Coffee Harvesting from Cultivation to Bean
Coffee education would be short-sighted if the section of how coffee beans are produced was omitted. Coffee harvesting is a very demanding job. Coffee production involves difficult working environment. Coffee harvesting is one of its main gears. It contains a lot of manual processing. At the end of the coffee harvesting though price of the product will be judge not on difficulty to collect it but on certain quality factors.
Coffee trees grow in countries with tropical environment (warm climate – heavy rainfall). The soil should be well drained and preferably volcanic. Direct sunlight on them should be limited to 2-3 hours a day. These facts automatically make coffee harvesting a unique workplace.
Coffee plants begin their adventure in the plantation after being 1 year old in a nursery. There are more than 20 varieties of coffee trees. The most common though are Coffea Arabica & Coffea Canephora (known as “Robusta”). In the nursery the seeds are first planted in an ideal environment. They are then transplanted to the main estate as small trees. After 5 years of cultivation they will give the first coffee cherries. A good coffee harvesting certainly depends on choosing the right plant for each individual Earth’s region and soil factors.
COFFEE TREE DESCRIPTION
The tree can grow up to 5 meters (15 feet). The producers though prefer to prune it regularly in order to pick its fruit easily on coffee harvesting time. The productive life of the tree is estimated to 25 years. The flowers of the tree are white. They resemble jasmine in shape and fragrance. It takes from 6 to 9 months for the flowers to turn into ripe fruits depending on weather conditions. Every coffee cherry contains two coffee beans.
Coffee harvesting knowledge: About 900 Arabica coffee beans weight almost 500 gr/appr.1 lb. The equivalent weight for Robusta will be around 1600 coffee beans.
COFFEE FRUIT PROCESSING
The fruit of the coffee plant is called a “cherry” and is of bright red color. The biggest problem in coffee harvesting is that not all of them are ripen at the same time on one branch. That means repeated hand-pick work. This is costly on one hand but produces high quality coffee harvesting on the other hand. A few countries prefer to use the strip-picking method. They collect all the fruits at once and then throw away the unripe ones.
After coffee harvesting a removing of the skin and the fruit pulp from the seed process begins. There are two methods that these job phases are done. Coffee producers can choose either wet processing method or dry processing. Each of the methods is accordingly handled depending on certain factors. Some of them are: the weather of the region, the cost involved, quality wanted, and water availability. Coffee harvesting and chosen processing method are very much related. The taste characteristics of the final product depend a lot on the processing method.
COFFEE HARVESTING & DRY PROCESSING
Dry processing is the oldest and simplest method to get the raw coffee beans. Sunny conditions are necessary for a successful operation. The method implicates spreading first the cherries on a clean floor or a cabinet with wholes for moisture ventilation. Cherries should stay under the sun for 2-3 weeks to dry. During this time the fruits are turned over regularly. This ensures complete dehydration. At night they must be covered in case of rain or moved under a shelter. Brazil and the African region countries are the main users of this method.
COFFEE HARVESTING & WET PROCESSING
Wet processing is the major technique used by most of the coffee producing countries to get the raw coffee beans. It is expensive but it contributes a lot to quality and the flavor of the bean. The cherries are first washed in large tanks. From there, through channels, are carried to a de-pulping machine. The remaining husks are then put to a fermentation tank with special enzymes. They are left to soak for 2-3 days. A final wash is given to them for completion of the job. They are let dry for 5-6 days. This can be done either naturally in the sun or by using large drying machines.
GETTING THE FINAL COFFEE BEAN
Last stage of coffee harvesting is the production of the final green coffee bean. Some varieties have blue shades instead of green. They are seen as the highest quality. “Hulling” is the name of the separation of the bean from its outer shell. This job could be completed using special machinery or manually. The green coffee beans are considered good for as long as two years after coffee harvesting.
Coffee harvesting knowledge: The finished product is packed in 60 kg/132 lbs. bags (Colombia packs in 70 kg/154 lbs.) and stored in dry cool barns or warehouses.