Coffee is the second most traded commodity in the world, next to oil. That said, something important to note of such a developed global industry, is the entire process. Coffee beans go through one heck of a journey, from start to finish before ending up in your cup. Coffee beans are grown in multiple places, all around the world -- yet no two species of coffee are alike.
Coffee Beans start out like any plant and healthy, nutritious soil with the right climate makes for a happy plant. Once the coffee plant has reached the proper maturity level, it is harvested. (At this point in the process, the coffee beans are more-so known as cherries)
Only the ripest cherries are sent off to be processed -- the remaining cherries are then handled individually, depending on how close to being fully ripe they are.
The next step, is the separation of the 'fruit' of the cherry from the pit/bean. This is done via two different methods. The National Coffee Association explains them as such :
"The Dry Method is the age-old method of processing coffee, and still used in many countries where water resources are limited. The freshly picked cherries are simply spread out on huge surfaces to dry in the sun. In order to prevent the cherries from spoiling, they are raked and turned throughout the day, then covered at night or during rain to prevent them from getting wet. Depending on the weather, this process might continue for several weeks for each batch of coffee until the moisture content of the cherries drops to 11%.
The Wet Method removes the pulp from the coffee cherry after harvesting so the
bean is dried with only the parchment skin left on. First, the freshly harvested cherries are passed through a pulping machine to separate the skin and pulp from the bean.
Then the beans are separated by weight as they pass through water channels. The lighter beans float to the top, while the heavier ripe beans sink to the bottom. They are passed through a series of rotating drums which separate them by size.
After separation, the beans are transported to large, water-filled fermentation tanks. Depending on a combination of factors -- such as the condition of the beans, the climate and the altitude -- they will remain in these tanks for anywhere from 12 to 48 hours to remove the slick layer of mucilage (called the parenchyma) that is still attached to the parchment. While resting in the tanks, naturally occurring enzymes will cause this layer to dissolve.
When fermentation is complete, the beans feel rough to the touch. The beans are rinsed by going through additional water channels, and are ready for drying."
The drying process is the game changer here, folks. This is when the beans are usually sun-dried to a point where their moisture level is incredibly low, so that you don't get moldy coffee beans! Once they've reached the adequate moisture level, they go through another process called Hulling. Hulling & Polishing machinery exists to remove ANY bits and pieces of waste that are not usable coffee beans. Including any leftover husks of the cherry, and whatever other organic matter remains.
Once the coffee beans have been properly sorted, weighed and bagged, they are ready to be sent out into the world!
The rest of the story is much more familiar. The coffee arrives to where it's been exported, to then be sent out again to their respective buyers and vendors (thanks consumers).
The Grande Finale! The coffee is then roasted, ground and eventually brewed!
Check out our blog on getting your grind right for more info on that important element for making the perfect cup.
Now when you take your next sip, you'll know a little bit more about the journey those little beans that made to make it into your cup.
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