Coffee Basics: How Coffee is Made?

coffee cherries in a man's hand

This is a question that perhaps we had never asked ourselves until we found a very good coffee that makes us smile.

The coffee plant is a shrub-like tree that originates from Africa. It is known for its seed, which is roasted to produce coffee beans. The coffee seeds are found inside the fruit that grows on the plant. These are called "cherries."

To make your own cup of joe, you will need to process your chosen variety of coffee cherries. Most growers use one of two methods: dry or wet processing.

Hundreds of flavors, aromas, and profiles make coffee the new black gold, due to its consumption worldwide, second only to water. Coffee is not just those black, burnt beans, instant, or capsules. It's a whole new world of options.

To understand why coffee becomes so complex, it is because it is a fruit. And that fruit comes from a tree that blooms before the harvest and can have aromas and flavors of flowers like jasmine and herbs.

The coffee tree, originally from Africa, has two harvest seasons in one year depending on the latitude. The coffee cherry comes with two seeds, which are what you know as the roasted beans.

Coffee species like arabica and canephora are the most common, with arabica being more sensitive to high elevations but producing a better quality cup.


How to process coffee cherries

mucilage coffee beans

The process transforms the cherry into a dried green bean, ready to be exported.


Once the cherries are picked up at their optimum point of ripeness, a period of 8 hours is preferred to take them to the next step, which can be either depulping them or letting them dry in the sun.


Every country and farm has its own techniques and equipment for removing the pulp from beans, and most of them work by friction.

depulping coffee cherries


Pergamino is the name coffee has at this stage. A "coffee screen size" is another artifact used to select the best coffee beans, according to size, and get a homogeneous batch that is easier to roast and delicious to cup.


Coffee processing methods

drying coffee cherries

Natural.

The dry process or natural process is the most original and is used in countries with water shortages. The cherries are dried a couple of weeks on the floor or screens and have to be rotated to avoid mold and fermented flavors.


The beans in the parchment stage are saved in storage and are threshed before exportation to remove the last shell. This coffee process is robust and gives flavors like dried fruit, berries, and raisins. A dense body and normally good for espresso.

washed green coffee beans

Washed.

 The coffee cherries are depulped and taken to pools of clean water to dissolve the sugars and reach a certain PH. After that, the beans are dried on patios or sieves to reach a humidity of 12%.

honey coffee beans drying

Honey.

 This process is one of the favorites of third-wave coffee lovers. A honey coffee gives a hint of fermented and complex flavors that makes a cup more interesting if you're searching for new experiences in your coffee journey.


The cherries are depulped and then with the mucilage, a layer that is located between the pulp and the parchment, that represents 20% of the fruit on a wet basis and around 5% on a dry basis, it is left in the seed to dry for days or even weeks.


The mucilage has sugars that turn to a sticky layer on the bean that gives the impression of honey when touched.


There are yellow, red, and black honeys on the market. These colors are determined according to the time they were rested in the sun.


Each one has an intensity in the sweetness and very characteristic notes that make a cup more complex and unique. It should be mentioned that in places where it rains constantly, coffee growers have a difficult time processing coffee this way.


These are the main processes coffee undergoes after being collected on the farm. Later, it passes into the hands of the middleman or the roaster, who buys directly from the producers. The latter is the best thing that can happen called direct trade, to improve the farmer's living wage.


The roasting coffee process

unroasted coffee beans

Not many people know that coffee beans have a specific density, meaning how hard or light they are. Likewise, it is explained as the porosity of its anatomy.


We can compare it to the skin of the human body, which opens its pores when it is hot or when we exercise. If our pores are open on our faces, we are more susceptible to problems of all kinds.


Well, in coffee, a more dense coffee can be more challenging to roast, a less dense coffee can be extremely easy to burn. This is why the roaster needs to know these types of technical details before roasting coffee.


And then there's the humidity, coffee beans have a certain amount of water inside them, which is around 10-12% when they meet the right standards for roasting without producing mold while in storage.

 

man roasting killer coffee

 

If the bean is at or above 12%, it will require a longer roasting process. Or, if it’s below 10%, the roasting process and temperature used will need to be very careful not to over-cook this coffee.


Depending upon the bean’s density and moisture, a coffee roaster takes an average of 10 to 15 minutes to roast coffee. It is actually a quick process that doesn’t even take an hour.


From bean to cup

barista brewing a coffee

Considering that while the roaster is skilled at handling coffee’s density and humidity, the biggest challenge is producing a pleasant tasting profile for the customer.


Dark roast for espresso, medium roast, and light roasts are some of the most prevalent roasts on the market, with coffee shops and consumers deciding what they enjoy best in their cup.


We hope you learned something new and enjoyed your cup of coffee!

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