Your reading of this article now means that today you looked at the cup of coffee you were drinking and wondered about the journey that coffee would take to reach your cup. In this article, we will discuss all the stages from the beginning of the cultivation through the harvest and processing to roasting, grinding, and brewing.

Cultivation

Coffee is grown in tropical and subtropical regions due to its moderate temperatures. There is a so-called coffee belt, which is the region that stretches on both sides of the equator and is where most of the coffee-producing countries are.

Coffee Cultivation

There are many types of coffee plants, but we will list the 3 most popular types.

Arabica

If you go to a store to buy your coffee, you will find many of the coffee bags on offer written on it 100% Arabica or 90% Arabica. So why is that?

Arabica coffee, or also known as Arabian coffee, is the most popular type of coffee beans. It has a more complex flavor than any other kind, and it also tastes lighter and sweeter compared to Robusta.

The high price of Arabica coffee is due to the difficult conditions in which it grows, which require more care and time than other types.

According to history, Arabica was the primary type in the Middle East before coffee moved to the West.

Now 60% of the coffee grown in the world is Arabica.

Arabica vs Robusta vs Liberica

Robusta

Robusta comes from a plant called Coffea canephora, and it is the second most popular coffee species. Robusta contains more caffeine and less sugar.

Robusta is frequently used in famous coffeehouses around the world, especially in preparing espresso and its derivatives, because it produces a better crema, as well as instant coffee production, depends mainly on it.

Its widespread use and low price are due to its resistance to the diseases that afflict the coffee plant, such as coffee rust.

Liberica

Liberica coffee, also called liberian coffee, is the third most famous species. It contains the lowest percentage of caffeine compared to Arabica and Robusta.

The production of Arabica covers only 1-2% of the total coffee production in the world, and its use is widespread in Asia and South America. The laberica coffee’s flavor is slightly smokey, and its aroma is fruity.

This type dates back to the 19th century when the Dutch brought it to replace Arabica after the spread of coffee rust, which is a disease that affects the coffee plant.

Its name goes back to the country of Liberia, where it and some other countries in Central Africa were the originators of this species.

Harvesting

Coffee Harvesting

There are two ways to harvest the coffee trees.

Manual Harvesting

Also called harvesting by hand is divided into two types: The first type, which is the most popular one, in which the workers perform what is termed strip picking, which is to harvest all the cherries in the branch at once, whether it is ripe or not.

Coffee harvested this way is typically used in commodity-grade coffee.

The second type, which is called selective picking, is used to produce high-quality coffee, targeting higher markets. In this method, only the ripe cherries are picked. Usually, the picking is repeated more than once to harvest the entire crop.

This method drains a lot of time and labor, and many times the yield from the coffee crop is not enough to cover the costs.

In the following lines, you will learn how to help coffee growers around the world obtain fair prices.

Machine Harvesting

Coffee harvesting using machines also has two methods:

The inexpensive method is by using a tool called Derricadeiras. This method is the same as the strip picking method, but with mechanical aid.

The tool in this photo is placed under the branch, and it emits vibrations to drop the cherry inside its plastic ends.

Derricadeiras coffee harvesting
Image from Casagril

The expensive method relies on giant stripping machines. Its method of operation is similar to the Derricadeiras device. It also shakes the branches and collects the falling cherries, but in a completely automatic way, and it collects the entire crop in a faster time.

Processing

If you want to choose gourmet coffee beans for a delicious flavor and taste in your cup of Joe, then it is vital to know how they are processed.

There are two methods for processing coffee beans; both of them work to remove the pulp from the coffee beans so that they can be roasted. When it comes to your coffee beans’ quality, that is directly dependent on how they are processed. So which is better?

Dry Processing

This is a type of coffee preparation where the coffee beans will either be dried in a machine or the sun. It is preferable to dry the beans in the sun, but it can only be done in dry weather. Suppose the beans are dried in a machine. In that case, they can often pick up other flavors, especially if the machine is dirty or of poor quality.

