How is Coffee Made (from Seed to Cup)


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Most of us have only limited knowledge of how our favorite coffee is made. Probably, the only thing we know about coffee is a hot beverage made by roasting, grinding, and brewing coffee beans. But the thing is, there’s more than to that.

There is no doubt that your cup of coffee will taste ten times better once you learn how the excellent drink is made from the very start.

In this article, we’ll further cover all of the essential operations that contribute to the creation of your beloved drink.

Focus how is coffee made from seed to cup

Before the coffee is ready to reach your cup, its life started as a seed and went through many processes and transformations. Aside from planting to harvesting, the coffee beans also go through a typical series of steps to provide the preferred consistency.

Our understanding about making coffee shouldn’t end up only at roasting and brewing. These rules need to be updated until the end of all stages of the chain. In short, all the way from seed to cup!

Planting: The Coffee Seeds are Planted

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Planting a coffee bean is the start of having a great-tasting cup in the morning. To brew coffee as much as you want, you need to grow as many coffee seeds as you can.

A common question about coffee is whether or not it is made from seeds or made from beans. Well, a coffee bean is actually a seed. And there are two things you can do about it. The most common thing we typically do is roast, grind, and brew it to make a good coffee. On the other hand, if it isn’t processed, we plant and grow the seed into a coffee tree.

So, how is coffee made from planting a coffee bean?

This is just the start or the first step in the journey of your cup. However, the process of planting alone involves many different things. Many factors go into it, such as soil, weather, pests, elevation, and so on. But the most important factor in the whole process is the type of bean that is being grown. Some of the most popular types of coffee beans in the world are Arabica, Robusta, Liberica, and Excelsa. Read our article on the four types of coffee beans to know more about them.

It’s necessary to understand the coffee plant’s growth and what type of bean it is. This is because each variety of coffee bean grows differently. One reason for this is that they grow closer together in certain areas than they do elsewhere. Another reason is that some coffee bean varieties are more sensitive to certain weather conditions than other types.

Furthermore, there are two significant parts to the whole process when a coffee plant is being planted. The first part involves selecting the right area where the coffee will be grown. This area will need to be rich in minerals and other things that will make it an excellent environment for the coffee plants.

The second part involves preparing the soil for the coffee bean to have a successful development. This thing may require some specialized equipment, but it is well worth the extra expense. Once the area has been selected, and the field’s readiness or soil has been ensured, you can now plant the seeds. Coffee plants can sometimes take quite a while to get going, but the results are often very impressive once they do.

Read our previous article on how to plant and grow a coffee tree for more information.

Farm Management: The Plants are Taken Cared Of

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The second step on having a good coffee is, of course, field management. Even if a thriving plantation is executed, it doesn’t end there. Maintaining strong, healthy, and productive plants is also needed, and it’s somewhat challenging.

Therefore, to ensure successful and alluring coffee cultivation, you need to pay attention to several essential variables that affect it. You aim to achieve high yields of quality coffee by having acceptable field management practices.

Effective field management is also an essential step from seed to cup. It’s important to maintain the good health of plants and prevent the spread of those pests and diseases. If these things aren’t well implemented , it may take longer for your coffee trees to produce a good crop. What’s more, your plants may suffer from harmful organisms.

Field management is composed of many different operation. After the coffee trees have been planted, all you have to do is take care of and manage them. And in order to that, you need to engage in farm sanitation, waste and water management, pest and disease management, fertilization, and so on.

If you like to know more about it, you can read our recent post on Coffee Production: Guide to Grow and Harvest Coffee.

Harvesting and Picking: The Ripe Coffee Cherries are Harvested

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The next step in making your favorite coffee is harvesting. After many years of growing the coffee, about three to four years, the tree will yield coffee cherries. And once these cherries are ripened, they are harvested.

Harvesting and picking coffee cherries is a necessary process for any coffee lover. There are different ways to go about it, depending on the amount of time you want to spend picking your cherries, the way you like your coffee, and other personal preferences.

But technically, you can do the picking of coffee cherries in four ways. But generally, the two primary systems are usually implemented nowadays: stripping and selective picking.

But no matter the method, the result will be the same: To enjoy the amazing taste of a delicious and fresh-brewed coffee from freshly picked coffee cherries. Still, the main goal is to harvest the coffee according to its maturity indices. That means it is essential to select only the ripe cherries, which are shiny, red, and firm to the touch, to ensure that good quality coffee is obtained.

They say that harvesting is one of the most challenging parts of coffee production. That is because it requires not just workforce, but also equipment availability to select the best coffee.

If you choose to harvest your coffee cherries by hand, there are specific steps that you must follow to ensure you’re doing the right thing. The whole process can also be done using automatic machinery. However, it’s still essential to choose a piece of machinery designed to harvest and pick coffee cherries fast and efficiently without destroying the beans’ quality.

We’ve written an article on Coffee Harvesting: The Selective and Strip Methods. Feel free to read it.

