Coffee making process: the story behind your cup of coffee
In the 21st century, the production of coffee is a global industry. An estimated average of two billion cups of coffee are drunk around the world every day, but how often do you stop to think about the journey your coffee has been on before it finds its way into your cup?
How is coffee made: from plantation to cup
On its journey from plantation to cup, coffee goes through ten different stages to turn it from a coffee bean, actually a seed, into your steaming brew.
1. Coffee plantation
Any coffee bean, really a seed, that is still green and hasn’t been processed, can be planted to grow into a coffee tree under the right conditions. Planting is usually carried out during the wet season to ensure that the soil stays moist while the roots have time, quite literally, to take root.
2. Coffee harvesting
On average, it takes three to four years for a coffee tree to start bearing fruit. This fruit is known as a coffee cherry, which turns a bright red when ripe and ready for harvesting, usually once a year.
Although it can be a challenging and labour-intensive process, in most places, the coffee crop is picked by hand, with good pickers averaging around 50-60kg per day. The harvest is then transported to a factory to be processed.
3. Coffee processing
Once the cherries have been picked, they must be processed as soon as possible using either the wet or dry method. Which method is used tends to depend on the part of the world in which the fruit has been grown. After the beans have been separated from the cherries, they are fermented and then rinsed.
4. Coffee beans drying
Beans processed using the wet method need to be dried for storage. They can be spread out and dried in the sun or in machines like giant tumblers.
5. Coffee beans milling
Before exportation, the dried coffee is hulled to remove the husk, polished, and then graded and sorted. Sorting removes any imperfections or damage before the beans are sized and sorted. Beans are sized on a scale of ten to twenty.
6. Coffee beans export
The green pre-roasted beans are now ready for exportation and are usually packed in jute or sisal bags for their journey. These bags are generally shipped, in the literal sense of the word, around the world.
7. First coffee tasting
The coffee must now be tested for quality and taste in a process usually known as cupping and carried out by experts called cuppers. All five senses are involved in the correct cupping of coffee, from assessing their appearance by sight and touch to smelling and tasting their aroma and flavour.
Expert cuppers can taste hundreds of samples every day and are able to distinguish between them despite the slightest variations.
8. Coffee roasting
Roasting is what turns the green coffee beans into the more recognisable brown. The beans are kept on the move throughout the process to stop them burning before being cooled. They are usually roasted in their destination country as they become much more unstable after roasting and need to be consumed as quickly as possible.
9. Coffee grinding
Coffee can be ground either to a coarse or fine degree, depending on how long it will be in contact with the water. A coffee such as espresso usually involves a finer grind than a drip method.
10. Coffee brewing
Coffee is brewed in an infinite number of ways and how you choose to do so is completely up to you – cold brew, French press, moka, espresso machine… The key thing to remember is to consume your coffee as quickly as possible so that its flavour remains intense and delicious.
The last step: drink your coffee!
The fun part! Coffee’s versatility is what makes it such a popular drink.