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.
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. Continue reading “Drying the beans”
Once the cherries are picked, the beans are removed and then dried. Processing involves separating the coffee beans from the cherry.
Removing the beans from the cherry can be done in several ways:
Machine-assisted Wet Processing
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”
My first real coffee activity in Costa Rica was picking and processing coffee cherries. Processing removes the beans from the cherry.
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.
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”
In the previous post, “Planting New Coffee Trees,” I discussed coffee seeds, planting the seeds and transplanting the seedling pairs. In this post, I will show how small coffee trees are transplanted to their final location. After being transplanted, the coffee tree will take two years to start to produce coffee in a small quantity. Two years after that, the tree will be producing in full swing. It will need to be fertilized three times a year, during the wet season. Foliar is also applied. Foliar feeding is a technique of feeding plants by applying liquid fertilizer directly to their leaves. After the 5th year, the tree will be pruned for the first time. This will reduce the yield, which up to that point had been increasing every year.
In this article I will discuss coffee seeds, planting the seeds and transplanting the seedling pairs. In the next post I will show how small coffee trees are transplanted to their final location.
While it is possible to grow a coffee tree from green coffee beans, the germination rate (percentage of beans that sprout and grow) would be small. This is because the process to mill and dry green coffee for roasting kills most of the seeds. For planting a commercial coffee seed is used.
These commercial coffee seeds are dry beans with their parchment and a coating to help prevent fungus growth. These seeds are not stripped of the cherry peel in the same way that you peel coffee to be roasted. They are peeled by hand or using a machine with a soft roller in order to prevent damage to the embryo. Also, the seeds are dried in the shade, not directly under the sun like drying coffee to be roasted. The final moisture content of the seed is 25% compared to 11% for the coffee to be roasted. Continue reading “Planting New Coffee Trees”