Many countries with less rainfall, like Indonesia, Brazil, and Ethiopia, will use dry processing to dry the beans in the sun to allow the pulp to ferment on the beans so that it can be removed. This will result in a more complex flavor in the beans with a fuller body.

Wet Processing

This is a more expensive and intricate process. Still, it offers a better flavor and taste in the gourmet coffee beans. This process has seven different stages, and it requires a large amount of water.

Wet processing is used to soak the beans and allow the natural enzymes to eat away the pulp on the beans so they can be roasted. This is a newer process and preferred to bring out brightness and acidity in the coffee beans.

This fact can pose an environmental issue, and there is a potential for pollutants in the water supply that will affect the beans. One more reason is that it is important to purchase organic coffee to trust that coffee processing is safe for the product you are drinking.

Organic Coffee

If you do not know what the term “organic coffee” even means, then I am here to tell you that it is a specific coffee production method that is eco-friendly and lives up to organic certification standards.

This means that the coffee crops are not farmed with harmful pesticides. The farmers also use crop rotation to protect the fertility of the soil and the earth.

There are numerous organic coffee brands on the market today. You can choose flavored, decaf, instant, or even ice cream.

Organic coffee is becoming increasingly popular as coffee lovers are becoming more conscious of the environment and the flavor profiles that they are looking for, so all you need to know is organic really does deliver.

Fair Trade

Suppose you have ever seen coffee labeled as Fair Trade. In that case, it is worth noting these credentials in purchasing your premium coffee product.

Fair trade coffee

Fair Trade coffee means that the coffee farmer is protected so that he can have a guaranteed wage to enable him to produce a better quality product. This means that the farmers will be guaranteed a minimum price that will cover their living and production costs. This also ensures the farmers a premium so that they can invest in their own developments. Frequently, the farmers will be allowed to sign contracts to make long-term plans so that they can sustain their coffee production.

On top of that, it is also beneficial to look for USDA Organic and Shade Grown certified coffee products. Sometimes these products can be slightly more expensive, but it will mean that you are guaranteed excellence in your cup of Joe!

Roasting

Coffee Roasting

Suppose you are shopping for delicious and fresh coffee beans. In that case, the choices of light, medium, and dark roasted coffee beans are available to you. So which one should you choose?

What Are The Flavor Differences of Light, Medium, and Dark Roasted Coffee?

light roast is roasted only until the first crack of the coffee beans, and these types of coffee beans will contain more sweetness and natural sugars. When coffee beans are roasted, their sugars will begin to caramelize, which causes them to lose some of their natural sweetness.

Medium roasted coffee beans are often roasted after the second crack, which is when more essential oils will be released from the coffee beans. Light and medium roasted coffee beans still have many natural flavors and characteristics from their native coffee growing regions.

Last of all, dark roasted coffee has a smoky and more burnt flavor. This will often mask the beans’ natural flavors, but it still provides fullness and robustness to the brew.

Air Roasted Coffee

Air roasting coffee is a method that was invented in the 1970s, and it provides a better taste and quality in the final Java product because the coffee beans are less likely to burn when they are being roasted.

In more traditional coffee roasting methods that have been used since the 1800s, the coffee is roasted in a drum over direct heat. Air roasting is much more preferable to this method because the coffee beans will not directly touch the heat, so they will not turn out with an ashy or bitter taste. Any coffee lover will genuinely taste the difference between the two, especially since air roasting is proven as the superior method of coffee roasting.

Air roasting is a superb method to ensure that your coffee beans achieve the ultimate flavor and taste in the roast product. Just a tip, you do have the potential to roast your coffee beans at home on a home air popcorn popper if you are a do-it-yourself kind of coffee lover!

Grind

grind coffee

The coffee bean contains 70% insoluble and 30% soluble substances. The main idea of grinding is to increase the surface area of the coffee bean in order to extract an enormous amount of soluble materials while brewing.

