What makes “natural” coffee so unique?


So you might have heard the term “natural” coffee and thought “what the heck does that mean?”

Let’s talk about what goes into making a good cup of coffee: the region, the soil, and the elevation all affect the way that coffee tastes. It can also have a radically different flavor profile just based on whether it's washed or natural. 

Most coffees you’ll find are processed using a washed method because it’s more consistent. It takes less time. It's usually a 12 to 48 hour process and it results in this really complex sparkling acidic cup of coffee.

However, people generally tend to remember the first time they've ever had a natural coffee. If you've ever had a sip of coffee and it tasted like blueberries and it just blew your mind, chances are you were drinking a natural coffee.

Natural coffees are usually fruity, and that's directly related to the fact that they harvest a coffee cherry and then process it naturally. The coffee seed stays inside that cherry for 6 to 8 weeks until the moisture content stabilizes.

It's a longer, more drawn out process that depends on the climate, how wet or dry it is.

So for example, if you've got a natural Ethiopian and a washed Ethiopian, the washed Ethiopian is going to be a lot more dense. It's going to have a lot more acidity. It's going to be a lot brighter in the cup, and it's going to have more of a tea-like body. That's a direct result of the washing process, not necessarily the farm that it came from, the type of coffee plant. 

The natural Ethiopian is going to have more body. It's going to be a little bit more mellow as far as acidity goes. It's not going to have that brightness, but it's going to have a really round sweetness and that usually presents itself in the form of a blueberry or a strawberry or a melon flavor. 

Depending on the region, they might have a fancy name for how they process coffee, but generally it's on a scale in between natural and washed. There are some coffees that are pulp natural. A lot of Brazils are pulp natural, creating a happy medium between washed and natural. So you get some body. You get some sweetness. You don't lose the acidity completely. 

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