Journey of the Coffee Bean
Imagine an 11 foot tall shrub covered with clusters of white flowers, or inflorescences. After the flowers have been pollinated they wither and bring forth a fruit, the ‘cherry’. The cherry will be green until it ripens and then it turns red. Then the plant is ready for harvesting. You spend full days out in the field for weeks at a time, picking only the ripe cherries from the plant. The ripe cherries get picked, put into a basket and carried back to the farm where coffee’s amazing journey begins.
On the farm the cherries are put into a machine that removes the cherry pulp from the seeds. The discarded red pulp will be used as compost in the fields. The beans, still covered in a slimy coat called mucilage, then get soaked in water to break down their slimy covering. The layer of mucilage, mainly composed of pectin and sugars, is fermented by naturally present micro-organisms for up to 24 hours, and is critical to the value and flavor of the coffee. Fermentation ends when the beans lose their slimy feel. The beans, now held together by an outer covering called a parchment, must then be washed thoroughly to ensure the removal of any trace of mucilage.
The next step that takes place on the farm is the drying process. This gives the farmer a tangible product that they can sell to the coop where Desert Sun gets its coffee. The parchment beans are spread out to dry on patios and frequently mixed for even drying. Once the parchment is dried to a proper level, they are ready to be taken off the farm to the coop where the farmer will sell his/her goods.
The coop is the where all the farmers of a region will bring their product to sell. It is the last place the coffee will be before leaving the country to head to our warehouse. Inside each parchment that the farmer sells to the coop, there are two beans (or seeds), lying flat sides pressed together, (On rare occasions, there is one bean; called a peaberry.). These are the green beans that a roastery such as Desert Sun will receive. Upon receiving farmers’ product, the coop will remove the parchment from the green beans by placing them in a machine that uses friction to remove the shell. During this process, beans can be damaged and broken if the machine is not calibrated properly. Green coffee is then separated according to size and graded.
Grade is generally used to indicate coffee bean size. The process of determining coffee bean size, or grading, is done by passing un-roasted beans through screens of different sizes, or sieves. For example, Grade 18 beans, also called AA, will pass through a sieve with 18/64” diameter holes, but are retained by the next smaller sieve with 16/64” diameter holes. After the beans have been graded, they will be sorted and defective beans will be removed. At this point, the green coffee is stored in bags and ready to be shipped.
As a roastery, we order and receive green beans from all over the world. Our job is to select quality organic green beans grown in a socially responsible manner, and bring out the flavors nature intended them to have. The inspiration comes from the satisfaction of creating a final product, from turning a tasteless green bean into a lively aromatic roasted coffee. Sounds easy right? Well this is where it gets difficult and where roasting becomes of utmost importance.
Thanks for reading.