Are Natural Processed Coffees Lower in Acid?
Yes and occasionally. Yes, the manner in which the coffee bean is processed can have an impact on the levels of acidity in coffee. We do occasionally use them, though not very often. And here is why:
Now let’s understand that before the coffee bean was processed “naturally”, it had the same level of acidity as the same coffee that was processed in a different fashion. That is to say that if two coffee beans are grown on the same Arabica coffee plant, all things being equal, they will have the same inherent level of acid.
Natural coffees are not any more natural than any other coffee bean, they are simply processed differently. Nor is the natural process actually a more natural or organic method. For example, the overwhelming amount of organic coffee beans are not natural processed. Natural processing of coffee does not make an organic coffee non organic. Nor does natural processing a conventional (non organic) coffee make that coffee organic.
When it relates to the processing of coffee, “natural” describes a method. Natural processing of coffee involves allowing the coffee bean, which is the seed of the coffee cherry, to ferment after it is harvested. This fermentation process can reduce acidic levels in the coffee bean and at the same time increase the level of sugars in the coffee.
The most widely used alternative to natural processed coffee is known as “washed”. Simply, the beans are washed and fermentation does not become a factor with sugars or acidity levels.
On occasion we have brought in some natural processed coffees. However, this decision was not made because these beans are processed in some superior manner. For farmers, it can be cheaper for the infrastructure to process this way, but it does require more labor and skill. We chose those natural processed coffees because we liked them. There are certainly some great natural processed coffees out there, but there are also a lot of not so great natural processed coffees.
So do we use natural processed coffees? Sometimes, we do. We are not opposed to natural processed coffee in any way. When coffees meet our criteria we can bring them in. For example, taste is one factor that we use. Other criteria are: availability both in and out of season, consistency, quality, and does the profile fit with our line and family of coffees. Those are just a few criteria we use, there are many more.
Let me address the question of acidity levels. As as a roaster that produces low acid coffee, why wouldn’t we start out with a coffee that might have lower levels of acid? As I mentioned, the coffee must be organic, taste great, and be of a high quality. To be honest, as a slow roaster, our process is so effective at removing acidity in coffee, we just do not need the head start. We can focus on quality and taste first.
Low acid coffee is not the tail that wags the dog for us. We already know the coffee will be low in acid once we slow roast it, so why settle for any coffee that does not meet all of our other criteria?