The Washed Coffee Process: Unveiling the Brilliance Behind Coffee Cultivation

Coffee Education
John Alden
July 26, 2023


For those of you that have been around for any period of time, you know that Perfect Extraction’s role in the specialty coffee world is education; we think that it’s incredibly important for the next generation of coffee drinkers to understand not only the complexity, but the passion and the global impact that coffee has.  Today’s foray into the coffee glossary is the definition of “washed coffee”, a cultivation process that’s commonly employed around the world.

Coffee processing itself plays a pivotal role in shaping the flavors and characteristics of our beloved specialty coffees. Among the various methods used globally in coffee cultivation and production, the "washed" coffee process stands out for its ability to deliver exceptionally clean and vibrant flavors.

Understanding Coffee Processing

Before we dive into the specifics of the washed process, it's important to grasp the concept of coffee processing as a whole. Coffee processing refers to the series of steps involved in transforming coffee cherries, harvested from coffee plants, into the familiar beans we know and love. These steps are carried out immediately after harvesting and aim to remove the outer layers of the cherry to reveal the precious coffee seeds within.

The Washed Process: Brilliance Refined

The washed process, also known as the “wet process” or the “fully washed process”, is a method celebrated for its ability to highlight the true essence of the coffee cherry. While widely used in many coffee-growing regions around the world, it has particularly become synonymous with coffees from Africa and certain parts of Asia. Here’s a quick breakdown of the steps within the washed coffee process in order from harvesting all the way to hulling (the last step before the green coffee is transported and roasted)!

  • Harvesting and Sorting: The journey of the washed process begins with meticulous cherry selection. Skilled coffee pickers selectively harvest only the ripest cherries, ensuring optimal flavor development. Once harvested, the cherries are carefully sorted to remove any damaged or under-ripe ones, ensuring only the finest make their way to the processing stages.
  • De-pulping: After sorting, the cherries undergo de-pulping, where the outer skin and pulp are mechanically removed.  While this step technically can be done by hand, or at least by a hand-cranked machine, most coffee processing operations have automated this step. This process exposes the coffee seeds, commonly referred to as beans, encased within the cherry, separating the red skin (the pulp) from the green coffee beans (the seeds) inside the cherry.
  • Fermentation: Once depulped, the beans are left to undergo fermentation, a very crucial step that helps develop the unique flavors of any particular coffee. During fermentation, enzymes break down the remaining sticky mucilage layer, which surrounds the beans. While the duration of fermentation varies, it typically lasts between 12 to 48 hours, depending on factors such as altitude or flavor profile.
  • Washing and Grading: Following fermentation, the coffee beans are thoroughly washed to remove any remaining residues and mucilage. Then, the washed beans are carefully graded based on size and density, ensuring uniformity and consistency, further enhancing the overall quality of the beans.
  • Drying: After washing, the coffee beans are spread out to dry. This can be achieved through sun drying, where the beans are spread on patios or raised beds under the sun, or through mechanical drying methods. Proper drying is crucial in order to prevent mold or undesirable flavors from developing at this stage in the process. The beans are constantly monitored and turned to ensure even drying.
  • Milling and Hulling: Once the beans reach the desired moisture content, they undergo milling and hulling. This involves removing the parchment layer, the protective covering around the beans. The beans are now transformed into what is known as green coffee, ready for further processing or export.

Our Favorite Washed Coffee

When it comes to washed coffees, one of our personal favorites is this Light Spro from Third Wave Coffee in Forest, Virginia. It boasts berry, grilled pineapple, and lemon notes, and a smooth and luxurious mouthfeel.

Click here to try Third Wave's Kenya Nyeri Light Roast Spro!

Coffee Origins Famous for the Washed Process

The washed process has gained serious prominence over the years in various coffee-growing regions, mostly due to its history of exceptional drinking experiences. Here are some notable origins known for their production of washed coffees:

  • Ethiopia: Often considered the birthplace of coffee, Ethiopia is renowned for its washed coffees, showcasing a wide range of flavor profiles. From the bright and floral Yirgacheffe origin to the fruity and complex Sidama, Ethiopian washed coffees exemplify the elegance and diversity of this processing method.
  • Kenya: Known for its meticulous attention to detail, Kenyan coffee producers have mastered the art of the washed process. Kenyan washed coffees like the Kenya Embu or Kenya Nyeri are admired for their vibrant acidity, juicy sweetness, and distinct berry-like flavors.
  • Colombia: In Colombia, the washed process is widely embraced, contributing to the country's reputation as a producer of high-quality Arabica coffee. Colombian washed coffees often display well-balanced profiles with notes of caramel, chocolate, and citrus, accompanied by a smooth mouthfeel.
  • Central America: Countries like Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Honduras have also embraced the washed process. These regions produce washed coffees known for their clarity and brightness, with flavor notes ranging from delicate florals to nutty and chocolatey undertones.


In summary, the washed process represents a meticulous journey of coffee processing, bringing forth coffees that are clean, vibrant, and nuanced. From the careful cherry selection to the final drying and hulling stages, each step in the washed coffee process contributes to the creation of an exceptional tasting experience. By exploring the coffee origins that embrace this processing method, we discover the diverse flavor profiles and characteristics that make the washed process a cornerstone of the specialty coffee industry.  We'd encourage you to check out your local specialty shops for any washed coffees they may have available!

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