Coffee is one of the most popular drinks in the world. Even in the UK, famous as a nation of tea drinkers, coffee is increasingly the hot drink of choice. But do you really know how your morning coffee is made?
Here are the six steps in the production of coffee, from the bean to your favourite mug.
Step One: The Growing
Did you know that coffee beans aren’t beans at all? They are actually seeds, and to get them you need to plant coffee trees. Coffee trees will only grow in tropical and sub-tropical climates and they take anywhere between three and five years to begin producing coffee fruit, which are often referred to as coffee cherries. The coffee seed is found at the centre of these cherries.
Step Two: The Picking
Coffee trees could, if left to their own devices, grow up to 20 feet high, but for ease of picking they are usually pruned to grow to around 9 feet tall. This is because the vast majority of coffee is harvested by hand as soon as the cherries are ripe – which is generally around nine months after their flowers have begun to form. The cherries will be a deep red colour when they are ready to be picked. In some parts of Brazil the process has been mechanised as the picking is undoubtedly the most labour-intensive part of the coffee making process.
Step Three: The Processing
Next the beans need to be processed. There are two different methods that are used, these are referred to as the dry method and the wet method. In the dry method the fruit is washed and then placed out in the sun to dry. As the cherries dry they will be turned by hand to make sure that the drying is even. This takes around four weeks, but some coffee plantations use drying machines to speed up the process. After they have been dried they can be hulled, sorted and graded.
In the wet process, the cherries have their fruit removed immediately after the harvesting process and the bean dries with only the parchment skin left on. The beans are then left to ferment which takes between three hours and three days depending on the climate and humidity. They are then dried and then parchment layer is removed.
Step Four: The Roasting
The roasting step is one of the most important as it transforms the green coffee seed into the aromatic mahogany bean that we all know and love. Roasts can range from light where the coffee is heated to around 200 degrees Celsius to very dark roasts, where the roasters reach up to 250 degrees. Essentially the hotter the roast the richer the flavour but the less of the origin character remains, and the darkness of the roast is very much down to personal preference. After being roasted the beans are cooled and can then be shipped to be ground.
Step Five: The Grinding
The coffee must be ground before it can be brewed. The basis of good grinding is to try to retain as much flavour as possible. The coarseness of the grind will depend on your brewing method. You can buy pre-ground coffee beans, but naturally you will enjoy more of the flavour if you grind the beans yourself.
Step Six: The Brewing
You should master how to brew your coffee using a cafetiere, filter coffee maker or espresso machine. Make sure that you use the correct grind for the machine that you are using. Now boil clean, fresh water for the best taste possible – and allow it the relevant time to brew. To really maximise the flavoursome goodness of your coffee, connoisseurs are advised and furthermore encouraged to become baristas with a professional course. These are widely available, from fun taster days with experience companies like Into the Blue, to the more in-depth and all-encompassing certifications that will have you bar-flairing in your kitchen like Tom Cruise.
Step Seven: Enjoy
And finally you get to the seventh step, which is by far the most enjoyable: drinking your delicious coffee. It will taste all the better knowing the hard work that went into getting it this far.