Do you ever wonder about all the steps necessary to produce that cup of coffee you're drinking? Here is what you've been wanting to know about how coffee is made from bean to cup.
Coffee is a fruit. The coffee plant is an evergreen shrub with fruit that resembles a cranberry in shape and color. There are normally two seeds in each cherry, which are in fact the green coffee beans. It takes about five years for a coffee tree to begin producing fruit. The fruit develop six to nine months after the blossoms appear.
Some growing regions (which are all along the equator, by the way) experience one or two seasons depending on location and rainfall patterns. Only perfectly ripe cherries are selectively picked, so each tree must be re-picked three to six times to harvest all the fruit. Selective hand picking is the most expensive step of processing coffee, due to the intensive labor required. All of the high quality Arabica beans in our coffees are hand picked.
Fun Fact: Average yearly yield for one tree is about 4,000 beans, or about five pounds of whole cherry coffee, or about one pound of roasted beans - enough to brew around 60 cups.
After the harvest, the beans must be separated from the other layers of the coffee cherry by either the wet or dry processing method. The wet method is used almost exclusively on higher quality Arabica coffees and is more expensive.
The wet method uses water to remove stones and dirt from cherries. Flesh of the fruit is removed with a de-pulping machine, then they are fermented. The beans are washed after fermentation and then dried in the sun on concrete patios where they must be turned several times a day for five or six days.
The beans are then sorted (which removes any unwanted objects or damaged beans) and graded. The criteria used for grading is usually based on bean size and number of defects, like black beans, broken beans, sticks, or stones in a standard size sample of green coffee. The beans are rated on a scale based on the number of imperfections. The high quality specialty grade Arabica beans used in our coffees are the top 2% of all Arabica beans.
The Roasting Process
Roasting coffee beans to perfection is an art as much as a science. Different types of coffee require different roasts to bring out their richest flavor. Roasting also cleans the beans of any remaining silverskin, or chaff.
- The first stage involves raising bean temperature to between 200 and 250F. The beans begin to lose moisture and change color to a pale yellow.
- Bean temperature continues to rise to about 300F, at which point beans begin to swell and double in size.
- When beans reach an internal temperature of 400F volatile oils are released that give coffee its distinctive flavor and aroma.
- Moisture is drawn out and the bean cells expand and break open, producing a crackling or snapping sound.
- The sugars caramelize, causing the beans to darken.
- As the roast continues, the cell walls break down further, driving the oils to the bean's surface.
- Roast times range from 90 seconds to 35 minutes, depending on roasting equipment and degree of roast.
- Ending temperature ranges from 410 to 480F.
- Coffee is cooled by air cooling and water quenching that stops the roasting process.
Grinding has the most affect on the flavor of the coffee. Choosing the correct grind is critical for optimal flavor extraction. Grinding can be done at the roasting plant (which ours is), in a retail store, coffee house or even at home before brewing.
Fun Fact: Finer grinds are used with a shorter brew cycle, while longer brew times require coarser grinds. (ie. Fine - espresso, Medium - drip brewing, Coarse - French press)
Packaging the Bean
Proper packaging of coffee is the best defense against two of its natural enemies - air and moisture. Before packaging, coffee must also be degassed. Coffee beans release carbon dioxide for six to ten hours after roasting. If coffee is sealed before all the gases have escaped, the gases will be released inside the container.
After degassing, the beans are packaged in one-way valve bags. Coffee continues to release carbon dioxide after roasting. If coffee is sealed in airtight packaging before the gas escapes will explode. These one-way valve bags avoid the problem by allowing the carbon dioxide to escape through the valve without letting air back in.
Fun Fact: Coffee reacts like a sponge in water; air and moisture are easily absorbed into the coffee, if left unprotected. When this happens, the flavorful oils and fats that provide its taste and aroma deteriorate. Coffee can also easily absorb any odors in the air resulting in an "off" taste. Avoid the refrigerator for storing.
And the Rest is History
- You buy your favorite blend of Verena Street coffee online or in your nearest grocery store.
- You brew your coffee using your preferred grind and brewing method.
- You put that delicious brew into your belly!