Coffee production in a nutshell

I love to know everything about some of my interests, so it is no surprise that I have to dig deeper into coffee information. I learn something new every day, and I think there is some interesting stuff you may want to know as well.

Here are some important facts about the last step in coffee production – coffee processing.

This step is a must since it changes coffee fruit into the final product – coffee bean. Plus, it’s a phase in which coffee gets complete taste and aroma.

Coffee processing reasons

Coffee beans don’t grow on trees in their final shape, but as a fruit. This fruit we call coffee berries (or cherries).

Coffee cherry has a coffee bean placed inside of it, as well as pulp and four layers of skin.

The first reason for coffee processing is to remove pulp and flash (membranes) from coffee berries and get clean coffee bean that will be ready for use.

Second reason is related to coffee moisture content.  Since each fruit contains a certain percent of water, coffee berries also have it.

When we remove pulp from coffee beans, the coffee moisture level is about 60%. Since this kind of wet environment would be perfect place for bacteria and fungi to grow, it’s very important to lower the moisture to acceptable level. The optimum coffee moisture  level for coffee beans is 12.5%.

Third, also very  important reason, is related to coffee quality, taste and aroma. Even if we would just open coffee fruit and take the bean out, we still would not get desired aroma and taste of coffee bean. Coffee bean gets its true aroma during its processing period (this process is also known as coffee fermentation).

So, in order to finish coffee production process properly, it is necessary to process all harvested coffee beans.

Coffee processing methods

There are two main coffee processing methods used worldwide – dry and wet processing methods.  There is also a third method known as semi washed (or pulped natural). Coffee beans produced with this method have the characteristics of both wet and dry process coffee.  Although some of the famous Brazilian coffees are processed with this method, somehow it’s not accepted in the rest of coffee production countries.

There are several factors that determine which coffee processing method should be used.

  • environmental effects on coffee beans during processing
  • desired aroma and taste
  • type of coffee
  • costs

The first factor is probably the most important one.  For example, dry processing demands stable weather with lots of sunny days and acceptable air humidity level. Dry processing can’t be used in the countries with a lot of rainfalls.

Each coffee processing method gives different aroma and taste to final product. While wet processed coffee is more clean and sharp, dry processed coffee has full, less sharp but more natural earthy taste.

Wet coffee method is often used for arabica coffee types. Dry method is used for both arabica and robusta coffee types.

When it comes to costs, things are little more complicated. Since wet processing method is completely automated, it demands several professional machines (that need to be provided). But, once these machines are bought costs usually include just fuel.

Dry processing requires a lot of man power. Although  it is usually much cheaper to start coffee production with hiring people than with bying expensive machines, people  need to be hired always, so the costs are constant.

What after processing

After it is processed, coffee goes to storage and is being transported for sales.

In most cases coffee production countries don’t roast, pack and sell coffee by themselves. This would be too complicated.  They sell raw coffee beans to other producers who make coffee available to final consumers.