Rigorous Indeed: How Is My Beloved Coffee Made?

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For obvious reasons, coffee is one of the most consumed and loved beverages worldwide. In fact, statistics show that there are about 2.25 billion cups of coffee consumed daily all around the globe. Coffee lovers are a different breed, I must say. 

But do you ever wonder how this addicting beverage is made? What is the process? Do they put some kind of magic in this drink that a lot of people find it hard to go on with their day without having even one cup of it? If yes, then you are in luck. Today, we are going to explore and learn about the rigorous process of coffee making.

Sow some seeds

Photo from: Eleven Coffees

First in the process is, of course, planting. Before it is poured into cups, tumblers, and the likes, coffee comes in the form of a seed, which is used to grow coffee bushes. These coffee seeds are planted over big and shaded fertile grounds. They start to grow and show their structure (stem, nodes, buds, leaves, flowering stem, and flowering buds) after a period of about three to four months. There are several and distinct types of brushes and trees comprising the coffee plant family, but only three of which are the main sources of the coffee we consume globally: robusta, liberica, and arabica.  

The seeds from the aforementioned coffee plant species are positioned in places with high levels of altitude, particularly in environments with tropical and warm temperatures since these types of places are where coffee plants thrive the best. The plants begin blooming three to four years later and in just over nine months, they start to bear cherry-like fruits. When that happens, it means harvest season is just around the corner.

It’s harvest time!

Photo from: iStock

Once the coffee cherry matures and turns from green to a color between yellow, red, or orange, it is highly possible that the fruit is ripe and is ready for harvesting. Normally, coffee cherries are plucked by hand. They will either be stripped off the branch, or selectively picked. The ones that are stripped of the branch are a combination of matured and unripe coffee fruits, while only those that are red in color are plucked selectively. To make sure that the fruit will produce great-tasting coffee after processing, it is a requirement that the one who will selectively harvest the fruit is highly skilled and knows the cherry fruit harvesting process by heart. If a harvester is not properly trained and mistakenly picks unripe coffee fruits, it will greatly affect the quality of its liquid form. It is obvious that selectively harvesting such fruit is time-consuming and requires great effort and high attention to detail, so those who do this kind of work are rewarded and paid based on not just the quantity, but also the quality of coffee fruit they deliver.

On another note, coffee cherries can also be harvested using machines. The process of strip picking coffee cherries through the help of a machine is done in places where the land is flat. This is considered to be a convenient way of harvesting, however, it is not possible to do in every place where there are coffee trees because such trees are normally planted in hills and places with high altitudes.

From fruit to bean

Once the coffee cherries are collected, they are already up for processing. Processing may include letting the fruit dry up on its own or taking out the coffee beans out of the fruit and drying them up. There are two popular ways to do this:

  1. Dry Method

This is known as the natural way of processing and turning coffee fruits into dried coffee beans. After thoroughly cleaning and selecting the perfectly ripe ones, the fruits are then dried intact. Since this is known as the natural way, the drying is done through the help of the sun, and this process lasts from at least a week to four weeks, based on the climate. To make sure that the fruits are properly and wholly dried up, they are manually scraped and flipped. And to avoid producing beans that easily break or have too much moisture, it is important for them to be dried up just right. Not too dry and not too moist. 

  1. Wet Method

In this method, it is crucial for the coffee fruits to be sorted, cleaned, and processed immediately after they are harvested. To start, the fruits are sorted and thoroughly washed. Next, they are placed in a depulping machine where they will be carefully pressed within solid and budging surfaces in order to easily separate and take the beans out of the fruit’s skin and flesh. To steer clear of the dangers of contaminating the beans due to the mucilage and flesh residues left by the machine, individuals who do the wet method transports the beans from the depulping machine into big tanks and break down the mucilage using natural enzymes up until to the point that they can be manually washed out. Depending on the factors (temperature, enzyme concentration, mucilage thickness), the process usually takes about 24 to 36 hours to be fully complete. Once the process is complete, the fermented beans are then thoroughly cleaned either in water-filled tanks. Subsequently, they are dried naturally, mechanically, or both in order to achieve the standard 12.5% moisture content.

Give the beans some rest. They deserve it.

To enhance the coffee’s shelf life, the processed beans (parchment coffee) must first be given enough time to rest in a place where the temperature does not easily change, well ventilated, and is not too exposed to light. The parchment coffee’s resting period fully depends on what method was used to process the coffee fruits, but normally, they can be put to rest for 90 days or above.

Cure them beans!

The next steps in the processing stage take place when the harvested coffee fruits have already transformed into parchment coffee and have already undergone enough resting period. This series of succeeding steps is called “curing.”

  1. Hulling

Hulling refers to the process of removing the outer dried layer of parchment coffee in order to get the coffee bean itself. To accomplish this, coffee is placed into a hulling machine which carefully uses friction in taking off the unneeded layers from the bean.

  1. Polishing

This next step is not really necessary. However, to achieve a much better-looking coffee bean, polishing is carried out. The process of polishing involves removing layers of silver skin, which are found directly under the parchment.

  1. Grading and sorting

This process involves assessing the coffee beans by their color, weight, size, and any other possible flaw. To determine which beans are heavy and which are light, an air jet is used to pneumatically assort them. On the other hand, coffee beans are sorted by size using a succession of sieves with varying sized holes during the screen sorting process. The sieve pores are typically calculated in increments of 0.4mm (1/64in), and the bean size is typically scaled from 10 to 20. As for the color sorting, it can be done in two different ways. First is the manual color sorting wherein defective beans are separated from the acceptable ones. This process is considered time-consuming and requires a group of people to finish since they would have to separate the beans by hand. The second process is color sorting through the use of a machine. In this method, special cameras are utilized for thoroughly assessing the color of the beans by matching each to a preprogrammed range of color. 

Shipping time!

The beans that passed the rigorous screening and reviewing process are now called green coffee beans and are stored inside jute or sisal bags, which are placed in cargo containers. Once placed in the said containers, they are now ready for bulk exportation.

Taste test

After being exported, green coffee beans are now up for a taste evaluation. This process is also referred to as coffee cupping. People who conduct this kind of assessment are required to be critical about the coffee’s overall quality, by which the coffee will be priced accordingly.
To know more about the whole process of coffee cupping, you may refer to this link.

Coffee roasting

Photo from: dreamstime

Once the green coffee beans are proven to have just the perfect aroma, sweetness, bitterness, flavor, and acidity, they are now up for the roasting process.  During this process, they are transformed into the flavorful and fragrant brown-colored beans we may find and buy in our preferred shops or coffee shops. To prevent the beans from scorching, they are continuously moved during the process, and a majority of roasting equipment keeps its temperature at 550 degrees Fahrenheit. Once done, either water or air is used to quickly bring down the temperature of the roasted coffee beans.

Grind, grind, brew!

Now that the green-colored beans are finally turned into the brown-colored ones we are all familiar with, it’s finally time for some grinding and brewing action. On one hand, to achieve maximal richness in a cup of joe, a meticulous and perfect grinding process is necessary. On the other hand, the technique used for brewing determines how large or tiny the coffee’s grind size will be.

And that is it for the rigorous process of coffee making. I hope you learned something from this write up! 

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