From Plant To Cup...The Coffee Story [INFOGRAPHIC]
Planting & growing coffee
The coffee tree grows from seeds to seedling in 4 to 8 weeks and continues to grow for 9 to 18 months until it reaches about 12 inches. The soil from which it grows needs to stay moist and without much sunlight. After that, it takes 3 more years for it to bear fruit, and 6 more years for it to become mature and produce fruit fully. That’s when it’s ready for harvesting.
Harvesting & picking
There is usually one harvest per year and done mostly by hand. Harvest season lasts 4 to 6 months and coffee is picked every 8 to 10 days. Experienced coffee picker can harvest as much as 200 pounds of fruit each day, which gives 50 to 60 pounds of raw coffee beans.
Processing the Cherries
Coffee cherries have to be processed soon after harvesting to avoid spoilage. There are two ways of processing them. When using Dry Method, cherries are spread out on large surface and dry in the sun. They have to be turned through a few times during the day, and covered at night or if it’s raining. It takes several weeks to bring moisture level down to 11%. When using Wet Method the cherries pass through pulping machine that separates the pulp and skin from the cherry right after harvesting. After that beans pass through water channels and rotating drums to separate them by weight and size. After that, they are put into fermentation tanks filled with water where they will stay for 12 to 48 hours in order to remove a layer of mucilage. When that layer is removed, beans go through another set of water channels and then they are ready to dry.
Drying the beans
No matter the method, beans must be dried to contain 11% moisture. They can be dried in the sun or machine-drier, with the help of large tumblers. Dried beans are called parchment coffee. They are then stored in jute or sisal bags.
Milling the beans
Before exporting, big hulling machines are used to remove thick parchment layer from wet processed beans or entire dried husk from dry processed beans. Beans are then sorted and graded by size and weight and reviewed for imperfections. The final step is removing defective beans by hand or using machines, or sometimes both.
Exporting the beans
After milling, coffee beans are called green coffee and they are ready to be shipped inside shipping containers.
Roasting the coffee
Roasting is the process of transforming green coffee beans to brown coffee beans we all know. Roasting is mostly done at 550 F, and beans are constantly moved around to avoid burning. They turn brown at 400 F, and caffeol, fragrant oil, starts to emerge from the beans. That process is called pyrolysis and it gives coffee the flavor and aroma we love. After roasting, beans are cooled by air or water.
Grinding and brewing the coffee
Coffee drinkers can buy pre-ground coffee or do their own grinding at home. How fine it is depends on the brewing method that will be used. In general, if grind is more fine, the brewing time should be shorter. When brewing coffee, it’s important to use quality water, and 1 to 2 tablespoons of ground coffee for every 6 ounces of water. Water should be boiling but not for too long. Brewing time is from 5 minutes when using coarse grinded coffee and drip method, to 20-30 seconds for fine, espresso coffee.