Coffee Processing Is Serious Business
It’s doubtful that many people stop to think of where their coffee comes from. Get a can, pop off the lid and percolate. That’s all they need to know.
But the truth of the matter is coffee in the can has in all likelihood traveled a great distance and undergone some serious steps in a long process just to make it to the grocery store. The coffee inside must be grown, dried, processed, roasted and ground before it takes on the shape most people are used to seeing in the grocery store. Of course, that’s not even mentioning the canning process!
Coffee itself is grown in about 50 countries worldwide. From Africa to the Caribbean and even Hawaii, the little beans drinkers are familiar with actually come from trees. The trees produce “cherries” within which are the beans.
Getting the bean from the cherry is the trick that takes place long before coffee hits a local market’s shelves. This process generally takes place where the cherries are harvested from trees. The trees themselves can grow up to 30 feet high in some cases, but are generally kept short to aid in harvesting.
Once cherries have been taken from the trees, they must be dried before the beans can be removed. There are two primary methods for doing this. One is fairly inexpensive, the other a bit more costly for bringing coffee to the table.
The first method of harvesting beans from coffee cherries is the “dry method.” This is considered the most simplistic way of harvesting beans. In this method, cherries are dries out in the sun over of period of about 10 days. Once the moisture levels in the cherries drops, the beans are ready for removal.
The wet method involves a quicker removal of the outside layers of the cherries as the entire “fruit” is put into a pulping machine to wash away the pulp and skin. Once the beans are removed, generally within 24 hours, they are dried in the sun or in commercial dryers.
From either method, the desired end result is high-grade, unroasted coffee beans. These are what’s generally shipped to major coffee makers for further processing to deliver to store shelves. The coffee that’s shipping from the production site is called “green” since it has not been roasted as of yet.
Estimates for green coffee come in around 7 million tons a year that’s shipped to all parts of the world for further processing and eventual consumption.
It may seem like a simple process to go to the store and grab a can of coffee, but the grounds inside have most likely taken a world tour on their way to the market, undergoing multiple processes to become the drink consumers just love to the last drop.