Coffee goes through quite a process to get from the farm to you.
From planting to processing and packaging here are a few key steps:
Step 1 - Planting
The coffee beans are planted in a nursery into individual bags with a depth of at least 50cm and placed under the shade and watered often to insure moisture in the soil. From the nursery, they are then planted in their final spots in the coffee fields once they've reached a height of 20-40cm.
Photo by Christian Joudrey
Step 2 - Bloom and Produce
Three to four years after the coffee is planted, sweet-smelling flowers start to bloom. About 6-8 weeks after each coffee flower is fertilized coffee fruit remains as a pin head. At week 15 the tree will start to show signs of coffee cherries but will only change from green to red coffee cherry after 35 weeks after blooming.
Photo by Katya Ross
Step 3 - Harvesting
In most countries, the crop is picked by hand in a labor-intensive and difficult process. Whether by hand or by machine, all coffee is harvested in one of two ways:
Strip Picked: All of the cherries are stripped off of the branch at one time, either by machine or by hand.
Selectively Picked: Only the ripe cherries are harvested and picked individually by hand.
Pickers rotate among the trees every 8 to 10 days, choosing only the cherries which are at the peak of ripeness.
A good picker averages approximately 45kg to 90kg of coffee cherries daily, producing 9kg to 18kg of coffee beans.
Step 4 - Processing
After the harvesting process is completed they sorted between ripe cherries and cherries that are too mature, this gets done by throwing cherries in water, and the cherries that sink are of higher quality than the ones that float and the floaters are separated.
Coffees then go through different processing methods ( eg. Washed, Natural, Honey), but we're explaining the washed process today. In washed coffee processing the cherries need to be pulped before the beans can be fermented and washed. In pulping the cherries' fruit flesh is removed by a depulper ("a mill").
Washed coffees get fermented in water tanks between 24 and 48 hours where they after fermentation then get washed once more with fresh water, this causes a lot of moisture in the coffee. The beans then go on to drying beds for anywhere between 10 and 22 days, are raked and turned throughout the day to ensure even drying and no mold forms, and must be dried to approximately 11% moisture to properly prepare them for storage.
Photo by Joel Friedrich
After drying the coffee gets referred to as green coffee. The green coffee then gets sorted again to ensure all defects are removed that could affect the quality of your cup at the end. Often defects can be seen visually in the beans (blackening, cracked, visual mold, etc.)
Step 5 - Exporting
Green coffee's most traditional material used for packaging is burlap bags, it’s an eco-friendly option and relatively affordable. The burlap unfortunately does not protect the green coffee against moisture or oxygen – two elements associated with poorer coffee quality.
A solution for this would be vacuum packing the coffee however, with a considerably higher cost, this method is typically only used for samples or micro and nano lots of exceptional specialty coffees.
Step 6 - Roasting
Roasting is very similar to cooking an onion, when heat is applied the chemical composition of the onion changes and it starts to caramelize, when heat is applied for too long the sugars from the caramelization start to burn resulting in a not-so-pleasant flavour.
What happens with the onion happens to a coffee bean too. Heat gets applied to the green bean where it goes from green to yellow. After this, the beans start browning and the sugars and acids react during roasting to bring out different aromas and flavors that are locked inside the green coffee. Beans, when taken too far, will result in roasty, cigar-like, and other unpleasant flavours.
Photo by Battlecreek Coffee Roasters
Step 7 - Packaging
After roasting took place and the coffee degasses we package coffee for orders and ship them to our clients where they brew their perfect cup of freshly roasted coffee at home or work.
Photo by Pieter from Boxer Brew Coffee Co.
Step 8 - Selling
We also take some of our lovely blend of Nicaraguan H1 and Burundi to the farmers market where we sell anything from Espresso, Flat white, and Cappuccino to Latte, Americano, and Cortado.
Photo by Erica from Boxer Brew Coffee Co.