A coffee bean is actually a seed. After following these 10 steps it is used to brew coffee as we know it. Firstly if the seed is not processed, it can be planted and will grow into a coffee tree.
Coffee seeds are generally planted in large beds in shaded nurseries. After sprouting, the seedlings are removed from the seed bed to be planted in individual pots. They will be watered frequently and shaded from the sun until they are ready to be permanently planted.
Planting often takes place during the wet season, so that the soil around the coffee plant remains moist while the roots become established.
Harvesting the Cherries
Depending on the variety, it will take approximately 4 – 5 years for the coffee trees to begin to fruit. The fruit is called “a coffee cherry”, it will turn a bright, deep red when it is ripe.
In most countries, the coffee crop is picked by hand, a very labor-intensive process, though in places where the landscape is relatively flat the process has been automated. Whether picked by hand or by machine, all coffee is harvested in one of two ways:
– Strip Picked: The entire crop will be harvested at one time.
– Selectively Picked: Only the ripe cherries are picked. This process MUST be done 100% by hand.
Processing the Cherries
Once the coffee has been picked, processing must begin as quickly as possible to prevent spoilage. Coffee cherries can be processed one of two ways:
The Dry Method
– The freshly picked cherries are simply spread out in a large sunny area to dry, In order to prevent spoilage the cherries are raked and turned throughout the day and are covered by night to prevent moisture reaching the product. This process can take from 8 days to 11 weeks depending on the season.
The Wet Method
– The wet processing method first removes the pulp from the cherry and is then dried with only the parchment skin left on. The steps involved using this method are:
– Passing the cherry through a pulping machine
– Separating the beans by weight using water channels – the lighter “unripe” beans float and the heavier “ripe” beans sink
– Passed through multiple rotating drums which separate them by size
– Then transported into large fermentation tanks, depending on condition, climate and altitude for a period of 12 – 48 hours
– Rinsed and the dried
Drying the Beans
The beans must be dried until 85 -90% of the moisture is depleted in order to properly prepare them for storage. This can be done by either Sun drying them on tables or floors and regularly turned or can be done using machines spinning them in large tumblers. The coffee is now referred to as parchment coffee.
Milling the Beans
Before exportation, parchment coffee must be processed using the following steps:
Machines are used to remove the parchment layer from wet processed coffee. Hulling dry processed coffee refers to removing the entire dried husk.
This process is optional in which any skin that remains on the beans after hulling is removed by using a polishing machine. Some people consider polished beans to be superior to unpolished but really there is very little difference.
Before exportation, the coffee beans will be more precisely sorted by size and weight. They will also be closely evaluated for color flaws or other imperfections.
Defective beans need to be removed. This process can be accomplished by machine or in many countries; it is done by hand while the beans move along an conveyor belt. Beans of unsatisfactory size and color are removed.
The Coffee is now referred to as a green bean.
Exporting the Beans
The green beans are ready to be shipped around the world. Green coffee is shipped in either jute or sisal bags which are loaded into shipping containers. Approximately seven million tons of green coffee is produced worldwide each year.
Tasting the Coffee
At every stage of its production, coffee is repeatedly tested for quality and taste. This process is referred to as ‘cupping’.
Firstly the taster carefully evaluates the beans for their overall visual quality. The beans are then roasted in a small roaster, immediately ground and infused in boiling water, the temperature of which is carefully controlled.
The taster will first use the sense of smell to experience the aroma, a very important step in the evaluation of the coffee’s quality.
After letting the coffee rest for several minutes, the taster “breaks the crust” by pushing aside the grounds at the top of the cup. To taste the coffee, the taster “slurps” a spoonful with a quick inhalation. This way the full flavour of the coffee is rushed through the entire mouth in 1 swift action.
An expert taster can try hundreds of samples of coffee a day and still taste the subtle differences between them.
Roasting the Coffee
Roasting transforms green coffee into the aromatic brown beans that we purchase and use. Most roasting machines will maintain a temperature 270 – 300 degrees Celsius. The beans are consistently moving throughout the entire process to keep them from burning, they begin to turn brown and the oil will begin to emerge.
When the beans are removed from the roaster, they are immediately cooled either by air or water. Roasting is generally performed in the importing countries because freshly roasted beans must reach the consumer as quickly as possible to ensure quality.
The objective of a proper grind is to get the most out of the coffee. How coarse or fine the coffee is will depend on the method by which the coffee is to be used. Coffee ground for use in an espresso machine is much finer than coffee which will be brewed in a drip system.
This will depend on which brewing method you choose, as there are many different ways to enjoy your favourite brew. These may include:
– Cold Drip
– Pour over
– Espresso machine
– And many more!
But before you brew your coffee, take a moment to think of the many processes that these beans have gone through since the day they were hand-picked and sorted in their origin country.