Coffee grinding is a significant factor in the quality of your cup of coffee. There are 7 grind levels, and failure to grind the coffee beans to the appropriate level will cause a bitter or sour taste to your coffee.

Here is a list of the grind levels and the brewing method using it.

Extra Coarse Grind: Cold Brewing

Coarse Grind: French Press, Percolator

Medium-Coarse Grind: Chemex

Medium Grind: Cone-shaped Pour-over, Drip Pots

Medium-Fine Grind: Vacuum Pots, Siphon Brewers

Fine Grind: Espresso

Extra Fine Grind: Turkish Coffee

Brewing

Brewing coffee

Coffee brewing is the last stage of your journey to understand your cup of coffee. There are 4 main methods to brew coffee under which there are many other different techniques and machines.

  1. Decoction Decoction simply means boiling. This is the oldest method for brewing coffee, as it is the method that has been used in Yemen since the discovery of coffee. This technique is straightforward and doesn’t take a lot of effort; coffee grounds are placed in a pot with water and put on fire till it boils and then left a little so that the grounds settle at the bottom. The most famous method that relies on boiling is Turkish coffee, in which the extra-fine coffee grounds, sometimes with sugar, are placed on the fire in a pot called “ibrik” or “kanaka” until it boils then poured into a cup.
  2. Infusion This method is also considered easy and does not require much equipment. In it, the coffee is placed in a pot, and hot water is poured over it and left to steep for a few minutes. This method is very similar to making tea with tea bags. The most popular steeping tools are the French press. The coarse grounds are placed in a cylinder, poured over with hot water at a temperature of 90 degrees Celsius, and left for a period ranging between 4 to 7 minutes. After that, a plunger is gently pressed down to take the leftover grounds. The coffee is poured directly from the cylinder.
  3. Filtration brewing is done by pouring or dripping hot water over the coffee grounds placed inside or above a filter. The most well-known filtration methods are pour-over and drip coffee makers. The pour-over process requires more human effort than other methods. The coffee is placed to rest inside a paper filter, and hot water is poured over the medium grounds until the coffee is filtered in the required quantity.
  4. Pressure This method is based on pumping hot water into the coffee grounds under pressure to extract the coffee’s soluble substances. The most popular ways depend on pressure are the Espresso machine, Moka pot, and the AeroPress. In espresso machines, hot water at a temperature of 90–95 degrees Celsius is pumped under a pressure of 18 bars through the packed fine coffee grounds. Aeropress is considered one of the recent discoveries in the world of coffee-making methods, invented in 2005 by Alan Adler. It is a manual pressure device, not a mechanical one, in which the coffee grounds are placed with hot water, left for some time, and then pressed hard to extract the coffee.

After Brew

How To Characterize Your Coffee

Coffee is truly a high-class beverage that needs to be appreciated for all that it brings to the table. That is why I want to discuss the four coffee components that give it the depth that we know today. It also will allow you to describe and characterize your roast that you are enjoying effectively.

Characterize Coffee
  • Acidity: This is either going to be low or high, and if your coffee was harvested at a high altitude, then it will have a higher acidity. You can also judge the coffee’s acidity by how sweet it tastes and what kind of tartness you may feel on the back of your tongue. It is also described as brightness.
  • Aroma: Yes, this is the part where you wake up and smell the coffee because the aroma directly contributes to the taste of your coffee. It may have the aroma of fruit, spice, or earthy flavors, which will tell you how your coffee will taste.
  • Body: After you have tasted your Java, you will be able to tell if it is light or heavy on your tongue. This also depends on how you roast it, like using a French Press, which will create a full-bodied coffee. Roasts will be described as either light, medium, or full-bodied.
  • Flavor: This is where acidity, aroma, and body come together to give you the final flavor product. You can judge the taste for yourself as to whether it is spicy, chocolaty, earthy, or smoky, depending on your palate.

