The coffee goes through different phases before coming in the nice packages on the supermarket shelf. So, How Coffee Beans Are Processed?
The first step in coffee processing is to collect the fruit from the bush from which the coffee comes. This is done when cherries or berries acquire a reddish or yellowish color and can be carried out in 3 ways:
Manual: berry to berry, choosing only ripe fruits.
Scraping or de-stemming: this method is usually used when most cherries are ripe. By sweeping the branches of the coffee tree, both ripe and green fruits are removed, which fall to the ground or on canvases. Next, the impurities that have fallen and the green grains are separated by venting, which produce a more acidic flavor.
Mechanics: this is the methodology most used by large coffee producers and consists of using large machines to remove berries from trees. Some of these machines make the trunk vibrate so that the fruits fall to the ground. Others have built-in brushes that extract the fruits of the tree, it is the least selective method of all.
At the same time that the berries are harvested, the residues of the crop are eliminated, the layers that surround the beans are removed and green coffee is obtained (a term that designates the coffee after being processed and before roasting). This procedure is known as pulping.
To carry out this part of the coffee processing, there are several methods and, depending on the one used, the cost of coffee and its quality will vary.
a) Natural coffee processing: dry method
It is the oldest and simplest, in addition to requiring little machinery.
It is used for 90% of Arabica coffee produced in Brazil, for some arabica from India and Ecuador, and for most coffee from Haiti, Paraguay, and Ethiopia. Almost all robusta coffees are processed with this method, which is not very practical for areas whose atmospheric humidity is too high or where it rains frequently during harvest.
Cafes processed in this way have low acidity and exotic flavors. Also, it is common to find intense wine and fruity flavors.
The dry method consists of the following stages:
b) Natural wet process (washed coffee)
This approach requires the use of specific equipment and considerable amounts of water. Coffee obtained in this way is considered of better quality and is usually more expensive.
As a general rule, it is used for all arabica coffees, with the difference of that manufactured in Brazil and in the producing countries of this variety mentioned above and that use the wet technique. It is rarely used for robusta.
Washed coffees are characterized by having more fruity and floral flavors, and more intense acidity.
The wet technique is performed as follows:
Coffee is classified according to its size and defects number and is packaged in sacks to make storage and transport easier, although containers are increasingly used.
Coffee roasting is the phase during which the coffee bean ends up taking the necessary form and, above all, its flavor.
This part of the coffee processing is the only one that is usually done in the country of consumption. Toasters mix different varieties and toast them to the taste of local consumers.
Finally, roasters vacuum package freshly roasted coffee and, sometimes, even already ground.