Different Sizes of the Green Beans

Coffee beans at various stages of growth
Matias Zeledon of Down to Earth Coffee in Costa Rica posted an interesting picture of coffee beans with different sizes on the branch. This is an example of why you have to hand pick coffee to only get the ripe cherries. Here is Matias’ description:

Happy to see the coffee healthy and developing well in the Providencia highlands farm. The different sizes of the green beans are produced by the different waves of blooming, which generate the different stages in the harvest. The big differences in size comes from the fact that this year we had rain on Feb 9th so the first blooming came early and that is why the beans look so well developed compared to the others. This also means that we are going to be harvesting coffee in early November, a sizable bunch and not just a few.

www.godowntoearth.org

Down to Earth – Started by Mother Nature, finished by hand

Walking around the village
A year ago my wife and I spent a week at the Down to Earth Coffee Plantation in Dota/Costa Rica. While I have been trained to roast green coffee beans I had no idea how coffee was grown or harvested.

We learned about everything from planting seeds to transplanting, picking, processing, drying and milling (removing the parchment).

This is an opportunity to experience Costa Rica. We lived in the local village of 300 people 45 minutes by 4×4 from the paved road.

Weighing and Hulling (Removing the Parchment)

When the beans are at 11-12% moisture, they are removed from the parijuelas and bagged. Each bag has the parijuela number that it came from. The bags are then weighed and the results logged.

Weighing and logging the dry beans

Coffee beans have a hard shell covering the bean. Here is the coffee bean anatomy introduced in the Processing the Coffee Cherries article. This illustration from Wikipedia shows the cherry anatomy.
Continue reading “Weighing and Hulling (Removing the Parchment)”

Drying the beans

Wet Coffee Beans just from the cherry

The product of coffee cherry processing is bags of wet coffee beans. These new beans are about 2/3 water. Green beans ready for roasting need to be 11 to 12% moisture, so a significant amount of water has to be removed.

While large commercial processors will use a power unit, small operations use the sun. Beans are spread out to dry. Most spread the beans on a concrete pad; Matias uses drying racks called parijuelas, traditional wood-framed mesh racks.
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Processing the Coffee Cherries

Once the cherries are picked, the beans are removed and then dried. Processing involves separating the coffee beans from the cherry.

Beans removed from the cherry

Removing the beans from the cherry can be done in several ways:

  1. Ferment-and-Wash Method
  2. Machine-assisted Wet Processing
  3. Dry Process

Ferment-and-Wash is used mainly at large coffee processing factories. On the farm, the crop was processed with the machine-assisted wet process. Cherries that were too small to be machine processed were rejected, then dry processed by hand. Continue reading “Processing the Coffee Cherries”

Picking Coffee Cherries

My first real coffee activity in Costa Rica was picking and processing coffee cherries. Processing removes the beans from the cherry.

Picking Cherries

After an eye-opening drive to the plantation, we rode down the driveway to the parking area beside the house. It is difficult to show in the pictures just how steep the side of the mountain is. I found it a challenge to climb up to the plants. The pickers navigate the slopes while wearing black rubber boots and carrying a 75-pound sack of cherries.

Hard working Panama migrant workers carry out 75-pound bags

Picking coffee is “piece-work” – meaning that the pickers are paid for the quantity collected by volume. With this high-quality coffee you pick only the ripe cherries. A tree will be picked about 4 times during each season, removing only the cherries that are ready for processing. Continue reading “Picking Coffee Cherries”