Coffee has existed for centuries, and it’s one of the most popular beverages in the world. It is enjoyed by millions of people every day, who appreciate its unique flavor and aroma. But have you ever wondered how coffee goes from being a humble bean to a delicious cup?
The journey from coffee bean to your mug starts long before you start brewing. From growth and harvesting to roasting and grinding, each step plays an important role in developing the flavor characteristics we all know and love.
In this article, we’ll explore these different stages so that you can better understand what makes up your favorite brew!
Different types of processing can be used, depending on the type of bean and desired flavor profile.
Dry processing- freshly picked cherries are dried in the sun on concrete patios or raised beds until they reach an optimal 11-12% humidity level before hulling off the bean.
The resulting coffees tend to have a more intense flavor profile with higher acidity levels due to their long drying time compared to other processing methods.
Wet processing- commonly used for Arabica coffee- helps preserve some of its delicate flavors while producing a cleaner cup.
In this method, the cherry pulp is removed by passing through water channels and then placed into fermentation tanks for 12 – 48 hours, depending on climatic conditions.
They are then washed away with clean water leaving behind only pure coffee beans, which will be dried immediately afterward either in mechanical driers or left out under direct sunlight until reaching 11 – 12 % moisture content.
Milling the beans is one of the most important steps in turning coffee beans into a cup of delicious coffee. It involves two processes: hulling and polishing and grading and sorting.
Hulling removes the parchment layer from each bean. The parchment layer protects the bean during shipping but must be removed for roasting. After removal, the beans are polished to remove any remaining papery material.
Hulling ensures that all the flavor compounds remain intact before roasting begins.
Coffee grading involves separating the beans by size, shape, color, and density – all factors that can affect the final product’s flavor.
A large screen sieve is used to separate different sizes. Smaller screens are then used to sort out any stones or other foreign matter that may have made it through the first screening process.
After the initial screening process, a “color sorter” machine is used to distinguish between greenish-brown underdeveloped beans from dark brown fully developed ones.
The machine also separates any defective or discolored beans and those with insect damage or excessive moisture content, which could negatively impact flavor and aroma if ingested in your cup of coffee.
Once sorted by size, color, and quality grade, each batch is given an official score based on its characteristics, such as body (how full-bodied it tastes when brewed), acidity (the amount of tartness present), and aroma (what flavors you smell when taking a whiff).
The higher quality grades tend to fetch higher prices due to their superior taste profile compared with lower grades which usually contain more defects/flaws than their premium counterparts.
This involves transporting the beans from their country of origin, usually in sacks or containers, to other countries worldwide. The export process requires careful handling and storage to ensure the beans arrive at their destination in optimal condition.
The packaging includes using protective packaging materials like burlap sacks with jute string closures along with wooden pallets when shipping large volumes of green beans overseas.
Evaluating flavor and aroma, known as “cupping” or “coffee tasting,” helps producers determine if their product meets certain standards. It also allows them to distinguish between different types and grades of coffee.
Cupping involves brewing a sample batch of freshly roasted coffee grounds with hot water and then scoping up some liquid from the surface with a small spoon.
The taster slurps the liquid onto their palate to cover all parts evenly, allowing them to simultaneously take in all aspects of the flavor profile.
The cupper then assesses several key characteristics such as body (the feel on one’s tongue), acidity (a pleasant tartness or sharpness), sweetness (the presence or absence of subtle flavors like caramel or chocolate), and aftertaste (flavors lingering after swallowing).
Other factors like balance, complexity, uniformity, and cleanliness are considered when evaluating quality.
Once this initial assessment is complete, professional cuppers may continue experimenting with different roasts or blends to create a unique blend that appeals to customers’ tastes.
Established cuppers may also adjust variables such as grind size, brew time, and temperature to bring out specific qualities they want to be highlighted in each cup they produce.
When roasting, heat is applied to green (unroasted) coffee beans to bring out their unique flavors and aromas. Roasting also helps reduce acidity levels for a smoother cup.
The temperature at which coffee beans are roasted can vary depending on personal preference or desired flavor profile. For example, light roasts are usually heated between 356°F (180°C) and 401°F (205°C).
For light roast, beans only have time to develop subtle notes such as floral or fruity qualities before removing them from the heat source.
Medium roasts are usually heated between 410°F (210°C) and 428 °F (220 °C), while dark roast coffees reach temperatures between 446℉ (230℃) and 482℉ (250℃).
Lightly roasted coffees tend to be brighter with more acidic notes, whereas darker roasts will offer deeper flavors with smokier tones due to longer exposure times under high heat levels.
Roasted coffee must reach consumers within the shortest time possible. Hence, roasting usually happens in the importing country.
Coffee grinding breaks down coffee beans into smaller and more uniform particles, which are then used to brew coffee. This process can be done either manually or with an electric grinder, depending on your preference and needs.
When grinding size, several factors need to be considered, such as the type of brewing method, desired flavor profile, and taste preferences.
The most popular grinds are coarse grounds for the French press, medium-fine grounds for Chemex, fine grounds for espresso machines, and extra-fine grinds for Turkish coffee makers.
The finer the ground particles, the quicker they will extract flavor from the beans when brewed.
On the other hand, coarser grinds require longer extraction times to release all their flavors into your cup of coffee. Choosing a grind size that best suits your brewing method is important to get optimal results from each type of roast you use.
When using an electric grinder at home, it’s best practice to start by setting it on its lowest setting first before working up until you find a good balance between speed and consistency within each batch of beans you use.
Additionally, ensure you don’t over-grind, as this will lead to bitter-tasting cups due to too much heat being released during grinding – causing oils within each bean particle to burn out prematurely before extraction has been completed properly.
Manual grinding methods like mortar and pestles or manual burr mills (hand crank), these usually come in pre-set sizes, so always make sure to check what kind of settings they offer before purchase if possible.
Coffee brewing is extracting flavor from coffee beans. It involves combining ground coffee with hot water and allowing it to steep for a period before straining away the grounds.
The type of grind used, the temperature and amount of water, and the time that the coffee is allowed to steep affect its taste.
The most common home brewing method is a drip brewer or pour-over device. With these methods, you’ll need freshly ground beans and filtered water heated to 195–205°F (90–96°C).
Alternatively, French press brewers are also popular options which require coarsely ground beans and boiling water poured over the top until full saturation occurs. Plunge on a metal mesh filter at around 3 minutes later.
When done correctly, it yields about two tablespoons per 6 ounces (180 ml) liquid ratio.
An espresso machine may be used instead for espresso drinkers who prefer an even stronger cup than normal brews. The machine requires finely ground beans tamped down tightly into individual portions.
Additionally, raise the pressure levels to 9 bars, producing much more concentrated shots in 20-30 seconds. You can also explore more about how to make coffee at home.
So there you have it! Eight stages explained from coffee beans to drinking coffee – each step contributing greatly towards achieving that delicious cup of java we all know and love!
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