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Making Ethiopian coffee processing more sustainable

November 18, 2021

Making Ethiopian coffee processing more sustainable - Impact Roasters

There are many different ways of processing coffee that vary from countries, regions, and individual farmers. Understanding the basics behind the different techniques can help us become familiar with the diverse flavors and nuances that we will experience in our morning cup. For this post, we will focus on understanding the two main processing techniques in the country where all of our amazing roasts come from Ethiopia.

We have already talked extensively about the main coffee processing methods in our blog post: The best beginner’s guide to coffee processing methods (we encourage you to check it out to learn all the juicy details if you haven't done it already). So we will try to keep it short and to the point on this one - in this post, we will guide you through the main ways of processing coffee in Ethiopia and dive deeper into the wet processing method and how we can help make it more sustainable. 

Main Coffee Processing Methods In Ethiopia

There are two main methods for processing coffee in Ethiopia - the sun-dried and the wet-washed processing techniques (we have both in our roasteries, so feel free to try them out and find your favorite). Stick around to learn about the perks and disadvantages of each of them!

Sun-dried method 

The sun-dried or natural processing method is the most commonly used in Ethiopia, and it is estimated that around 70% of the coffee is processed in this way. Why is this technique so popular? Let's have a look at the main reasons: 

  1. It is cheaper to process coffee this way since it requires less labor and machinery. 
  1. By using this method, the amount of resources needed, especially water, is greatly reduced, meaning that it is easier for regions that lack access to water to process beans in this way.
  1. Flavor profile. The cup profiles resulting from this process tend to be strong in flavors, sweeter, low in acidity, full-bodied, with a wide range of intense flavors from fruity, syrupy aromas to wine-like, fermented notes.

 Wet-processing method

Now let's talk about farmers' favorite method for drying coffee - the wet-processed one. A lot of coffee producers favor using this technique because it yields more consistent results and a superiorly even bean profile. Roasters and baristas also favor this coffee since it is fresh, bright, and complex and makes up for a cleaner cup of coffee when compared to sun-dried coffees, although they both share fruity aromas.

So let's review the advantages of this method:

  1. The consistency between batches by utilizing this technique is far superior to the one we can achieve by sun-drying.
  1. Wet-washed processing is quicker than natural drying processing, and only a few beans are defective with this method.
  1. Flavor profile. As we already mentioned, the flavors achieved with this technique are complex, light-bodied coffees with crisp flavors and high acidity.

There is no surprise why farmers and baristas favor this method after hearing all the great benefits that come with it. However, as with everything good in life, there are also downsides to it - it uses up great quantities of water and tends to be more expensive since it requires more labor to wet wash the coffee and access to proper machinery. 

Unfortunately, many farmers in Ethiopia even have to travel long distances in order to get access to wet-washing pulping machines to process their coffee. And these machines often still use a significant amount of water and do not spare farmers from the labor of agitating beans and handpicking the beans after drying them.

 So, how can we help?

We, of course, want to keep offering wet-processed coffee, but the question is: how can we do it in a more environmentally and socially sustainable way?

Answering this question is not so simple as there are many ways to take steps towards more sustainable coffee. However, we want to introduce one that has proven to have amazing results for the environment and the coffee farmers- The Penagos 800 Ecoline.

The Penagos Ecoline machine was created to maximize the utilization of the coffee's properties and minimize the resources used in the processing of the beans. With this machine, farmers can pulp their coffee with very little water as it only utilizes 0.2 lt of water per kg of coffee (vs. up to 50 lt for every kg with traditional methods). It also automatically separates the coffee pulp from the beans, making it a nutrient-rich compost since it does not use water that farmers can reutilize to nurture their crops. 

Finally, the Penagos also separates the beans that are not mature or that are defective from the quality ones and decreases their drying time, making the farmers' work easier and more efficient.

Our future gameplan

We want to support our local farmers by improving their working conditions. Therefore, we have set out on a mission to provide them with a Penagos 800 Machine to make their work easier and more sustainable. 

The goal is to provide each cooperative of farmers with the necessary equipment to produce their beans without spending long hours of intensive physical labor washing coffee by hand or traveling long distances to use washing stations to process their coffee.

We are aware that the journey towards a more sustainable coffee production is not easy, but we can take steps to get closer to it and generate a greater positive impact day by day - as we like to say: one cup at a time.

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