Honey Processed Coffee

Honey Processed Coffee, is truly a misnomer. No honey is used in the processing and the coffee that results from the process does not have the flavor of honey. It is a process that comes out of Costa Rica.  These coffees are also called Pulped-Natural.

Coffee resulting from Honey Process, or semi-washed process that leaves pulp on the beans which make them sticky, in the same way honey is sticky. The types of honey process are identified by color:  white, yellow, golden, red and black. Each color indicates a different level of pulp, called mucilage, left on the coffee bean and drying time.  The mucilage left on the bean impacts the flavor and sweetness of the brewed coffee it will produce.

Though coffee mills have their own gauges for quality control, a general guide to each type of Honey processing follows.

  • White Honey process removes 90-100% mucilage from the bean and dries uncovered for a clean and balanced cup.
  • Golden Honey process removes 75-80% of the mucilage and dries uncovered that leads to a crisp and citrusy cup.
  • Yellow Honey process removes as much as 50% of the mucilage, dries uncovered and produces a cup with floral and apricot notes.
  • Red Honey removes 20-25% of the mucilage, dries uncovered and results in a sweet and syrupy cup.
  • Black Honey process removes none of the mucilage, dries covered which causes some fermentation and produces a coffee that is sweet, full-bodies with fruity depth.

During the Honey Process, coffees require much attention.  To avoid excessive fermentation and spoilage during drying, mill workers turn and monitor these coffees constantly.  When Honey Process coffee beans are dry, they have the appearance of candied nuts.  When they are roasted, the sugars left from the mucilage impart flavor of the terrior into the bean. When you see Honey Process or Pulped Natural on your coffee bag, you know it was prepared using a method like described above.

To learn more about Honey processing and other methods of coffee processing, the following links are useful.

Honey Processed Coffees of Central America by Coffee Review

Coffee Processes by Cafe Imports