The first and most important thing you do in the morning is to make yourself that very much needed cup of coffee. Nothing will ever beat the smell and taste of coffee early in the morning.
But did you know that coffee has to go through an incredibly long journey before ending up in your mug? "How is coffee made?" you might ask. There's no doubt your coffee will taste ten times better after learning about the mind-blowing process in making coffee.
How is Coffee Made?
When buying your coffee beans, you don't tend to think about all the hard work involved. You simply buy it at your local supermarket and that's it.
There's so much more to it. Here's the complete process involved in making coffee.
The process of planting a coffee bean isn't like planting a flower and waiting a few weeks for it to sprout. It requires a lot of time and much effort.
Usually, the farmers plant coffee seeds into individual sacks where they are then kept inside what we would call nurseries. The reason being is because harsh weather could jeopardize the growth of the coffee seed. Farmers water and care for them in the nursery for a good 8-20 months depending on location and variety.
Once they've begun to sprout, the farmers take these individual sacks and transport them into fine soil so they can fully grow into coffee trees. A coffee tree can grow up to 20 feet high, so, as you can imagine, this also takes a reasonable amount of time. Typically, it can take 3-5 years for a coffee tree to grow and bear fruit known as coffee cherries.
This is similar to many fruit trees that also need several years before they are ready to bear edible fruit.
Harvesting is the most challenging process of growing coffee beans. In order to know that they're ripe, they must be a deep, dark red color, which is similar to the color of a regular cherry.
Once they've changed into this color, then that's when the picking begins. It can be a tough task for the farmers as the trees are uneven and very tall. Plus, since the coffee berries don't mature simultaneously, the harvesting process is usually done in stages.
It may even take several months to finish collecting an entire batch of coffee beans.
Processing is a very crucial step. If the farmer doesn't do it well, then the coffee won't taste good in your mug. There are two ways of processing coffee beans.
Dry Processing Method
The dry method, also known as the most natural method, consists of gathering all the coffee cherries and laying them outside under the sun to dry. The farmers will stir the coffee beans a few times a day to make sure that all the coffee cherries are thoroughly drying.
After a few weeks, the coffee berries' outer shell becomes dry and flaky, which will make the process of extracting it much easier. They are then placed in a machine where it removes the pulp of the coffee cherry, leaving the coffee beans bare.
Wet Processing Method
Unlike the dry processing method, the coffee cherries are placed inside large tanks of water for approximately 24 hours. Apart from removing any kind of residue and slime, it helps soften the shell. Once they're finished soaking, the farmers rewash the beans with fresh water.
Afterward, they place the coffee cherries inside the de-pulping machine where their outer layer shell is extracted. Then, they're placed in large tanks of fresh water once again for about 48 hours.
Now that the beans have been successfully extracted from the pulp and cleansed, it's time to get them tested before exporting them.
They gather a small batch of coffee beans and prep them for roasting. Next, they grind the coffee beans, turning them into the coffee powder that we all know of. Finally, they make a sample cup of coffee for the taster.
The taster first takes a good look at the coffee beans and pinpoints any visible flaws. Then, he inhales the scent of the coffee, as the aroma usually says a lot about the quality of the beans too. When he finally tastes it, he doesn't swallow it but rather spits it out and makes a final decision.
Distributing and Roasting
Once they select the best coffee beans, they place them in sacks where they are then transported to different locations via airplanes or trucks.
Once they've been distributed, the coffee beans are ready to roast. The distribution process is an underrated component of the coffee process. Sometimes it is distributed to local roasters, but other times that coffee is shipped from equatorial growing countries - like Indonesia - to consuming countries - like the United States - to be roasted. Roasting plays an important role when it comes to the way your coffee tastes.
The coffee beans are placed in loaders. Next, they move them to a drum that's been pre-heated to approximately 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Usually, roasting takes about 12-15 minutes, depending on the kind of roast they're aiming for.
Coffee roasters keep an eye on the temperature while bearing in mind the flavors and the acidity. Depending on the kind of flavor they want to achieve, they go for a light, dark or medium roast.
If the coffee beans are being light roasted, then they won't be on the heating drum for long - typically they are removed right after the first crack. The crack refers to a literal cracking sound that the coffee beans make during roasting due to expansion.
The low roasting time helps Light Roast coffee beans keep more of its caffeine as well as all its other original flavors. Lightly roasted coffee tends to contain more acidity and has a lighter, thinner body.
Medium roast coffee consists of the beans roasting a little longer - typically in between the first and second cracks of the bean. The flavors in medium roast coffee are not as delicate as in the light roast. It creates more of a stronger texture and aroma that then mixes in well with the acidity, creating a perfect balance between body and taste.
When dark roasting coffee beans, they're placed on the heating drum for a longer time and under higher temperatures. Roasters typically wait until after the second crack to remove Dark Roasted beans, waiting until the coffee beans have turned into a deep, chocolate brown.
Because they're roasting for a longer time, the coffee beans lose more of its caffeine and origin flavors. In return, they adopt flavors from the roasting process, making sometimes inheriting a smokey taste. Dark roasts skew towards a fuller body.
Think About It
"How is coffee made?" Next time you hear that question, you'll be able to answer it without hesitation.
Stop and think about the long and tough journey your coffee had to go through to reach your cup. Coffee will adopt a whole new meaning to you and no doubt you'll cherish every sip even more.
Don't stop now! Keep exploring our blog to learn all kinds of exciting things about coffee.