Coffee Processing: Part 1

From the time the coffee is picked till it is bagged and shipped, there are many opportunities for things to go wrong. I decided to make this a two-part post to keep it short and easier to consume.
Today I want to focus mainly on:

Picking the right coffee.
Parts that make up coffee.
Processing Methods.

Picking the right coffee.Coffee Cherries.
Unfortunately, most coffee pickers in the world are paid for the volume they bring back, and picking only ripe cherries often reduces their daily output by 30 percent or more.

The coffee picking costs are one of the biggest annual costs for a coffee farmer and pickers get squeezed when margins are thin (I’ll be writing a post on the costs of running a farm in the near future where we can go a bit deeper.) Trends are changing as the specialty coffee market grows and it would be great to see more and more farmers pay premium for quality over quantity. So as you can see, the way the system is currently set up at most farms they’re starting with a huge disadvantage, having to needle through the coffees the pickers bring in to separate the best from the rest.

Parts that make up coffee.

  • An external skin or exocarp, 
which is usually dark red when ripe, sometimes yellow or it has incidentally a different color. (For example, the variety purpuresence develops purple ripe cherries.)
  • The mesocarp, which includes the pulp with the sticky, sugar-like substance called mucilage.
  • Two beans (each is called an endosperm) that contain a germ or embryo. If one of the beans does not develop, the other grows into a peaberry bean, which has a distinct oval-round shape.

Processing methods.
There are three methods for processing coffee cherries:

  • The fully washed method. At least 50% of coffee is processed this way. Generally is cleaner are more consistent.
  • The natural sun-dried method. Often used in countries with little or no access to water. Also often with coffees where they have used non-selective picking methods.
  • The semi-washed or pulped natural method. (Which is a hybrid process.) Caters nicely to espressos. Generally has more sweetness, less acidity and more body. 

I like to try to keep the posts fairly short and easy to consume, so we will focus mainly on the processing methods in the next post.

I hope this was valuable and check in next Monday to read up on processing.


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