That cup of hot coffee you enjoy every morning goes through a very stringent process from the field to store shelves and into your cup every morning. Many do not know this but besides the process, it takes almost up to 10 years for some of the farmers to be able to harvest their coffee plants. Needless to say, it is a long and patient process.
Let’s look at what’s involved.
Planting the Crops
What we know as a coffee bean is a seed. Once it has been harvested, it is then dried, roasted and either left as the seeds or ground up into a fine powder for use in coffee machines, and percolators for you, as the consumer to be able to brew a nice cuppa jo. If you are looking to grow your own, you can use the seed to plant a coffee tree.
In certain nurseries, these seeds are planted in rich soil, in shaded areas. They are frequently watered up until they grow into a big enough plant and then moved into the perfect weather conditions, to continue to grow permanently. The wet season is the best for planting them so that the soil remains wet and the roots can place their feet firmly into the ground.
The Harvesting Phase
There are many varieties of coffees available on the market, click here to find out which ones they are. It takes on average 4 years for these bushes to bear fruit. However, this is not the time to pluck these green berries. Once they turn a deep red colour and are ripe enough, is the right time for them to be harvested. Which can take a couple of additional years.
On most coffee farms, harvest happens once a year and in certain countries, for instance, Colombia, they are two – the primary harvest and the secondary one. These crops are picked by hand meticulously and carefully and it can be a very labor-intensive process. Sometimes it is a difficult one too if these plants are grown on a hilly landscape.
In some other countries like Brazil, for instance, they are mainly grown on a flat and vast landscape, in which case they are mechanically harvested. There are two ways of picking the crops namely:
Selective Picking: this is where only the ripe berries are picked individually, and done manually. There is a rotation process done every 10 days by the pickers. Only the ripest and most red ones are picked. This type of picking is done mostly on the Arabica type of coffee.
Strip Picking: this is where all the berries are plucked and stripped off the branches at once, mainly through machinery, but can also be done by hand.
When picking these coffee plants, on average about 200 pounds of these red cherries are selected per day. This will produce about 40 pounds of coffee seeds or beans. Once completed it is transported to the processing plants, where the next step begins.
At the Processing Plant
Once the beans have been taken to the processing plant, the work begins almost immediately to prevent any of the cherries from getting spoilt. There are two ways in which the processing takes to plant, depending on the location and resources available at the plant.
Wet Method: the pulp from the coffee seed is removed and the bean is dried so that only the skin is left. These are passed through a pulping machine, which does the deed of separating the bean from the pulp and the skin.
As they pass through the water channel, they are weighed. The lighter one’s float to the top and the heavier ones, which are the fully ready ones, sink to the bottom. These are then separated by size inside a drum machine.
Once this separation process is completed, they are transported into fermentation tanks and are left there for up to 48 hours at a time. The time will depend on factors such as the climate and altitude, so it can also take about 12 hours if conditions are right, for the fermentation process to happen.
Fermenting can also be done at home, much like when you are making “Kombucha” which is made from tea, however you can also make your own “Coffee Kombucha”. Once the fermentation starts it leaves a layer of parenchyma, what we know as mucilage. The layer will eventually dissolve by way of enzymes that are naturally produced inside the tanks. Once complete they are ready for drying.
Dry Method: the other method is the dry one. the fresh cherries are spread out on large surfaces, and this is an especially helpful method in countries where water resources are scarce. These are then turned throughout the day using a rake-like tool, to keep them from spoiling. They are covered at night and the same process begins again the next day.
As you may have guessed, this is a process that is heavily dependent on the weather, however, the result is organic produce which can be found on many shelves and online coffee shops and coffee hubs such as the Colonyclubdc coffee beans. The hotter the climate, the better and faster they dry. It can take anywhere from several days to several weeks for the moisture content to drop.
The Beans Are Dried and Stored
If the wet method is used, the beans need to be dried to approximately less than 11% moisture level, and then only can they be stored and shipped. These are then kept in a warehouse in sisal or jute sacks and are now ready to be exported throughout the world.
Once this is done, the remaining processes include:
Milling: they are polished by a machine if any of the skin is remaining on the seeds.
Grading and Sorting: this is done by weight and size. They are always filtered by their flaws or imperfections and the colour of each one on a scale of 10 – 20. The defective ones are removed, to ensure what’s left behind are the finest beans.
The coffee is then exported, and when it reached its desired destination it is tested for quality and taste by an individual known as a “cupper”. The coffee can then, either be roasted or ground. Hopefully, now you know what a laborious development your cup of coffee goes through so you can savour every sip.