Coffee Guide

Honey Processed Coffee: Why You Should Drink It

honey processed coffee beans

honey processed coffee beans

You hear all sorts of curiosities about coffee – “Cat processed coffee” (Kopi Luwak) is just one of them. But have you heard of honey processed coffee? Not only does that sound delicious, but it is also good for you. In this article, you will learn:

Let’s get started!

Coffee with honey? Not quite!

There are different methods of drying in green coffee processing. In this article, we dedicate ourselves to the special “honey processed” method. The name suggests that honey is used or a honey aroma is to be created, but this is not the case.

The “honey processed” method was first used in Costa Rica in 2003 at the suggestion of a Japanese coffee importer who was visiting the country.

This had received inquiries from the Italian coffee specialist illy and the coffee company Guataro from Japan, who wanted to expand their range with new flavors.

Up until then, both of them had been purchasing a specially produced coffee from Brazil for their top-quality coffees, which had gone through the drying process with the entire pulp.

For standard coffees, for the sake of simplicity, the entire pulp is washed off and completely removed before the drying process. When drying with pulp, the flavoring substances in the actual bean are better protected.

The Japanese idea for creating new flavors was to only partially wash the coffee cherry, which removes the peel but leaves the soft, sticky pulp on the bean. Because it feels almost like honey, the term “honey processed” was born – real honey was not involved.

The new process significantly improved the potential of Costa Rican coffee because it gives it more body and taste with much more pleasant acidity.


How does coffee processing work?

After the harvest, the coffee cherry is first sent into an alluvial canal by separating the ripe and unripe cherries from the “floaters”.

The beans are then placed in a metal cylinder. In this centrifugal force, the pulp and the coffee beans are separated. After this process, only beans with parchment skin and mucilage (this is a thin layer of fruit mucus) remain. The coffee cherry is then dried in this state.

You can learn more about the way honey processed coffee is made in this video:

What honey means in honey-processed coffee?

The term “honey” developed in Central America, which is where this type of coffee fermentation comes from. It alludes not only to the sticky mash that develops during fermentation but also to the intensely clear sweetness that these coffees owe to the fermentation in the pulp (or parts of it), which sticks to the beans as they dry.

Due to the drying with the pulp and without the peel, coffee that is processed using this method contains more body and taste with much more pleasant acidity.

What are the types of honey processed coffee?

The type of fermentation, also known as semi-washed in various coffee regions, has a large and varied influence on the taste and overall profile of the coffee. Depending on how the development of the coffee is monitored and controlled, it can greatly change the sweetness and depth of the body of a coffee.

This is why subcategories have developed, especially in recent years, so that coffee producers now differentiate between yellow honey, red honey, golden honey, black honey and white honey. The differences are mainly in taste.

The yellow is the fastest level. The beans are simply dried in the sun. After eight days you will have achieved the desired light yellow color and the optimal level of moisture.

The red stage lasts longer because the drying process takes place here on cloudy days and takes about twelve days.

For the black stage, the beans are placed on a rack that is reminiscent of traditional African beds and covered with a black film to dry.

The “black honey” produced in this way has the richest body in terms of taste and is particularly spicy. Because this production method is the most time-consuming and labor-intensive, black is also the most expensive “honey processed” coffee.

Should you ever get the opportunity to try Costa Rican “Black Honey” coffee, you can look forward to a taste with a hint of strawberries and melon, which is rounded off by a pleasant acidity and a creamy body.

How does honey processed coffee taste?

Honey processed, also known as honey-fermented coffee is called this way because if it is done correctly and well, it can actually taste as if someone had put honey or brown sugar in the coffee.

The name of this fermentation process does not come from the actual honey but is derived from the fact that the coffee cherries become as sticky as honey during this processing.

This type of coffee is fruity, but not as extremely fruity as many naturally fermented coffees. Compared to washed fermented (wet-processed) coffees, honey-fermented coffees usually have a rounder acidity and intense sweetness with a complex sensory effect.

Differences in the taste of honey processed coffee

Honey-processed coffees have intensely sweet aromas due to the fruit sweetness that remains on the coffee bean due to the mucilage during the drying process. Thanks to the different forms of honey processing, other characteristic flavors develop that are reminiscent of wine or even whiskey.

Costa Rica in particular is experimenting a lot with red and black honey processing. During my stay in Taiwan, the country that not only loves filter coffee but also all types of processing, I was able to try several coffees from Costa Rica that were red- or black-honey-processed.

In this type of coffee from Costa Rica you can expect intense notes that – again, the allusion in the name – are reminiscent of honey. Other flavors include cane sugar, dried fruit, and, how could it be otherwise: cherry.

In contrast to washed coffees, the characteristic notes and the typical taste in honey-processed coffees, similar to naturals, come from the varieties themselves.

How to brew honey processed coffee?

We recommend preparing the honey processed coffee “by hand”. The immediate sensual experience can even increase the anticipation of the black, hot luxury taste.

If you brew the coffee using a hand filter, you use one and a half heaped tablespoons of honey processed coffee powder per cup, which corresponds to about 10 grams.

For 480 milliliters – almost half a liter of coffee – you need around 30 grams of powder.

A little warm water is first poured through the filter bag inserted in the funnel. It removes its own taste from the paper filter, preheats the container, and is then poured out. Only then honey processed coffee powder enters the filter. The reason to initially only with a small amount of the water? The coffee begins to swell, also known as “blooms”.

Only after 30 seconds does the additional water come into the filter, lively and poured in circles. Finally, a thin stream is poured into the middle to equalize the water level in the filter.

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