How coffee cherries become green beans!

Although coffee trees grow all over the world, the planting and harvesting methods follow a similar pattern throughout all farms. 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.

Costa Rica 050Coffee 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.

After approximately 3 to 4 years, new coffee plants begin to bear fruit, the coffee cherry. The fruit turns a bright, deep red when it is ripe and ready to be harvested. Most coffee beans are harvested by hand, a rather labor intensive process. Two different harvest methods exist: strip picked and selectively picked.Costa Rica 011 In most coffee growing countries, strip picked is the method farms use, meaning the entire crop is harvested at once. If it is selectively picked, only the ripe berries are picked by hand, every 8-10 days allowing cherries to be picked at the peak of ripeness. This type of harvest is more labor intensive, and thus more costly; it is used primarily to harvest finer Arabica beans. Each coffee tree yields anywhere from 20 to 40 pounds of green coffee beans the harvest.

Once the berries are picked, processing must begin as quickly as possible to avoid spoilage. Beans can either be processed wet or dry. 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, and 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 ready to be exported.

After the beans have been picked, processed, dried, hulled, graded, and sorted, it is finally time for them to be exported to the roaster! All of the flavor and aroma that we enjoy in coffee is created by the roasting process. Our roasting machines reach a temperature between 430 and 460 degrees Fahrenheit during the roasting process.  The beans are kept moving throughout the entire process to keep them from burning and when they reach an internal temperature of about 350 degrees, they begin to turn brown and the caffeol, or coffee oil, locked inside the beans begins to emerge. Roasting is one part art, one part science, and several parts judgment. We have fine tuned our roasting process over the years to bring each bean’s unique flavors in every cup.