Enjoy The Coffee

THE CAFETO

Coffee is the fruit of a shrub called Cafeto.

Wild coffee trees can be found in Africa where they originate. It is between 2 and 6 meters tall although in the wild it can reach 15 meters. In plantations their height is controlled by systematic pruning to facilitate harvesting.
Botanically it belongs to the family of Rubiaceae and forms the genus of Coffea. The leaves are evergreen and lanceolate.

After the rain period the first flowers appear, which are white. These appear in groups and last very little time, as they wither just after being fertilized. Flowering is continuous on the tree depending on rainfall. It takes between 6 and 12 months for the fruit to ripen after fertilization depending on its quality and the agricultural conditions. So it is not difficult to see the fruits of the previous bloom with flowers of the new crop in the same Cafeto.
The coffee tree grows in very specific environmental conditions, which is why it can only be found in a strip between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. Each of the countries where coffee trees are grown, and the conditions of each plantation, give coffee its specific characteristics.
Coffee trees are reproduced by seeds and planting is done in seedbeds or directly in the field. In the latter case it has to be done in the shade and very fertile soil. The coffee tree needs to grow in loose, soft soil, clean of any kind of weed.
The coffee tree is productive from the third year, but it is from the 5th or 6th when it gives the best crops. Throughout its life it will be subject to pruning in order to improve its crops and when it is between 20 or 25 years old that its life comes to an end. The average production of a coffee plant is around 500 grams of commercial coffee (eg. sales), but there are plants that produce between 900 and 1,200 grams.

THE FRUIT
The fruit of the coffee plant is a berry that is first green and when it is ripe its colour is cherry red, which is why it is also called cherry. It is not unusual to find, as we have said before, green and ripe cherries on the same tree.
In high quality coffees only ripe beans are picked by hand, and the process is repeated as many times as necessary. There is another way of collecting, which is called ´milking´ in which all kinds of beans (green and ripe) are collected and in large plantations, like the ones in Brazil, it is done mechanically. However, these forms of collecting affect the quality.
Inside the cherry, between the skin and the grain (usually 2 grains), there is a sticky substance called mucilage. To extract coffee beans, it is necessary to remove the skin or peel as well as the mucilage, which is done in the process of dehusking.

DEHUSKING/ DEHULLING
Dehusking is the process by which the seed (i.e. the coffee bean) is obtained from the fruit of the coffee plant.
There are three types of dehusking, depending on the quality of coffee and the quality of the collector.

  1. I) WET METHOD
    This type of dehusking is done with a certain amount of water so it is used where water is plentiful and is a procedure that provides coffee with good characteristics in the cup. It is used mainly with high quality coffee, above all Arabicas, although it can also be found in some Robusta

It consists of several stages:

  1. Removing the pulp.
    Fruits, usually hand-selected, are moved by a flow of water to a machine in which the rind of the grains is separated by mechanical means.
  2. Fermentation.
    The grains are surrounded by mucilage (sugars) which must be eliminated as well.

This process takes place outdoors, in tanks of concrete, where coffee with water is left to settle for a few hours depending on the water temperature, so that the mucilage ferments and decomposes.

  1. Washing.
    Then coffee is washed with water and transported to channels where impurities such as sticks, diseased grains etc. are removed.
  2. Drying.
    The coffee obtained is wet so it is necessary to dry it. This operation is performed on large surfaces called patios, in areas where it does not rain at this time of the year or in ovens. Drying is being done until the grain reaches the humidity levels of between 10-12%.
  3. Parchment and polishing.
    Coffee once dried is ready to be stored. This coffee is surrounded by a yellowish white film called parchment and because of its yellowish colour at this stage the coffee is called Café Oro (Golden coffee). Parchment coffee is stored in bulk, in tanks usually made of wood. Before being classified and packed in bag, the parchment is removed, which is done by a mechanical process called parchmenting.
    It is then classified by size with the help of metal screens and then diseased grains (which are of different colour) are separated electronically. In high quality coffee, before putting it into bags, a final classification is performed manually in order to remove remaining impurities and broken grains.

The coffees dehusked (dehulled) by wet method, in the market are given the name of washed coffee. This name indicates that it is high quality coffee and normally applies to Arabica coffees.

  1. II) DRY METHOD
    Dehusking by dry method is performed with the rest of the coffees, mainly Robusta and some kinds of Arabica such as the one from Brazil. This method is usually applied to coffees which were harvested with less care, mechanically or through ´milking´ methods, collecting green and ripe cherries at a time. In better quality coffees, such as Arabicas, ripe cherries are separated from green ones and given a different type of treatment.

It consists of the following steps:

  1. Drying.
    The berries usually harvested with less care than those which undergo a wet method dehusking, are dried in the sun, in a terrarium, because it is necessary to remove the moisture it accumulates (about 75%) mainly in the mucilage. It is necessary to be continuously stirring the coffee with a shovel and in case of rain the coffee should be covered.

In places where natural drying is difficult to perform, it is done in industrial dryers.

  1. Shelling
    The fruits once dried are mechanically treated to separate the shell and parchment from the beans. The coffee thus obtained can be classified by electronic means to eliminate the (poorly fermented) black beans.
  2. Classification.
    For the coffee to be marketed and put in bags of 60 Kg, it first needs to be classified by size by means of mechanical sieves.
    The process of separating the grain from the husk by natural drying in the sun gives the coffee its name: Natural Coffee.

III) SEMI-WET or SEMI-DRY METHOD
It is a relatively new method that was first used with some Robusta and Arabica coffees, mainly in Brazil. It is not a widely used method.
In this method, ripe cherries are kept in water for a few hours and then passed through a pulper. Grains surrounded by the mucilage are sun-dried, avoiding the fermentation stage which takes place in the wet method.
The quality of the coffee produced in this way is intermediate between the washed coffee and the natural one.