I hope that this has helped to give you a greater understanding of what makes coffee what it is today, a drink that is to be celebrated and appreciated.

Coffee 101 FAQ

What Is In Coffee?

Coffee is a complex and delicious beverage. You may be interested in knowing some of the components that make up your cup of Joe. 

Water: An ideal cup of Joe should be 98.75% water and made up of 1.25% plant matter. Recent studies have shown that regular coffee drinking can be counted within your daily fluid intake because it does not dehydrate you as much as it was once thought to.

Caffeine: Coffee also contains caffeine, and the reason coffee plants are naturally caffeinated is that it is a built-in insect repellent.

Quinic Acid: This acid quality will work to give brightness to your coffee. Some coffees have a light acidity, while others have a bold acidity.

Acetylmethylcarbinol: This is a substance that can be found in real butter to give it flavor. It also can be found in the artificial flavoring on microwave popcorn, so it will provide a smoother taste to your cup of Joe.

Antioxidants: This is one of the essential parts of your cup of Joe because they will provide you with age and disease-fighting qualities that will keep you protected and strong. Check this list of coffee benefits for your health.

How Much Caffeine In Coffee?

In the beginning, you should know that the permissible limit for caffeine per day is preferably within the limits of 250 mg.
A cup of coffee (8 oz.) contains between 60 to 140 mg of caffeine. This discrepancy is due to several factors: the roasting profile, the type of beans, and the brewing method used in espresso shot (1 oz.) contain the equivalent of 40 to 60 mg of caffeine.

How is Coffee Flavored?

Flavored coffee became popular in the 90s when gourmet coffee was on the rise, and it has come a long way! Coffee is flavored through a combination of natural and synthetic compounds usually sprayed onto freshly roasted coffee beans immediately after the roasting process. Several flavor combinations can be used.

Suppose natural oils are used to flavor the coffee beans. In that case, they can be extracted from cocoa beans, vanilla beans, or even nuts and berries.

The bottom line is that if you are looking for delicious flavored coffee, make sure that it is freshly roasted (like the selection on my website!) and enjoyed right away for the best taste in your cuppa Joe!

Is Global Warming Affecting Coffee?

Something interesting is happening to coffee crops all over the world, which is that weather patterns are changing drastically because of global warming. Coffee trees are exceptionally delicate, and they need a certain amount of rainfall at certain times.

However, it seems that weather patterns are changing drastically, which is causing issues for coffee farmers. In the spring months, coffee crops need a generous amount of rainfall. They also need rain in the summer, and they need a drier season in the fall so that the beans can harden and become ripe for picking.

Global warming seems to be causing the opposite effect, where there is dryness during the period where the coffee trees need moisture and vice versa. This is potentially causing a rise in coffee prices since there is less supply. You can focus on purchasing Fair Trade coffee because it will protect the coffee farmers, which will ensure that there will be farmers in the future to continue to produce quality crops for consumers.

Should You Freeze Your Coffee?

This is a very interesting coffee myth that has been passed down through the ages, and I have to confess to you that I have been guilty of freezing my coffee from time to time. Then I discovered the truth, which was that it is so important to keep your freshly roasted coffee beans in a cool and dark place, like a cabinet, where they can stay protected from moisture and oxidation.

If you do freeze the beans, then your coffee may come out tasting like freezer burn because the coffee beans are porous and can absorb other moisture in the air in a sealed space.

Also, you want to make sure that you are protecting the essential oils of the coffee beans themselves, which is why they should not be frozen because the elements of the freezer will start to break down these essential oils (which is what makes your beans look shiny), causing them to lose their flavor. To get the best taste of your freshly roasted coffee beans, keep them in a vacuum-sealed container in a cool and dry place. Perfecto!


Nine years in the coffee field, from a barista to a store manager
In my spare time, I write about what I have learned in those years.
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