Curiosity has gotten the best of me this morning. It’s been 5 years since my first cup of coffee and I never really dug too deep into the process and roots of how it’s actually made. To think that most of us can’t even function until we have had our coffee, we must really appreciate the ones who make the whole thing possible.
To think that a few beans have created a massive culture and industry worldwide. The whole world is drinking coffee, but very few people know of its origin.
In this article, we are going to cover all of the steps of how coffee gets from the ground to your kitchen. So get comfortable, have your cup ready and let’s dive into the answer of the golden question: where does coffee come from?
Where Do Coffee Beans Come From?
Most people who have ever brewed coffee know that coffee comes in the form of a bean. Those things we love to smell, play with and eventually grind up and drink. So where do they come from?
Coffee beans are actually seeds that if planted grow into coffee trees. You have probably guessed that coffee trees are what provide farmers with beans that will eventually become your morning java. However, the beans that come directly from the coffee trees look a lot different than the ones you buy in the store. That is because the beans we use have been roasted, I will get to that part of the process later on.
So the seeds are collected from the coffee cherries or the fruit that grows from coffee trees. Harvesting the coffee cherries can be quite difficult due to the fact that a coffee tree typically grows on uneven surfaces such as a mountain or hillside. It typically takes 3-4 years for a coffee tree to bear fruit. Another reason why you should be grateful for your coffee farmers because they put in a lot of work to make sure you get your daily dose of lifeblood.
The beans are harvested all over the world. Brazil produces the most coffee worldwide.
Processing the Coffee Beans
After all of the coffee berries are picked it’s then time for processing. Processing the berries in short means removing the fleshy outer layer leaving just the bean that will be sent further down the line of the coffee-making process. This is a very important part because the method the farmer uses will impact that flavor later on. When it comes to processing coffee beans, there are two main methods.
The Wet Method
After all of the fleshy pulp is removed, the beans are placed in tanks of water and fermented for about 18-24 hours. This helps breakdown the think slimy layer surrounding the bean. Afterward, the farmer will wash the beans with fresh water then place the beans to dry.
The Dry Method
Known as the “natural method”, the dry method takes all of the harvested coffee cherries to be laid out to dry on a giant patio. This process can take weeks but is common amongst countries with a limited water supply. After being thoroughly dried, the cherries are put into a de-pulping machine. This method usually has a more fruity tasting bean and is common for Ethiopian or Kenyan beans.
After the beans have been processed, they are sorted and ready to be exported. By this time, they are known as green coffee beans due to their color. We are now getting closer to the steps that may be familiar to you, roasting and brewing the beans!
Tasting the Coffee
Now the process is getting exciting. After all that hard work of harvesting and processing the coffee beans, a few lucky individuals will have the honor of being the first ones to taste test the harvest. Once the green coffee beans have been visually inspected, a small batch will be roasted and ground for taste testing. The taster or the cupper first smells the coffee to check its aromatic quality. The smell of coffee is a huge determining factor of how good the coffee will taste.
Next, the cupper will take a spoonful of the coffee sample, cover his taste buds and then spit it out. A good cupper can test several batches and samples in one day and still be able to spot out individual flaws or characteristics. The importance of taste-testing the coffee is not just to find out the flaws, but to also see which beans will blend well together.
After tasting the beans, they can now be exported to roasters. This leads us to the next step in the process and it is nothing less than an art form.
Roasting the Coffee Beans
The coffee roasting process is one of the most important parts of the whole journey. This process is met with great care in order to transform the green coffee beans into the divine wholesome beans we get to take home and enjoy. Even though this is mostly done by coffee professionals, some big-time coffee drinkers are roasting beans at home.
Here are the different stages of the coffee roasting process:
- Pre Heating – The drum needs to be preheated to about 400 F before the green beans can be put inside the roasting machine. The temperature can vary based on different machinery and roasting styles.
- Drying – Now the coffee has entered the roasting machine, and the beans start to absorb the heat. Now steam will start to form due to the evaporation of water inside the beans.
- Aromas and Sounds – This is where the real roasting begins. The sugars inside the beans start to carmelize, water begins to leave the beans through steam and the famous “first crack” is heard. At this point, the beans are technically ready to be ground up and used to make coffee.
- Further Caramelization – Following the first crack, the beans will continue to carmelize. Beans at this stage are at the most popular level of roasting.
