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From Harvest to the Roast

Coffee production is a massive global industry that is comprised of farms ranging from small scale,
farmer-owned plantations, to giant fields such as those found in Brazil.
The production of coffee from tree to cup is a time-consuming and labor intensive process that ensures
that good quality beans find their way to the roaster.
The processing of coffee beans is very often done by hand, with only some aspects of the processing
being mechanized. The degree of mechanized processing depends on the resources of the farm and the
processing method.


Harvest Time
The coffee cherries ripen at different times during the season and there can be up to 3 pickings during
harvest time. Usually, the harvesting is done by hand to ensure that the cherries are perfectly ripe.
Hand-picking is often reserved for the higher quality Arabica beans.
Harvest can be done mechanically, but this leads to a lower quality bean as some cherries will not be
ripe enough.
After picking, the cherries must be processed as quickly as possible to avoid spoiling and waste. Firstly,
the fruit is hand sorted to determine the levels of ripeness. The unripe cherries are put aside to sell as
lower quality coffee.
Depending on the resources of the farm, there are two main ways of processing that are referred to as
‘Dry’ or ‘Wet’ methods.

Processing
Dry Method
This method is also referred to as the “unwashed” or ‘Natural” method and is most often used in water
scarce areas or small scale farms.
Freshly harvested cherries are laid out on drying beds and sun dried for a period of 15 to 20 days,
depending on the weather. These drying beds are raised off the ground for air circulation.
During each day, the cherries are raked and turned by hand at regular intervals to ensure even drying.
This also prevents the fruit from rotting or fermenting. At night, the beds are covered to protect the fruit
from moisture.
The process is complete when the cherries contain less than 11% moisture and the outer layer is black
and brittle. At this point, it is easy to remove the outer skins to expose the coffee bean.

Wet Method
This method is a newer development in coffee. It is an industrial way of sorting through large quantities
of fruit using water to separate the beans from the fleshy exterior.
This process helps to minimize the time spent hand-sorting.
First, the cherries are placed into a pulping machine. This machine squeezes the fruit and leaved the
hard bean intact. Berries that still have pulp, are unripe and at this point they are sorted by hand and
used for low quality coffee.
After the pulping process, a sticky mucilage is left behind. This substance would change the flavor of the
coffee if left on the beans.
To remove the mucilage, the beans are placed into huge tanks with enzymes and are stirred over 24
hours until the sticky substance has dissolved.
The naked beans are then washed thoroughly and sun dried for a day or two. Sometimes, the drying is a
mechanized process.
After the initial processing of the beans from fresh, to dry, the beans are known as ‘Parchment Coffee’.
The parchment coffee is then hulled to remove the dried husk that surrounds the bean. Afterwards, the
bean may be polished. However, this is only done with high quality coffee.

Grading
Coffee beans are sorted according to weight and size. Inconsistencies in color are checked manually and
sorted by hand. After this, the process of grading can be mechanized.
Pneumatic technology is used to determine the weight of individual beans and large screens with holes
are used to separate the beans into different sizes.
Once the coffee has been graded by size, weight and color, the beans are finally put to the taste!
Experienced coffee tasters and connoisseurs class the coffee into flavor profiles and determine their
individual acidity levels. This part of the process is vital for to the roasters, as it gives them the
information they need when selecting their beans.

The production of coffee is no small feat. A lot of resources go into creating good quality coffee before
they even meet the roaster!
From farm, to processing, to grading, to roasting. Our morning coffee is really put through its paces
before it gets to us. It is all these fine details that ensure a quality drinking experience and a coffee we
can adore.

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