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The coffee process

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The coffee plant is an evergreen shrub from the Rubiacee family, genus Coffea.
The most grown species are Coffea Arabica and Coffea Robusta which are distinguished by their original habitat (east Africa the former, west Africa the latter), but above all, for the shape of the bean:
  • Coffea arabica is oval, flat and long, with a sinuous groove and it is green,
  • Coffea robusta is roundish, has a straight groove and is brown.
Coffee is harvested in three ways:
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PICKING - the cherries are handpicked, one by one, selecting only ripe fruit; this is a painstaking and costly process, but one which offers high quality standards.

mechanical 180px MECHANICAL - the cherries are harvested using mechanical means, which speed up the process and reduce costs. However, the harvest is less accurate and the quality is not prime.
stripping-180px STRIPPING - this is a faster, more economic method compared to picking, since all of the fruits are stripped from the plant without distinguishing the different degrees of ripeness. However, the harvest quality is the poorest of the three methods since the fruit is at different levels of ripeness.
Processing
Once harvested, the cherries are “processed” to arrive at the bean, which is the green coffee.
There are three methods to obtain the green coffee bean:

Wet method

Coffee treated with this method is known as “washed” and it is almost always Arabica coffee of superior quality to be treated this way. Washed Arabica is also known as "Mild". Generally, the wet method is reserved to fruit harvested using the "picking" method. This is a complex process, which is long and costly and used only for ripe fruits, to obtain a raw materials of the highest quality, since this treatment intensifies the aroma notes of the coffee, reducing its bitter taste.
It consists of immersing the cherries (within 24 hours of harvesting) into a tank of water for 16-36 hours, so that they swell and soften. The flesh is removed by a machine, which separates it from the bean by friction. The fermentation process lasts from 12 to 36 hours. The cherries are then placed in cement vats filled with water, then left there. During this fermentation, the beans lose the remaining viscous substance that covers them after the flesh is removed. Washing makes it possible to remove these flesh residues and to select the riper beans. The coffee beans are rinsed in running water (against the current) to remove any final impurities. The riper beans are also the heaviest ones and therefore, they drop to the bottom, where a sorter recovers them easily. Natural drying in the sun can take up to 3 weeks. At this stage, the coffee is known as “parchment coffee”. It is sun dried on large hanging racks that can be taken inside when it rains, or on large canvases on the ground. Scouring consists of removing the final layer around the coffee bean. This operation is carried out by a friction, drum or roller scouring machines and leaves the green bean ready to be packaged into sacks and sold to the roaster.

Dry method

Coffee treated using this method is known as “natural” coffee. The dry method, which is sometimes carried out using ovens, is quicker, simpler and less expensive than the wet method. It consists of simply drying the cherries in the open air, spread over large areas for 3-4 weeks. The cherries are regularly mixed and turned with a rake to make sure they dry out evenly. This technique does mean that there is a loss of aroma and the sugary substances pass from the pulp to the bean. The result in the cup is sweeter and less aromatic than coffee processed using the wet method. The dry cherries are then peeled and the bean is stripped of its outer layer. During this calibration operation, any beans found to be defective are removed either manually or by machine. As well as sifting, human hands are the best selection method.

Semidry method

This method, which is between the wet and the dry processes, if carried out properly, makes it possible to achieve a balance of the coffee’s body and acidity. The ripe cherries are separated by the unripe ones using a minimum amount of water. The pulp is then removed using a mechanical system and then, the coffee bean, which is still covered in mucilage, is left to dry on “hanging beds” to prevent them from being contaminated by the ground.