The story goes that Kaldi the 9th-century Ethiopian goat herder discovered coffee when he noticed how excited his goats became after eating the beans from a coffee plant.
Whether this is true or not, nobody really knows but hey who’s complaining? Today we have a beverage that some studies suggest one and a half billion cups of coffee are consumed worldwide every day. Nearly half of those cups are consumed in the United States. It’s no surprise that people love coffee!
Where did Coffee Come From?
Its origin is traced to the country of Ethiopia in the continent of Africa. It wasn’t long after appearing in Ethiopia that coffee beans travelled to South America, Central America, and Southeast Asia. Today, the five leading countries that grow and produce coffee beans are Ethiopia, Indonesia, Colombia, Vietnam, and Brazil. Of those countries, Brazil makes more coffee and has done so for more than the last century. Statistics will say Brazil is responsible for making 2500 tons of coffee on an annual basis.
What Types Of Coffee Exist In The World?
There are two different kinds of beans that can be grown to make coffee. The first type of beans is referred to as Robusta beans. The flavour of the beans that make this type of coffee will bring back memories of smelling the earth after it has stopped raining in spring. For some, the taste is not enjoyable at first but when you swallow it, the coffee tastes smooth like peanut butter. The second type of beans is referred to as Arabica beans. If you don’t want coffee with a bold taste then these are the beans you should use to make your coffee. The taste of coffee from these beans is softer and sweeter. These beans have traces of fruit, berries, and sugar so these beans have a higher acidity level.
Where Do Coffee Beans Grow?
Everybody refers to coffee as coffee beans in the beginning stage. but they are really what we would call “coffee cherries”. If you wanted to grow a tree that would produce coffee beans, it would take between two to four years before you received beans that were ripe enough to begin the coffee-making process.
Plants that produce coffee beans normally need to grow anywhere between 30-40 feet. The trunk of the tree must also have a diameter that is no smaller than three inches. So coffee beans start growing on a plant but those plants eventually become trees. When coffee cherries are red, they are ready to be collected which is known as harvesting
These cherries are normally hand picked which is very long and monotonous . This doesn’t happen all over the world for example in Brazil because there is a lot of flat land and large areas that grow coffee they tend to use machines to collect the coffee cherries.
Processing the Cherries
Once the coffee has been picked, processing must start very quickly this is to prevent the fruit from spoiling. Different countries have different methods for processing but coffee is processed in one of the following two ways:
The Dry Method is the more traditional method of processing coffee, and still used in many countries where water tends to be less available. The freshly picked cherries are spread out on large surfaces to dry in the sun. This can often be on the side of the road as seen in some Caribbean countries. In order to stop the cherries from spoiling, they are raked and turned over during the day, then at night or during rain they are covered over, to prevent them from getting wet and spoiling . This process can continue for several weeks depending on the weather. For the next stage to go-ahead the moisture content in the cherries must be below approximately 11% .
The Wet Method takes out the pulp from the cherry after harvesting so the bean is dried with only the outer skin left on. In order to do this the freshly harvested cherries are put through a pulping machine that separates the skin and pulp from the bean.
The beans will then be separated by weight as they pass through water channels. The lighter beans will float to the top, while the heavier ripe beans sink to the bottom. They are then passed through a series of drums that rotate and will separate them by according to their size.
The next part of the journey consists of the beans being transported to large, water-filled fermentation tanks. Here a number of factor come into play, such as the quality of the beans, the weather and the altitude level they have been grown. At this stage they will stay in these tanks for between 12 to 48 hours to remove the slick layer of mucilage that is still attached to the parchment. While in the tanks enzymes form that will cause this layer to disappear.
When the fermentation process is complete, the beans will have a rough outer edge. The beans are then rinsed by going through more water channels, and at this point are ready for drying.
How Do We Get Coffee Beans?
Once the beans have been dried, they are separated by how much they weigh and how big they are after the polishing and hulling processes. After the sorting process is done and defective beans have been taken out, the coffee that is now referred to as “Green coffee ” and is bagged and shipped to different countries
Once the green beans arrive at there destinations the quality of the coffee is checked by specialist coffee tasters. This is referred to as “cupping”
The roasting process is normally done in the country it has been imported to. This is because of the importance of getting the freshly roasted beans to the consumer before losing the flavour of the coffee.
Roasting turns the green coffee into the brown beans that we buy as “fresh coffee beans” The roasting roasting machines hold a temperature of about 550 degrees Fahrenheit the beans need to be continuously moved so that they don’t burn and spoil.
When the beans reach an internal temperature of about 400 degrees Fahrenheit, they start to turn brown and the caffeol, the beans natural oil starts to emerge.
After roasting, the beans have to be cooled down and this is done using air or water.
Grinding and drinking
Now the freshly roasted bean needs to be ground . The grind of the beans is how “coarse or fine” the coffee will be and the goal is to get the maximin flavour in your cup of coffee. This will also depend on how you will brew your coffee.
Normally speaking the finer the grind, the quicker the coffee needs to be made. That’s why for example coffee for an espresso is finer than coffee that is used in a percolator.
So next time you make and drink that cup of Coffee sit back and think of the wonderful discovery that Kaldi the 9th-century Ethiopian goat herder made and the great time that his Goats where having. Enjoy!