We love to drink coffee at any time of the day. It takes less than an hour if you want to brew your coffee through a filter method, a few minutes if you want to make a cappuccino, or a few seconds if you are an espresso lover. But do you know how much time it takes for a freshly harvested and roasted coffee bean to reach you?
The coffee that you love to drink each day before leaving for work goes through a long journey before it ever reaches your cup. From the time the coffee seeds are planted, picked, dried, and roasted, coffee beans go through a long series of carefully organized steps. Let's find out about the lifecycle of coffee and the steps that bring out the best from our favorite plant.
1. Growth Of Seedlings And Flowering Of Coffee Cherries
After embedding of the seed in incubation channels, it sprouts and turns into a seedling after one and a half months. The environment is controlled and conditions are kept suitable to avoid any damage or spoilage. After that, the mini seedlings are planted into large soil beds. And 5 to 6 months later these plants are transferred to the field where they can grow to their maximum size.
Flowering starts in the 15th to 18th month, when small green cherries appear on the coffee plant. 4 months from the beginning of flowering, the cherries begin to ripen and become ready to harvest.
Harvesting is a very careful and time-consuming procedure. During the harvesting weeks, workers have to wait until the full ripeness of all the cherries in the field, so harvesting is performed in two to three phases.
2. Drying And Damage Protection
After picking the fresh cherries from the coffee plants, the real game starts, because these ripened coffee cherries are vulnerable to attack from microorganisms, fungal molds, and spoilage due to harsh environments. A drying procedure is carried out to protect the fruit from decay. There are two ways by which the drying procedure can be performed. One is the “dry” method and the other is the “wet” method.
The dry method is an older way of drying the coffee fruit. In the dry method, the coffee cherries are spread under the sun. Direct sunlight for several days decreases the moisture content of cherries by 10-11%. Depending upon weather conditions, the dry method may take a long time.
The modern method is the wet method in which the pulp is removed from the coffee cherry right after harvesting. It helps the bean in quick drying. After the completion of drying, the coffee beans are separated from the endocarp of the cherries.
3. Grading Of the Coffee Beans
Even before drying, the grading process starts through weighing all coffee beans by submerging them in water. The lighter beans float, whereas the heavier sink.
After drying the beans, continued grading is performed based on the weight, color, quality, and size. The coffee beans are passed through a series of channels and monitoring systems to separate large-sized beans from the smaller ones. And heavy coffee beans are separated from the lighter ones by using a high-pressure air stream. At the industry level, a proper scale is used to measure the size of the bean so the quality can be maintained.
The purpose of all the careful grading and sorting is to discontinue the journey of unsatisfactory and defective coffee beans to your cup.
4. Roasting And Flavor Building
The soul of the coffee lifecycle is roasting. This step polishes the flavor and aroma and revitalizes the artless coffee beans. Roasting transforms the green and dried-off coffee beans into flavorful, aromatic, and beautiful brown beans. In this procedure, the coffee beans are heated at a high temperature for several minutes, depending upon the type and variety of coffee.
Heating activates the flavoring and aroma oils in the coffee beans. Then the beans are allowed to spread and cool for 2 to 3 days so they can exhume the carbon dioxide inside them. Once the gas is evaporated from the beans, the taste and fragrance oils lock inside the beans. Some companies use a slow roasting process in which they use a low temperature for a long period. Slow roasting creates a wonderful flavor profile.
5. Tasting By Experts, Packaging, And Transportation
Before the coffee beans are packed, a coffee ground is made from these beans in a small amount and brewed to check the taste. Flavor profile experts check the coffee in every aspect. The higher and lower flavor notes, taste, mouthfeel, and fragrance are all examined critically before packaging of specific batches. Samples from all batches are taken daily and tasted by professional teams.
After final approval from the expert teams, the batch is packed and placed in the warehouse. Now the coffee bags are ready to reach the store where you can buy them. Remember that things like grinding of coffee and contact time of the coffee grounds with hot water are very important factors in determining the flavor.