Posted on: AUG 13, 2014
Posted by: STOKES-COFFEE
Coffee is a hot (or sometimes cold) beverage that is loved across the globe. A main factor of its appeal is undoubtedly its punctual caffeine content and range of flavours.
The coffee production process is something many of us are not aware of, but this process is incredibly fascinating.
In this article we are going to provide you with all the details you need to know to understand more about your morning coffee and how to create the perfect coffee, from scratch.
What is a coffee plant?
The coffee tree is a small evergreen featuring smooth leaves and clusters of white, fragrant flowers which throughout the process, mature into deep red fruits.
Something you may be unaware of, is that coffee is actually a seed not a bean. Within this red fruit you will commonly find two seeds inside which are your ‘coffee beans’.
The beautiful Arabica coffee plant prefers a cool, moist environment which means you will find them in frost free climates at higher altitude areas, such as tropics and subtropics. The optimum growing conditions for this plant include:
- A temperature of around 24 ᵒC
- An area with well distributed rainfall of around 127cm with a short dry season
- Fertile soils, especially in areas with volcanic origin
However, Robusta plants as the name suggests, are much stronger compared to the Arabica, meaning they can be grown in much harsher environments and have less specific requirements.
Typically, a coffee tree yields its maximum between its fifth and tenth year and can bear fruit for around, an impressive, 30 years.
Processing the coffee beans
The full process of the coffee beans and preparing them for roasting can be completed in one of two ways - the dry method or the wet method.
The dry method -
The simpler, cheaper and most traditional method of processing coffee.
The harvested cherries are spread over concrete, brick or a matting surface (ideally in sunlight) and are raked at regular intervals to prevent any fermentation happening.
If it rains or the temperature falls, then the cherries have to be covered for protection. So, this process requires constant monitoring to guard against the risks from changing weather conditions.
The washed method -
The wet/washed method requires more care and greater investment compared to the dry method, but it causes less damage and preserves the intrinsic qualities of the bean.
The noticeable difference between the two methods is that the wet method uses a procedure to remove the skin and pulp from the bean within 12-24 hours of harvesting, instead of allowing the cherries to air dry as with the drying method.
Drying & hulling the beans
Hulled coffee refers to the removal of the husks or the whole of the dried outer covering of the original cherries.
With the drying process, parchment like coverings are used for the beans, and they must be dried to retain around 11% of moisture to ensure that the beans can be stored in a stable condition.
This process can be carried out using direct sunlight or chemical dryers, and usually takes around 7-15 days.
In the wet processed coffee, hulling is used to help remove the dried parchment layers surrounding the bean.
The next stage of the coffee bean journey - Polishing
The polishing stage is optional and therefore is not always done so it is worthwhile researching whether your favourite coffee is polished or not.
During the polishing process, any silver skin that remains on the bean after hulling will be removed using a machine.
The polished beans are considered to be the superior choice over unpolished beans, but realistically, there is very little difference between them.
Grading & sorting the coffee beans
Commonly, coffee beans are fairly uniform in size and similar in proportion.
They are graded first by size and then by their density. Next, any unhulled or over fermented coffee beans are removed from the cache.
This process is usually completed by hand as the beans move along a belt.
Exporting the green coffee beans
On average, an astonishing 7 million tonnes of green coffee is produced each year. Shipments are sent to warehouses, directly to roasters or roasted on third party sites across the globe.
The roasting process
Within its natural state, a coffee bean contains plenty of protein, caffeine, acids and sugars, but lacks in flavour, making the overall taste and aroma dependent on the roasting.
Depending on the variety, coffee beans are generally roasted for between 10-20 minutes at temperatures of 200-250 degrees Celsuis. During the roasting process, there is a weight loss of around 15-20%.
During every process, each style of coffee has its own character and will be at its optimum state at different stages of roasting.
The journey of how coffee is made is fascinating and the process creates your perfect cup of coffee, the Stokes way of course. We roast all our coffee on site at The Lawn Café and there is a viewing area to see the roasting process first hand.
If this has given you a craving for delicious coffees, then please feel free to take a look through our range.