- Dark Roast – If you continue to roast more, the sugars will begin to burn. This is how we get dark roasted beans. Dark roast is common in cold brew coffee.
The whole roasting process is a lot more complex, so if you would like to see in more detail how coffee beans are roasted. Feel free to check out the video below to get an up-close and personal view of how coffee shops get roasted beans.
After being roasted the beans are shipped all over the world to be sold by grocery stores and coffee shops. Most people overlook how important packaging is for a successful coffee business. People are very brand loyal when it comes to their java, so be someone they can remember.
Also by reading up on the packaging of your beans, you can learn a lot more about where they came from and who harvested them. Different regions of the world grow do their beans differently, so it’s great to experiment.
Grinding the Coffee Beans
There is literally nothing better on Earth than the sound of fresh beans in the grinder. Just like every other step in this process, grinding the beans is something to treat with vigilance and patience.
You may ruin a few pounds of beans by grinding them too long, making them the wrong texture. Don’t worry because that’s all part of learning. These mistakes will make you an expert later on.
If you don’t already own a grinder, I highly suggest picking one up. Going from buying preground coffee to grinding my own beans has positively transformed my whole experience. Yes, I know, it’s a little bit more work but you will learn to appreciate the flavors a lot more. Nothing this good ever comes easily!
Often when we buy preground, it is slightly staler and doesn’t pack as much of a flavor punch as whole beans. Either way, you go, you are going to need to grind your coffee before you can brew it. Don’t have a coffee grinder? Don’t stress, there are ways you can grind your coffee without a grinder.
The better we grind the beans, the more flavor our coffee will have. A weak grind can ruin a batch of good coffee beans, so it’s important that this step doesn’t go overlooked. Let’s look at the different styles of grind and what kind of coffee they’re good for.
A coarse grind still leaves behind little chunks of coffee beans. Typical a good course grind looks a little bit like granulated sugar. This style of grind is used mostly in a french press.
A medium grind is probably the most commonly used grind. It’s where the coffee bean is ground between a coarse grind and fine grind. A medium grind is popular amongst drip coffee makers.
A fine grind is grinding the coffee bean down to a powder. This is the style of kind you would use if you were making an espresso.
Sometimes finding the “perfect” grind can take a lot of trial and error. But the more style you test, the more consistent the flavor of your coffee will be. You can always talk to a Barista if you want to learn more about coffee grinders and how your coffee should taste.
Brewing the coffee
Brewing is the act of making coffee generally with hot water (unless you are making cold brew). Each day, Baristas and coffee enthusiasts are discovering better ways to brew coffee. Here are 5 of the most common ways coffee is brewed at home.
Drip coffee is by far the most popular form of brewing coffee. The drip machine sends hot water through the coffee beans and then filters it into a pot below.
Uses a pressing system to filter grounds from the water, the French press is very easy and convenient to brew coffee at home. There is no installation and is very countertop friendly for your kitchen.
Cold Brew is a growing trend in the coffee community. Contradicting the normal methods of brewing, cold brew is made using cold or room temperature water. It’s less acidic and has a smoother sip than regular coffee. Believe it or not, people add nitrogen to their cold brew.
Another form of drip coffee, the pour over method uses boiled water to produce a very tasty cup packed with flavor. This method by far yields the most unique of taste. If you fancy cup for its special taste, the pour-over brew is for you.
The Moka pot uses hot steam to brew the grounds. This is a great way of making espresso-like coffee at home. These a great because they don’t take up much space in your kitchen. Just be ready for a lot of people to ask “what’s that?”.
If you typically just drink drip coffee, I recommend going out and tasting something that was brewed differently. It’s a great rabbit hole to go down. Not only will you enjoy a better cup, but you will also learn a lot more about the drink you love.
Drinking the Coffee
Look how far we have come from a tree full of colorful coffee berries. You can now be more appreciative for those who work on the farms, and the ones who distribute your favorite drink around the world. The process is a lengthy one but it yields a great product and an amazing culture of enthusiasts.
So when you are having your cappuccino or latte, think back to all of the hard work being put into your beverage, you will enjoy it a lot more! Luckily in the modern world, we have access to a wide variety of flavor and beans at our disposal. Know that you know the origin of coffee, it’s time to explore and find the best blend for you.