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Yellow, Red and Black Honey Process Coffees: What's The Difference?

Coffee beans are not beans, they are the seeds of coffee cherries. Yes it is. Your favorite caffeinated drink comes from a juicy reddish fruit (sometimes yellow or orange).

But before the beans can be roasted, the layers of the coffee cherry must be removed and then the beans are dried to 11% moisture content. The two most common methods of cherry removal are 1) stirring it with water (washed process) and 2) letting the coffee dry in the sun before stirring (natural / dry process).

However, the honey process is something that is in the middle. The peel of the cherry is removed but a part of the pulp remains, the "mucilage", which remains while the grains dry.

So why is it called honey? Well, maybe we'd call it the "coffee mucilage process" if it weren't for a lucky coincidence. The mucilage is extremely sweet and sticky like honey. Even though the name has nothing to do with taste, these coffees are known for their sweet flavors.

Honey Yellow, Red and Black: What's the Difference?

Now that we know what the honey process is, it is time to see the difference in the different types. These descriptions may be strange on a coffee package, but you will see producers and exporters referring to coffee as white, yellow, gold, red and black honey.

The white and yellow simply have less mucilage after they have been mechanically washed. On the other hand, the gold, red and black have much more mucilage which gives more body to the coffee.

Can these descriptions be further broken down? Generally speaking, yes. However, the honey process is influenced by humidity, heat and the oxidation of the sugar and these things do not provide an exact formula. Generally, the different honey processes are divided as follows:

Honey Blanco y Amarillo

White honey coffees tend to be mechanically washed leaving a minimal amount of mucilage on the bean. The yellow honeys are normally semi-washed and with a little more mucilage in the grain.

However, there will be some variations in terms of what this means for each farm. These names are useful but it is good to discuss the exact process when buying or selling, in this way you will avoid a communication problem.

Honey Gold, Red and Black

What differentiates these three is the amount of light and drying time the beans are exposed to. Higher humidity and prolonged development results in a black honey, a little less humidity results in a red one and much less humidity, a golden one.

Golden honey dries in hot, sunny weather with little humidity, this helps it to dry quickly. However, the red is processed under more shade to slow down the drying time. This increases the amount of moisture to which the beans are exposed. And black honey takes much longer and dries longer in shade.


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