How do we get coffee? Have you ever wondered? Before coffee reaches your favorite coffee shop, it has to go through multiple stages.
Coffee is popular mainly because of its high caffeine content. It is more effective than tea at giving an energy boost and killing the sleepy vibe.
Before coffee roasters can indulge in coffee brewing, they need to first get the coffee beans. In this article, we will take a look into how we get coffee from seed to cup.
Growing Coffee Plants
Coffee beans sit at the pit of the coffee cherries. It takes an entire month for the coffee flowers to bloom properly. Only after the flowers bloom and fall off do the cherries start to mature.
When maturing, the cherries go from green to pink, red, dark red, purple, and finally black. For the cherries to develop naturally, it takes them roughly around 5 to 6 months.
How Many Harvests Can A Coffee Farmer Get From Their Crop?
Well, that all depends on the species of the coffee plant and the geographic location. Farmers from Colombia enjoy two harvests, a primary and a secondary. But farmers from other countries only get one harvest a year.
This harvesting process can be very labor-intensive. The coffee pickers will make multiple passes throughout the harvest season, only picking the ripe coffee cherries.
A typical harvest season can last anywhere from four to six months.
Why Is Arabica The Most Popular Type Of Coffee Bean?
Well, there is a big reason, and it lies in how coffee plants are pollinated. Arabica plants self-pollinate. This means the farmers do not need to take any measures to pollinate their plants. They can sit back and let nature do its work.
There are major benefits to self-pollination, and the most important one of all is the uniformity in taste. Thanks to self-pollination, the entire batch has similar properties. On the other hand, Robusta coffee plants do not self-pollinate. And as a result, the farmers incur an added cost that is used to pollinate the plants.
Did You Know Growing Coffee Plants In Your Home Is Relatively Easy?
Both beginners and veteran gardeners can grow coffee plants indoors.
As long as they can ensure proper sunlight, and airflow, growing coffee plants can be as simple as growing any other home indoor plant.
TheSpruce.com1 has a great article all about growing coffee plants indoors.
Harvesting Coffee Plants
But when are the cherries picked?
When the cherries reach the black color, they have already gone bad. If a farmer fails to make a harvest, and the cherries have already reached their pink state, the cherries are already too ripe to harvest. Farmers quickly pick cherries when they reach the dark red color.
There are two ways the coffee cherries are harvested- either via manual labor or via machinery. Manual labor is the most preferred method for small scale farmers. However, if they want to go for selective picking, they will incur huge costs. This is why all the cherries from the farm are harvested simultaneously, despite their state.
On the other hand, farmers who have the luxury of harvesting machinery at their disposal, they can go for selective harvesting, thus picking the cherries when they are dark red.
Coffee trees can grow as tall as 16 feet. Unless you use a ladder, you won’t be able to reach that high and pick the cherries. This makes pruning the trees very important. Farmers will prune their trees each year and keep their height in between 5-7 feet.
The biggest challenge of growing coffee plants is ensuring just the right amount of sunlight. Exposure to direct sunlight can kill the plants. So farmers always find a land that has an east-facing slope. This way the plants only get sunlight in the morning.
Processing Coffee Beans
Soon after the harvesting is complete, the coffee beans must go through processing. Otherwise, the valued crop will go bad. Even before the coffee beans, each coffee roaster, the processing stage beings.
Usually, every farm has a separate place near the farm for post-harvest processing. The old technique of processing coffee beans involves laying them down on a flat surface under the sun. The coffee beans are left to dry during the day. The farmers keep raking the beans and turning them over so that the beans are dried evenly.
There is an alternative to this dry method of processing coffee beans, called the wet method. It starts with separating the pulp from the cherry. The berries are then passed through a water channel that separates the beans depending on their weight and size. As the cherries are passing through the water channel, the process is simple, the heavier, ripe cherries drop to the bottom, and the lighter ones keep floating.
At the last step of the processing, the coffee beans are kept in a large tank for 12-48 hours. After this step is done, the stubborn mucilage layer on the bens is removed. Now the beans have rough skin. They then are washed before being dried for prolonged periods.
Coffee Ready for Shipment
The ultimate goal of drying the coffee berries is to reduce their water content down to 11%. No matter which method of processing has been used, be it wet or dry, the cherries have to be dried for several weeks at a stretch under the sun.
After they are dry, they are now ready for shipment. At this stage, they are referred to as Parchment Coffee.
Before they are packaged, the coffee beans go through a hulling stage. In this stage, all the layers on the skin of the coffee are removed. They then go through the polishing stage, where the silver layer on the naked skin is removed.
The last step before final packaging involves grading and sorting the beans. Finally, the coffee beans are packaged in jute bags and sent for shipment.
How Does Coffee Brewing Work?
Before the end consumer gets to brew a cup of coffee, it must be tested. The coffee roaster will often go into a laboratory, brew in the coffee beans using different recipes, try their final flavor, and note them down. This step is called Coffee Cupping2.
The Cuppers test the coffee on its appearance. Then he brews it, notes down the temperature so that he can recreate it on any occasion. Once the coffee is brewed, the Cupper tastes it for its flavor, aroma, aftertaste, etc. Roasters spend long hours testing small samples from different batches and different sources. The end goal of this process is to come up with new delicious coffee roasts.
Once they come up with a new roasting recipe, they use the large commercial use roasters. To ensure premium quality and freshness, these commercial roasting is done by exporting countries.
These roasters heat the coffee beans at 550-degrees Fahrenheit. The roasters are always rotating so that the beans don’t burn. Once the roasting is done, the beans turn dark brown, and it releases the caffeol (Coffee oil) inside the beans.
The coffee isn’t ready yet. You can’t throw in a coffee bean in hot water and get a nice cup of coffee. You need first to grind it. Depending on the grind, the final product will vary. Smaller coffee grounds mean you can instantly brew a cup for yourself.
From growing to harvesting, processing, packaging, roasting, grinding, and coffee brewing, you have now seen the entire process involved in making a cup of coffee. Now you know the answer to how do we get coffee. Do let us know if you have any further questions by leaving a comment below.