first opened a bottle of natural wine. Give the bag of green coffee a deep and long sniff.

The green beans (or seeds) may have darker spots, this is due to the mucilage, and parts of the fruit remaining on the seed after milling, and is not a defect. Pour some out into a cupping tray or on a plain plate, looking through the beans to spot the mucilage.

When roasting you will notice a bit of a vinegary aroma in the first few minutes of roasting. This might end up becoming a bit more fruity and chocolatey in aroma as the roast progresses.

When degassing after the first few days after roasting, you'll start to smell intense fruity aromas- think raspberry jam. As the coffee continues to degas, the coffee may start to smell even sweeter.

All of our coffees are paired with recipe recommendations - I personally prefer a Filter Light ++ roast recipe. Most coffees have a full range of recipes varying in the degree of roast. For the rarer coffees that we select for our offerings, we provide just a couple of recipes to ensure an excellent result and avoid wastage. All our recipes are carefully considered and crafted by Emily, our coffee expert, and are the best place to start in your coffee roasting journey, as they offer guidance and support.

Although prized for its extraordinary character, natural coffee may not be for you. You may find you are not a fan of these unusual notes, and that is totally fine. Flavour is subjective-there is no right answer. I believe that it is just as important to define the coffee you do not enjoy as it is to understand those that you love. The rabbit hole is deep, with many twists and unexpected turns. That's all part of the fun of learning, right?

Keep your eyes peeled for more Natural Processed coffee arriving in our online shop soon.

As always if you have any questions you can reach to us @ hereforyou@ikawacoffee.com