High on a lush, steep hillside covered with coffee trees, a picker carries a heavy bag filled with a long day's work. The bag contains ripe, red coffee cherries. Months from now, the beans from that day's harvest might be the very ones you purchase at your favorite store. Between the time that he picked them and you purchase them, the beans went through a series of steps very much like this.
A coffee bean is actually a seed. When dried, roasted and ground, it is used to brew coffee. But 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 in carefully formulated soils. They will be watered frequently and shaded from bright sunlight until they are hearty enough to be permanently planted. Planting often takes place during the wet season, so that the soil around the young trees remains moist while the roots become firmly established.
2. Harvesting the Cherries
Depending on the variety, it will take approximately 3 or 4 years for the newly planted coffee trees to begin to bear fruit. The fruit, called the coffee cherry, turns a bright, deep red when it is ripe and ready to be harvested. In most countries, the coffee crop is picked by hand, a labor-
Strip Picked -
Selectively Picked -
In most coffee-
3. Processing the Cherries
Once the coffee has been picked, processing must begin as quickly as possible to prevent spoilage. Depending on location and local resources, coffee is processed in one of two ways.
The Dry Method
This is the age-
The Wet Method
In wet method processing, the pulp is removed from the coffee cherry after harvesting and the bean is dried with only the parchment skin left on. There are several actual steps involved. First, the freshly harvested cherries are passed through a pulping machine where the skin and pulp is separated from the bean. The pulp is washed away with water, usually to be dried and used as mulch. The beans are separated by weight as they are conveyed through water channels, the lighter beans floating to the top, while the heavier, ripe beans sink to the bottom.
Next they are passed through a series of rotating drums which separate them by size.
After separation, the beans are transported to large, water-
4. Drying the Beans
If the beans have been processed by the wet method, the pulped and fermented beans must now be dried to approximately 11 percent moisture to properly prepare them for storage. These beans, still encased inside the parchment envelope (the endocarp), can be sun dried by spreading them on drying tables or floors, where they are turned regularly, or they can be machine dried in large tumblers. Once dried, these beans, referred to as 'parchment coffee,' are warehoused in sisal or jute bags until they are readied for export.
5. Milling the Beans
Before it is exported, parchment coffee is processed in the following manner:
Machines are used to remove the parchment layer (endocarp) from wet processed coffee. Hulling dry processed coffee refers to removing the entire dried husk -
This is an optional process in which any silver skin that remains on the beans after hulling is removed in a polishing machine. While polished beans are considered superior to unpolished ones, in reality there is little difference between the two.
Grading & Sorting
Before being exported, the coffee beans will be even more precisely sorted by size and weight. They will also be closely evaluated for color flaws or other imperfections.
Typically, the bean size is represented on a scale of 10 to 20. The number represents the size of a round hole's diameter in terms of 1/64's of an inch. A number 10 bean would be the approximate size of a hole in a diameter of 10/64 of an inch and a number 15 bean, 15/64 of an inch. Beans are sized by being passed through a series of different sized screens. They are also sorted pneumatically by using an air jet to separate heavy from light beans.
Next defective beans are removed. Though this process can be accomplished by sophisticated machines, in many countries, it is done by hand while the beans move along an electronic conveyor belt. Beans of unsatisfactory size, color, or that are otherwise unacceptable, are removed. This might include over-
6. Exporting the Beans
The milled beans, now referred to as 'green coffee,' are ready to be loaded onto ships for transport to the importing country. Green coffee is shipped in either jute or sisal bags which are loaded into shipping containers, or it is bulk shipped inside plastic-
7. Tasting the Coffee
At every stage of its production, coffee is repeatedly tested for quality and taste. This process is referred to as 'cupping' and usually takes place in a room specifically designed to facilitate the process. First, the taster -
To taste the coffee, the cupper "slurps" a spoonful with a quick inhalation. The objective is to spray the coffee evenly over the cupper's taste buds, and then "weigh" it before spitting it out. Samples from a variety of batches and different beans are tasted daily. Coffees are not only analyzed this way for their inherent characteristics and flaws, but also for the purpose of blending different beans or determining the proper roast. An expert cupper can taste hundreds of samples of coffee a day and still taste the subtle differences between them.
8. Roasting the Coffee
Roasting transforms green coffee into the aromatic brown beans that we purchase, either whole or already ground, in our favorite stores. Most roasting machines maintain a temperature of about 550 degrees Fahrenheit. The beans are kept moving throughout the entire process to keep them from burning and when they reach an internal temperature of about 400 degrees, they begin to turn brown and the caffeol, or oil, locked inside the beans begins to emerge.
This process, called pyrolysis is at the heart of roasting. It is what produces the flavor and aroma of the coffee we drink. 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.
9. Grinding Coffee
The objective of a proper grind is to get the most flavor in a cup of coffee. How coarse or fine the coffee is ground depends on the method by which the coffee is to be brewed. Generally, the finer the grind the more quickly the coffee should be prepared. That is why coffee ground for use in an espresso machine is much finer than coffee which will be brewed in a drip system.
Before you brew your coffee, take a moment to look carefully at the beans. Smell their aroma. Think of the many processes that these beans have gone through since the day they were hand-
From Seed to Cup
Copyright © 2014 Boundary Art -