Coffee beans or seeds come from plants. Naturally, these plants can grow up to 18 meters high. On the plantations, these are kept at about 2 meters, so that the farmers can pick the berries more easily and the plant is at its most effective. The berries that come from this plant are small berries that are colored red or green. These eventually form as coffee beans after being picked, skinned, dried, roasted and possibly ground. But how exactly does this process work?
Coffee plants grow in various places in the world in a tropical climate. This tropical climate can often be found around the equator, such as in Costa Rica. By growing the plants at different heights, humidity and temperatures, the seeds each get their own taste and quality.
Coffee plantations are often seen in combination with other types of plants such as banana plants. In addition to a tropical climate, the coffee plant also needs shade. The other plants on the plantation take care of this.
If you would like to start a coffee plantation yourself, you will be busy with the preparations. Planting, germinating and growing a coffee plant takes an average of 3-5 years. The total lifespan of a coffee plant is about 30 years.
The coffee bean starts as a seed on a tree, the coffee plant. When this seed is about 8 to 12 months old, it is picked from the tree. This hard berry has a small pit with flesh on the inside. As the berry grows, the berries change from green to a perfect red berry. After the berries have been picked, they end up on a belt where the lesser berries are filtered out. After this manual selection, the seeds are placed in a water bath where the ripe seeds sink to the bottom and the unripe seeds float. The unripe seeds are then scooped out.
When the unripe seeds have been removed, the remaining seeds are pressed through a grid under pressure. This grid removes the pulp from the seeds. The seeds are then dried and then brushed to remove any remaining pulp from the seeds. Originally, the wet process to remove the pulp was skipped and the seeds, pulp and all, were dried. This rarely happens these days.
After the 'wet process' in which the pulp is removed, the seeds are slowly dried in the 'dry process'. The beans, meanwhile, are dried on a table or floor by the sun. Nowadays this often happens in special ovens where the temperature is precisely monitored. This is a delicate process where the beans should not become too dry.
After the 'drying process', the beans are brushed one more time to remove leftover pulp from the bean. The beans will still be white, but they are already shaped like coffee beans. Then the different beans are sorted according to quality requirements. The larger the coffee bean, the higher the quality. Optionally, the different beans are then mixed to create blends. The purpose of this blending is that over the years a taste-fixed blend can be created that can be sold at a fixed price.
The roasting of the coffee bean, when does that happen?
After the created blends, the bean is sold to a roaster. This roaster will roast the beans in special ovens. During roasting, many different chemicals are developed that will give the bean its taste. Chemicals include sugars that caramelize. This gives the bean its recognizable brown color. Each burner burns the kernels in its own way. It is possible that a burner makes a Melange, but a burner can also make a pure Arabica or Robusta, for example.
Burning a berry has several 'cracks'. When the berry is heated, the bean expands and the membrane bursts. A coffee bean can be roasted in different ways:
- Lightly roasted: Fresher taste with a slight acidity
- Medium roasted: A more diverse bean
- Heavy roasted: A more bitter taste, tasted as 'strong bean' by many people.
A blend is when coffee seeds from different countries and regions are mixed together. Kernels are grown in different heights and climates. The seeds can also be dried in different ways. Due to the various options in growing the kernel, each kernel gets its own flavor. When burners are looking for a new blend, they are often looking for a specific profile. The burners in the oven can smell, see and taste this.
Beans can then be sold in several varieties. As most are aware, whole beans are sold in vacuum-packed packaging in, for example, the supermarket. These beans are sold on average within 1 year after roasting.
The supermarket already sells ground coffee. The disadvantage of pre-ground coffee is that coffee loses most of its flavor within 2 minutes of grinding. Because of this, roasters apply various tricks to ensure that the ground coffee has as much flavor as possible.
Do you want to know more about coffee beans?
Both coffee powder and instant coffee originate from the coffee bean. Depending on the purpose, the grinding degree of the coffee powder is adjusted. With instant coffee, the coffee is freeze-dried after roasting. This process allows the coffee to be used as instant coffee.