Did you know that 70% of the quality of a coffee grain is determined by its genetics? Only 30% is due to the environment in which it has been cultivated. But, as is evident, the total result of your cup of coffee is not only due to the genetics of the raw material, since the processing of it plays a fundamental role in achieving the perfect coffee. If the coffee bean is good, it means that the optimal growing conditions and the processing and roasting have been carried out correctly by experienced personnel. But do you know what the coffee process consists of before it is roasted?
Before the coffee reaches your cup, the product goes through different phases which we will be talking about in this article.
The most traditional cultivation systems are usually carried out in areas of Central America and India. Coffee plants grow alongside other taller plants that protect them from sunlight. In Brazil, by contrast, the intensive method is used: extensive cultivation only of the coffee plants. It requires artificial irrigation and mechanised collection.
One of the main factors that influence the quality of the grain is the method of harvesting, which can be of three types: mechanical harvesting, the ‘stripping’ method, the ‘picking’ method.
MECHANICAL COFFEE PICKING
Mechanical collection of the coffee. With this method, it is possible to collect the maximum volume of product in the shortest amount of time.
It is the fastest manual method where all the fruit is dragged.
The best quality red fruits are selected for harvesting.
PULPING, FERMENTATION, AND WASHING
Once the cherries are collected, it is taken to an area where they are treated. Here, the fruits go through washing channels and from there to the pulper. The fermentation is carried out in tanks where the pulped coffee is introduced and clean water is added with the aim of decomposing the mucilage (a kind of gelatin that covers the parchment). The fermentation process does not exceed 30 hours since if it is left longer, the coffee will be over-fermented. When the coffee is at the appropriate fermentation point, it is immediately washed.
This part of the process is totally totally natural, as it is done under the sun although there are some larger farms that prefer to use mechanical drying systems.
These patios, made of cement or brick, must have a very slight inclination and be free of irregularities to avoid puddles.
DRYING ON WOODEN CARTS
These structures can be moved. They are like wooden drawers mounted on iron rails, with wooden or mat floors and zinc ceilings, which keep the product safe in adverse weather situations.
DRYING IN ELBAS
They are made with a wood or cement base and a hinged zinc ceiling. It is important to move the coffee beans with a certain frequency so that they dry evenly.
SOLAR PARABOLIC DRIES OR CANOPIES
This system allows the smooth circulation of air, avoiding moisture retention inside the structure.
It is a rectangular structure with a Mayan base slightly raised from the ground, which facilitates air circulation and avoids humidity problems. This system takes advantage of the air and the sun to dry the coffee.
After drying, the coffee undergoes a new process called coffee threshing, where the green bean is carefully selected and classified (taking into account its size, weight, color, and appearance). Because its color is green, it has a fresh coffee smell and its average humidity is between 10 and 12%.
The roasting process consists in subjecting them for a limited time to a high temperature. To accentuate the natural characteristics of each coffee, the roasting must be specific to each one of them. A lighter roast enhances the nuances of the beans, while darker roasts cause sugars and natural oils to rise to the surface for a more intense flavour.