What is parchment coffee? Definition and concept

To understand what parchment coffee is, we first need to know what the fruit of the coffee plant looks like. As you can see in the picture, the fruit of the coffee plant is a berry that is almost always red, which is why it is also called the coffee cherry, inside of which there are still two coffee beans wrapped in several layers.

Red coffee cherries
Red coffee cherries

If we take these berries, open them and remove all the outer layers except the last one, we find the parchment just before we get to the two beans inside. The parchment is simply another layer, yellow in colour, covering the green coffee bean.

Definition of dry parchment coffee

Parchment coffee is defined as the product resulting from washing the fruit of the coffee tree (coffee cherry) and removing all outer layers (except the parchment) before drying.

As explained in our article on coffee moisture meters, the green coffee bean must have a certain moisture content; around 10%, before it is roasted. Because the coffee bean has more than 50% moisture, it must go through the drying process as soon as it is harvested.

parchment coffee bean
This is the cut of a coffee cherry with two beans in it. Number 4 corresponds to the parchment, while number 3 is the coffee bean. Number 6 is the pulp.

The parchment coffee then goes through a hulling machine, which removes this layer and produces green coffee. However, it is sometimes marketed directly.

Therefore, parchment coffee is the stage of coffee immediately preceding green coffee (either roasted or marketed as such). In other words: it’s the traditional green coffee with an extra layer that has not been removed.

Differences between parchment coffee, gold coffee and honey-bean coffee

Different methods can be used to remove the pulp from coffee beans. These can be divided into two main groups: wet and dry coffee processing.

  • The dry process. The result is always the traditional green coffee, as the beans are dried naturally and then ground or husked to remove all layers.
  • The wet process. Wet pulp removal processes are more complex and varied, giving different results.

With each drying method, we obtain a different type of bean; therefore, these are given different names. The three main drying methods are parchment coffee, honey coffee and green coffee.

Honey process

In this honey process, the skin is removed, but some of the pulp is retained; a slightly viscous intermediate layer called mucilage (that’s where the honey comes from, which has nothing to do with the taste of the bean).

It is a bean that is dried but not washed. It’s a much more difficult, slower and more expensive process, which is why honey-bean coffee is much less common on the market.

Washed process

The coffee is washed with turbulent water to remove the skin and pulp, but the parchment remains. This coffee is left to rest for 3 to 4 weeks in its parchment resulting in parchment coffee.

Finally, if we grind or peel the parchment coffee to remove this last layer, we have. As a result, golden or green coffee is the most common state of the bean.

What is the purpose of wet parchment coffee?

Some coffee farmers market wet parchment coffee directly without going through the drying process. This practice can be motivated by diverse causes:

  • They cannot assume the cost (space and machinery) of having a drying process on their plantation.
  • They have more production capacity than dryers, so the excess parchment coffee (without drying) is quickly marketed so that it does not go bad.

The problem is that such a degree of humidity makes the coffee very fragile because it facilitates the formation of microorganisms that can alter the original conditions and the quality of the coffee.

Wet parchment coffee must be transported within a few hours of being washed and under rigorous hygiene conditions.

How to store parchment coffee?

Usually, parchment coffee is stored for several weeks in sacks or plastic bags (very convenient to avoid humidity and gas entry). It should never be stored in a humid place or directly exposed to sunlight. The containers of parchment coffee beans cannot be placed in contact with the floor or walls.

How to roast parchment coffee?

The parchment coffee bean can be roasted similarly to standard green coffee beans. We suggest you read our roasting guide and domestic coffee roasters for further information on this subject.

Where can I buy parchment coffee?

The usual production of coffee is limited to the standard process, which includes the final threshing or grinding to remove the parchment. So parchment coffee is a much more specific product, not usually found in the usual distribution channels.

Who buys parchment coffee? Usually, very demanding end-consumer profiles are eager to try new things and different nuances from those they already know. For example, if you are looking to buy parchment coffee on Amazon, we have only found these references so far:

If you have the opportunity, another way to buy parchment coffee is to go directly to the producers or farmers at the origin. Something quite complicated in many European Countries, but you will have more accessibility if you live in Latin America or Asia.