How It's Made

Cultivation and Harvesting

A typical coffee tree takes one to three years to bear fruit. A coffee tree’s life cycle is anywhere from thrity to fifty years with the peak years of yield being between fifteen and twenty years. Crops are typically cyclical with two years of good crops followed by two years of bad crops. Crops are also subject to weather and disease.

Processing

Once coffee cherries are picked they go through a process that removes the skin and pulp. There are two methods to doing this; wet and dry. The dry process tends to give the final product a more full bodied flavor and a mild smell. The wet process produces a very strong aroma and more acidity. Arabica beans are usually wet processed.

Sorting and Grading

Once the beans are dry, they are sorted by their size and density. Similar beans are sorted together. Unwanted materials like twigs and insects are sorted out, as well. Grading a bean depends on country. Robustas are typically ungraded. The larger the bean, it has been said, the better the coffee.

Bagging and Shipping

It can take around two weeks once a cherry is picked for it be bagged before roasting. Sometimes, beans are left bagged in warehouses to acclimatize to their new state. In 2004, the total world production of green coffee was 17 billion pounds with 70% being internationally traded. Some countries trade by private companies while others ship/trade by coffee boards.

Cupping and Roasting

Cupping coffee considered an art form in the coffee business. It is used to determine the both the quality and the flavors inherent in the coffee. Coffee is shipped to designated roasting houses. Roasting produces the primary flavor and aroma of the coffee. Green beans are roasted in batches that spin and heat them evenly at around 550 degrees Fahrenheit. Heating the beans boils off water, causes starches to convert into sugars, and causes the sugars to caramelize. Once the beans are hot, they turn yellow. At about ten-fifteen minutes, the beans turn tan and double in size. This roast is called Cinnamon Roast. If a different roast is preferred then the process continues to a City Roast and then, nine to eleven minutes later, a Full City Roast. Proteins at this point turn into peptides. These turn into oil on the bean’s surface as a Vienna Roast is produced. This oil gives coffee much of its flavor. An Italian Roast is the stage about twelve to thirteen minutes after the Vienna Roast. It is dark, oily, and slightly smoky. At fourteen minutes, the coffee has completed a second doubling stage and should taste both full-bodied and chocolatey. This is called French Roast. There should be no bitterness inherent in this roast as all of the coffee flavor has been burned away.

At this point, the delicate process of blending different flavors of coffees happens. Some coffee may be pre-ground and then coffee is shipped to be distributed to stores and coffee shops.

(Source:The Coffee Book)