It's truly amazing how many people and hours are involved in producing just one cup of coffee. Take the time to learn about this journey and you'll appreciate every sip even more.
Planting - The best Arabica seeds are selected for planting by hand in special nursery beds of a mixture of soil and compost to produce future coffee crops. After five to eight weeks, the plant is placed into planting bags where it grows for about six more weeks. Then, the young coffee plant is delicately transplanted under a canopy of tropical trees.
High quality coffee starts with the grower. Farmers in coffee producing countries work tirelessly to grow and harvest the finest beans. The end result is quality beans that will be roasted, ground and brewed for a delicious cup of coffee.
Growing - It may take three to four years for a coffee plant to reach maturity. The full shade canopy allows the coffee plants to slowly mature and the beans to develop with more natural sugar and complex flavors. From March to May workers diligently trim shade and coffee trees to ensure sufficient sunlight and space to grow. In June any remaining debris is cleared and fertilizer is applied.
The heavy rains from June to September provide needed moisture to the area and jasmine-like flowers begin to develop on the coffee trees. These delicate flowers develop into small green buds on the coffee plants. In October the coffee buds begin to ripen into red cherries.
Harvesting - The coffee harvest begins in November when the coffee buds start to ripen and continues through February. Families hand pick the fully ripened beans, quickly filling baskets. At the end of the day, the crop is combined into 100 pound (45.4kg) bags and carried to town for processing.
Processing - The red cherries must be treated and washed immediately. So, late into the night, workers wash beans and monitor the machine that de-pulp the coffee, or removes the beans from the red shell. The red pulp is saved and added to compost piles to bring nutrients to the coffee plants next year.
The coffee beans are soaked and washed over two to three days to remove their natural coating. Afterwards, the beans are transferred to the sun for drying. Over the next eight to ten days, the beans will be raked hourly so they dry evenly. The resulting phase is called en pergamino, indicating the beans have a dry, beige parchment shell. This is sometimes removed mechanically and kept as fertilizer.
Roasting - The roasting of green coffee beans brings the oil to the surface of the bean and unlocks the flavor. In some areas, they are roasted over an open fire in rotating black barrels. Roasting requires constant attention to make sure that the coffee does not burn and reaches the proper mahogany color. The resulting beans are cleaned and packaged for enjoyment around the world.
Grinding - Freshly and uniformly ground coffee is an important component of a great cup of coffee. A burr grinder is preferred by coffee experts to a blade grinder because it produces much more uniformity of grind size. Grinding coffee beans creates surfaces for hot water exposure, also known as extracting the flavor from coffee beans. If coffee is too finely ground for your method of brewing, it results in over-extraction and a harsh flavor. If beans are too coarsely ground, your coffee will be weak because of the lack of surface with which the water can interact.
Brewing - Without the proper brewing technique, you may not extract great flavor from your coffee. Or, even worse, you could turn great beans into bitter coffee. Factors to consider for optimal coffee brewing include time, temperature and turbulence. The time your coffee grounds are in contact with water helps to determine the extraction. For drip brewing, the optimal contact time is no longer than six minutes. Coffee grounds should come into contact with water at a temperature of 195-205 F (90.6 - 96.1 C) for best extraction. The last factor to consider is turbulence, or creating water movement around the coffee grounds so the water can permeate all grounds evenly.