Washed vs Natural Coffee: Exploring the Difference and Making an Informed Choice

Coffee is a beloved beverage worldwide, with over 2.25 billion cups consumed daily. However, not all coffee is created equal. Among the many variations, blends, and roasts, the distinction between washed and natural coffee stands out. In this article, we will delve into the differences between these two types, exploring their production processes, taste, flavor, price, and availability. By the end, you will be equipped to make an informed choice when faced with the decision of which one to choose.


Have you ever wondered about the process behind your morning cup of coffee? The methods of washing and natural processing play a significant role in shaping the flavors we savor each day. Let’s take a closer look at the difference between washed and natural coffee, enabling you to appreciate your coffee on a whole new level.

Washed coffee is known for its clean taste and bright acidity

When it comes to coffee, there are two primary processing methods: washed and natural. These methods refer to how coffee cherries are treated after they are harvested. It’s essential for coffee enthusiasts to understand this distinction to truly appreciate the nuances in their cup of joe.

Washed coffee, also known as wet-processed coffee, involves removing the cherry’s skin and pulp before the beans are dried. This method results in a clean, bright, and consistent flavor that highlights the coffee’s natural acidity and sweetness.

On the other hand, natural coffee, or dry-processed coffee, calls for drying the cherries with the skin and pulp intact. This allows the beans to absorb the flavors of the fruit, resulting in a more complex and fruity taste.

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The Process of Producing Washed Coffee

Washed coffee production entails several crucial steps, each requiring precision and care to ensure the highest quality beans.

Explanation of the process

The first step involves removing the cherry’s skin and pulp, achieved using a pulping machine. After this, the beans undergo fermentation for approximately 12-24 hours, with the duration varying depending on the climate. Fermentation helps break down the remaining mucilage, the sticky substance that covers the beans.

Following fermentation, the beans are washed with water to eliminate any residual mucilage. They are then dried, either by sunlight or mechanical dryers. Once the beans have reached the desired moisture content, they undergo hulling, which removes the parchment layer, revealing the green coffee beans.

Advantages and disadvantages of washed coffee

One of the significant advantages of washed coffee is its consistency. As the beans are thoroughly cleaned, the flavor profile tends to be more straightforward and cleaner than that of natural coffee. Additionally, washed coffee is less susceptible to defects or off-flavors, making it a more reliable choice for coffee roasters.

However, one downside is that washed coffee can be less flavorful than its natural counterpart. The washing process removes some of the fruity flavors present in natural coffee, resulting in a more straightforward taste. Furthermore, this method requires more water, which can be a concern in regions where water scarcity poses a challenge.

The Process of Producing Natural Coffee

While the natural coffee process is less complex than washing, it still demands attention to detail and precision.

Explanation of the process

The natural process begins with harvesting ripe cherries, which are then spread out to dry in the sun on large patios or raised beds. Throughout the drying process, the cherries are regularly turned to ensure even drying and prevent mold or fermentation.

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Once fully dried, the outer layers of the cherries are removed, revealing the green coffee beans within. Sorting based on size, weight, and color follows before the beans are bagged and sent for export.

Advantages and disadvantages of natural coffee

Natural coffee stands out due to its unique flavor profile. The natural process enables the beans to absorb the fruit’s flavors, resulting in a more complex and fruity taste. Moreover, this process requires less water, making it an environmentally friendly choice compared to washing.

However, natural coffee can be more challenging to consistently produce at a high quality due to the risk of mold or fermentation during the drying process. It is also more prone to defects and off-flavors, making it a riskier option for coffee roasters.

Taste and Flavor

Many factors contribute to the taste and flavor of coffee, including its origin, roast, and brewing method. However, the processing method plays a significant role in shaping the drink’s overall profile.

Differences in taste and flavor between washed and natural coffee

Washed coffee offers a clean, bright, and straightforward taste. The washing process eliminates all remaining mucilage, resulting in a more consistent flavor profile. It is often described as having a “classic” coffee taste, with notes of chocolate, nuts, and citrus.

In contrast, natural coffee features a more complex and fruity taste. With the beans absorbing the fruit’s flavors during drying, the result is a unique and diverse flavor profile. It is often described as having a “wild” taste, with notes of berries, tropical fruits, and even wine.

Factors that affect taste and flavor

Beyond the processing method, several other factors can influence the taste and flavor of coffee. These include the coffee’s altitude and climate, the type of plant variety, and the roasting and brewing methods. Coffee enthusiasts often experiment with different variables to find the ideal combination for their taste preferences.

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Price and Availability

The price and availability of coffee are influenced by various factors, such as the type of coffee, the region of cultivation, and the processing method. In general, washed coffee tends to be more expensive than natural coffee due to the additional steps involved in its production.

Availability also differs, with washed coffee more prevalent in regions with ample water access, such as Central and South America. Natural coffee, on the other hand, thrives in regions with a dry climate, like Ethiopia and Yemen.

Which One to Choose?

When faced with the decision of choosing between washed and natural coffee, several factors should be considered. Here are a few important things to keep in mind:

Factors to consider when choosing between washed and natural coffee

  1. Flavor preference: If you enjoy a cleaner, more straightforward taste, washed coffee might be the better choice. However, if you appreciate fruity and complex flavors, natural coffee could be more to your liking.

  2. Price: If you have budget constraints, natural coffee may be the more affordable option. On the other hand, if you are willing to invest more for a consistent and reliable flavor profile, washed coffee is worth considering.

  3. Environmental impact: The washing process requires more water, which can be problematic in regions with limited water resources. If you prioritize environmental sustainability, natural coffee might be a more suitable choice.

  4. Roasting: Roasting can also impact the coffee’s flavor profile. Natural coffee tends to withstand darker roasts without losing its complexity, making it a better option for those who prefer a bolder taste.

Ultimately, the choice between washed and natural coffee comes down to personal preference and taste. It is recommended to experiment with both types to discover your own preference. If you are new to specialty coffee, starting with washed coffee is a good idea, as it offers a more consistent flavor profile that is easier to appreciate.

In conclusion, both washed and natural coffee have their unique characteristics and advantages. At Marmalade Cafe, we take pride in offering a wide range of specialty coffees, including both washed and natural varieties. Visit Marmalade Cafe to explore and discover your favorite among our exceptional coffee offerings!