From Plant to Coffee Bean: Follow the Journey
Fresh coffee beans take a long journey before you receive that beautiful cup of happiness every day. The coffee bean is a seed from a plant that when removed, can be dried out and turned into roasted coffee.
The seeds are planted in large, temporarily shaded areas during wet seasons to ensure the soil remains moist. Once the seeds take a permanent hold to the soil, the shade can be removed to continue the growing process of the plants.
After about three to four years, depending on the type of plant, fruit will start to form. The coffee cherry will bear a deep, red exterior when it is ripe and ready to be picked.
The Wet or Dry Method
Once the picking process begins, processing must follow immediately to prevent the cherries from spoiling. Depending on location and resources, the cherries can be processed by the “Dry Method” or the “Wet Method”.
- The Dry Method is a process in which the cherries are spread out over a large surface for several weeks. The only time the cherries are covered are during rain storms and at night. The idea is to take the moisture of the beans down to about ten percent.
- The Wet Method removes the tissue from the cherries. A pulping machine is used to separate the skin from the bean. Following this process, the beans pass through water channels to help separate them by weight. The lighter beans will float to the top as the heavier ones sink to the bottom. Once the beans are separated, a fermentation process begins. During this process, natural enzymes will cause a layer of mucilage to dissolve from the bean. Once the beans feel rough to the touch, the fresh coffee beans are ready for the drying method.
Now that the beans are dried out, a milling process begins. Machinery used during this process removes the entire dried shell of the cherries and sends them into a polishing machine. Polishing ensures that all skin is removed from the cherries before exportation. Once polished, the beans are ready to be graded and sorted. Size, weight, color flaws, or other imperfections are what determines how the beans are graded and sorted.
The sizing process is a series of screens in which the beans must pass through to determine their placement. Following the screens, an air jet is used to separate the beans by weight. Finally, imperfect beans are removed by hand or machinery. Generally, by hand is preferred to guarantee only fresh coffee beans are being shipped.
Shipping and Roasting
Now that the beans have been milled, they are referred to as “green coffee beans”. This is the stage in which the beans are ready to be stored in jute bags, exported, and shipped.
Once received by coffee stores and cafes nationwide and internationally, the beans are ready to be roasted. During the roasting process, roasters maintain a temperature of about 500° to 550° degrees Fahrenheit. The roasted coffee beans need to reach about 400° Fahrenheit to produce bean oil. The oil that is released gives off the aroma and coffee flavor of the bean being processed.
For more information, recipes, and coffee tips, visit koffeekult.com.