The art of coffee harvesting: From the coffee cherry to the perfect bean

Written by: Carina P.



Time to read 5 min

Have you ever had the feeling that the aromatic scent of freshly brewed coffee tells its own magical story? Well, this story begins way before the moment the water hits the coffee maker. It begins on the sun-drenched coffee plantations, where the coffee cherries are harvested with care and dedication. Today we take you on an exciting journey of discovery into the world of coffee harvesting. You'll be amazed at how much work and attention to detail goes into every cup of coffee!

The coffee plant: where it all begins

Our coffee journey begins with the plant itself. Coffee is made from the seeds or beans of the coffee plant and there are two main types: Arabica and Robusta . Arabica beans are known for their mild taste and are often considered to be of higher quality, while Robusta beans are slightly stronger and more bitter.

The coffee plant is quite demanding and grows best in tropical climates. So here comes the first challenge: choosing the right growing location where sun and rain are in perfect harmony.

The cultivation phase: A green thumb is required

In order to achieve a profitable coffee harvest, coffee farmers have to show tact. The right soil conditions, the selection of the best types of coffee and the right care are crucial. Coffee trees are not short-distance runners, it takes about 3 to 5 years before they even start bearing fruit. Patience is required!

Flowering and fruiting: A celebration of nature

When the coffee plants finally bloom, it is a truly magical moment. The small white flowers exude an intoxicating scent and attract bees and other pollinators. After pollination, the fruits begin to develop - these are the famous coffee cherries. The coffee harvest is approaching!

The time of harvest: a decisive moment

The art of coffee harvesting lies in choosing the perfect harvest time. The coffee cherries must be harvested exactly when they have reached full ripeness. Harvesting them too early or too late can significantly affect the taste and aromas of the final product. Not an easy task, because the cherries don't always ripen at the same time.

The coffee cherries go through various stages of development before they are ready to be harvested. They start out green, but during the ripening process they change color to yellow, orange or red, depending on the type of coffee plant.

Nowadays, however, coffee cherries are often harvested as soon as a sufficient proportion has reached the desired color. The costs for a staggered harvest are usually too high and competitiveness on the global market must be maintained.

Harvesting methods: by hand or by machine?

In traditional growing regions such as Ethiopia , coffee is often still picked by hand. This requires skill and experience. When picking by hand, coffee farmers not only have to pay attention to the color, but also use their sense of touch. Ripe coffee cherries are soft and give when lightly pressed. Although this type of coffee harvesting is labor intensive, it allows for a very precise selection of the best cherries.

In larger plantations and new growing regions, however, mechanical harvesting is often carried out. Special machines shake the coffee plants so that the cherries fall off. Although this is more efficient, it can also lead to unripe cherries and foreign bodies being harvested.

The coffee pickers: heroes of the harvest

There are real heroes behind every cup of hand-picked coffee. The coffee pickers are on the plantations early in the morning and select the best cherries with skillful hands. Their work is not only physically demanding, but also of great importance for the quality of the coffee.

Working conditions can be challenging in some regions, but there are initiatives such as Fair Trade that seek to improve coffee pickers' living conditions and ensure fair wages. Thanks to these efforts, coffee pickers can earn a better living and support their families.

The coffee harvest is not only a crucial step in coffee production, but also an area in which social and economic aspects play a major role.

Processing the harvest: From fruit to bean

After the coffee harvest, the coffee cherries are processed. First the pulp is removed. This process is called “depulping.” There are different methods to remove the pulp, but they have one thing in common: they are intended to ensure that only the inner coffee beans remain.

The beans then have to be dried to preserve them and maintain the perfect taste. Traditionally, you spread the beans out under the sun and turn them regularly until they are just right. This can take a few weeks, depending on the weather. In rainy regions, modern methods such as drying with hot air are used. This speeds up the process considerably.

Some producers ferment the beans in water after drying to remove the last unwanted layers and refine the taste. The trick is to find the right duration, as fermentation for too long can have a negative effect on the coffee.

The final drying phase ensures that the beans reach the perfect moisture level. Too much moisture can cause mold, while too little causes cracking.

Storage and export: The journey continues

The dried coffee beans are then stored before being exported. Storage is crucial to maintain quality. Finally, the whole beans make their way to roasters around the world where they are roasted and processed into our beloved coffee. Then they end up in your cup.

Conclusion: The journey is the destination

Coffee harvesting is a fascinating process carried out by people with passion and dedication from start to finish. The next time you take a sip of coffee, you can now enjoy this moment with even more understanding and appreciation. We hope you enjoyed this short excursion into the world of coffee harvesting. Cheers and here’s to many more delicious cups of coffee!

Frequently Asked Questions About Coffee Harvesting (FAQs)

When is coffee usually harvested?

The harvest time for coffee varies depending on the region and climate. The exact timing depends on the ripeness of the coffee cherries, which can vary depending on the type of coffee and where it is grown.

What types of coffee plants are harvested?

The two main types of coffee plants that are harvested are Arabica and Robusta. Arabica coffee is often considered higher quality and has a milder taste, while Robusta coffee is stronger and more bitter.

How are the coffee beans harvested?

Harvesting coffee beans can be done in different ways. In some regions, traditional hand picking is used, where workers pick the ripe cherries by hand. In other areas, mechanical harvesting is used, where special machines shake off the cherries.

What role does the harvest time play?

The correct harvest time is crucial for the quality of the coffee. The coffee cherries must be harvested exactly when they have reached full ripeness. This significantly affects the taste and aroma of the coffee.

Are there special harvesting methods for quality coffee?

Yes, some coffee farmers use selective harvesting methods in which only the best cherries are picked. This method requires more labor but contributes to the production of high quality coffee.

What happens to the coffee beans after the harvest?

After harvesting, the coffee beans are pulped, dried and, in some cases, fermented. This helps remove unwanted layers and refines the flavor. Storage then takes place before the beans are finally roasted.