The first year that we harvested coffee from our own plants and roasted it, we didn’t get much. We had a couple of pounds of processed coffee. The processing of that first batch taught us a lot. Everything that first year was done by hand. We hand pulped the coffee and hulled the parchment by hand as well, as we had no equipment. Those two bags were precious, and I wouldn’t have sold them for anything (well maybe for a whole lot of money, and I’m talking a few grand). I barely wanted to offer anyone a cup of coffee, let alone a bag. It was a LOT of work, and after that I can say that I truly appreciate a cup of coffee because I literally know the work that goes into making it.
I’m not a huge coffee drinker, and reserve it mostly for the weekends sitting on the porch in the morning before we start our day. But I think anyone who grows things, whether it be on a huge farm, or a backyard plot, or herbs grown in a planter on the kitchen window, understands the work done to have producing plants. That translates to the taste of the products grown. Whether it actually tastes better may be subjective, but it’s yours from your hard work, so yeah, it tastes the best, better than anything you’ve ever tasted before. AND just for the record, I want to be clear from an purely objective view point, our coffee is the best coffee around, and not because we’ve grown, just because it actually is.
So over the last few years, we’ve progressed from hand processing to buying equipment to assist with that processing. That was a quick decision; hand pulping a bucket of coffee cherries is one thing, it simply can’t be done when you have any bulk. Well sure it can be done, but not without losing your sanity, and without any level of efficiency. So our first pulper was one that we have now, we’ve just added the motor this year. Seriously can I get an “Amen” for electricity. We picked about 10 gallons of coffee yesterday, and that little motor got it done in minutes. There is something to hand cranking, and muscles gained in the process, but after picking for two hours, you don’t want to hand crank anything.
with the hand crank
with the motorized crank.
The cherry is the red coffee bean
So the hubby and I got in a little disagreement last week about when to pick. He thought we should wait a week, and I thought he didn’t want to pick that weekend, and he was coming up with excuses. But well, he was right. We waited a week, and our cherries are a beautiful dark red, and clearly that weren’t quite ready to pick the week before. The picture above shows a little bit of whitish residue on our cherry and leaves. That is a clay we are using to manage the coffee borer beetle, and it works like a charm. It’s all natural, and organic, and we’ve had a lot of success with that. We had probably 5 beans yesterday that showed coffee borer damage, and that’s out of 10 gallons.
So after you get the red cherry off the bean, you ferment your beans. Best fermenting times are 8 – 14 hours, it depends, on the quantity of beans you have, the temperature, and the kind of bean. When you take the red part of the bean, you’re left with two slimy half beans. They’re slippery, and hard to pick up if they fall on the ground because of that mucilage. So the fermenting part, gets rid of that mucilage. Too much fermenting can change the taste of the coffee bean. It’s an art, growing and processing is an art. It’s an art we’re learning, which means one day our coffee, which is already really good, will be even better.
fermented bean (they get all bubbly)
After fermentation is done, you rinse the beans off with water, and lay the coffee out on dry racks. We now have a little house my husband built. Today, it’s raining, so that house is awesome. Our first go at dry racks worked well, but they were only protected from the elements from three sides, so during raining season, we did have some beans go bad with mold. This shouldn’t happen in our dry house. Again, something we learned along the way.
Drying coffee can take about a week or so. Yesterday it got up to 104 degrees in the dry house. We have a fan in there as well. Ideally you want it less than 100 degrees, but hot, hence the drying part. But Mother Nature has a lot of control over that. You dry the coffee so that the bean has about 10 -12% moisture left. This is something my husband can tell. He literally bites the bean and he can tell if its dry enough. I’m still learning this part. Once dry, you can store coffee with its parchment on for up to two years. We keep ours in large burlap bags, until we’re ready to roast it.
When it’s time to roast, you remove the parchment. This is the paper like part covering the bean. We had a small hand parchment remover, which was fine when we just wanted to roast a batch for ourselves. But we’d have to put the coffee beans in a few times to fully remove the parchment. Not only was it time consuming, but it would damage some the beans in the process. So we ended up buying the electric huller. Again, can I get an “Amen” for electricity. This will save us a lot of time. I’m not going to lie, it was spendy, but we decided to go for it, as we’re going to be doing all our own processing.
coffee be a with parchment on top, coffee bean (green bean) with parchment removed on bottom
Once the parchment is off you can roast. For our coffee, we’ve found that that French Roast or dark roast leads to a really smooth coffee taste – not fruity, and little to no bitter after taste.
Then we weigh it, and bag it in 1/2 pound or pound bags, and put our pretty label on it.
There is a whole other discussion on how to actually to brew your coffee. I will say, don’t grind the bean until you’re ready to actually make your coffee. That preserves the quality of your bean the best. But using a French press, or ninja machine, or regular coffee brewer, is a whole conversation in and of itself.
And that my friends, in a nutshell is how you make a cup of coffee …