Processing: The Coffee Cherries Are Processed

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After harvesting, there goes processing. The harvested ripe coffee cherries are normally processed in either washed, dry or honey method.

To make a great “cup of coffee” at home, coffee beans are need, which are actually seeds inside the coffee cherry. To extract the beans from it, they need to go through any of these processes: the dry or wet method.

A common question among coffee drinkers and coffee connoisseurs alike is which is the best method of preparing the coffee for consumption – the wet or the dry method?

Coffee lovers who are not sure which of the two methods are best often prefer the wet or washed technique because it’s fresher and generally considered the superior preparation method. Aside from the fresher taste that it offers, some advantages of it should be considered if you are making your own coffee at home.

The wet or washed method involves pulping and fermentation to remove the flesh of the fruit and extract the beans from it. It requires pulping machine, whereas it separates the pulp from the stone inside to reveal the parchment coffee. The wet method also ensures that the beans are always fresh when the process is complete.

On the other hand, the dry method is easier to implement because you only have to dry the whole fruit under the sun or through a mechanical drier. It doesn’t also require a huge amount of water.

This method provides a sweeter and heavy body coffee. It is because the green coffee bean is left intact and fully flavored inside the coffee cherry. Which means this method is a straightforward technique. Once the whole fruit is dried, green coffee beans are revealed out of a hulling machine.

Drying the Beans: The Beans are Further Dried

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After processing, the coffee beans are still dried under the sun. In washed method, parchment coffee beans are produced, but that’s not type of bean we need. But in the end, these parchments are hulled to reveal green beans.

So, drying is still continuously maintained. It is because we shouldn’t allow the beans to retain the moisture on their own.

Coffee beans are dried for about 4 weeks to reach the optimum ideal moisture content. Most coffee beans are dried to 11% moisture content. However, remember that the drying may take more time depending on the weather conditions.

Milling: The Beans are Extracted

After the coffee cherries and parchments have been dried, they’re then hulled to produce dry green beans.

Coffee hulling or milling is a mechanical process that entails removing the coffee skin and husk from the cherry or parchment. All the dried cherry layers are removed in one step by the use of a hulling machine, leaving only the green coffee beans.

After this process, dried green beans are being produced to be subjected to roasting and brewing.

Storing: The Raw Green Beans are Stored

The next step is storing the dried coffee beans. They are stored in a cool and clean area if it’s needed.

Not all coffee producers and farmers need a storage room. But it’s still necessary to have a decent storage room for your coffee beans to avoid contamination, to avoid possible pest infestation, and so on.

The step of having a great tasting coffee may require proper storing of coffee beans. Whereas the green coffee beans must be placed in proper materials and should be kept clean and hygienic.

In the end, regular monitoring of coffee beans is still need. And it’s best to choose the storage facility that will help maintain the green coffee beans’ moisture content.

Grading and Sorting: The Beans are Sorted and Graded

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At this phase of your cup’s journey, the coffee goes through a time-consuming process. The coffee beans’ quality is controlled through quality control and sorting to be included as Specialty Coffee at the end.

The beans are usually measured as high-grade if they are sorted and prepared to produce zero defects in specialty grade coffee. With that being said, in this case, the beans are sorted by size and weight. And any defective beans are removed from the batch to sell at higher prices in the market.

However, that goes through time consuming and labor-intensive process.

Exporting and Distributing: The Beans are Shipped Around the World

At this point, from the origin, the green coffee beans will be exported and distributed to coffee shops, cafes, and retail markets.

Once the coffee beans are classified according to their quality, which means the coffee beans are sorted by shape, size, and looks, they are enclosed in sisal or jute bags. The coffee is loaded into shipping containers and shipped around the world.

The cups of coffee you drink everyday are not only limited to single bean variety or single origin. Sometimes, most roasters and cafes outsource coffee beans from different countries or farms.

Coffee Tasting or Cupping: The Beans are Graded Via Tasting

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Before making the coffee beans to the roaster, a certified Q grader will grade the beans first.

You’re lucky enough if your coffee came from it. These Q graders are certified by the SCA or the Coffee Quality Institute (CQI) as Licensed Q Grader. Which means you it’s an assurance that you’re tasting a quality coffee.

So, once green coffee beans are produced, they are transferred to the green coffee buyer or retailer who may be a Q grader. This process is called the quality grading system, aiming to identify lower-quality and high-quality coffees quickly. It’s usually an alternative approach to describe your coffee or product that’s only better to include as a specialty.

Most coffee beans are graded and perceived their quality via cupping or cup tasting, aside from visual inspection. Brewed coffees are tasted or sampled by a Certified Coffee Taster. Also, through cupping, the cup quality’s score is determined by the taster, whether it is specialty grade coffee or not.

Read our recent article on Specialty coffee.

Roasting: The Green Coffee Beans are Roasted

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The next step is roasting. Coffee beans go through roasting just before they are ready to be ground and prepared for consumption.

Roasting is the process of turning dry green beans into the kind of beans that we usually grind and brew. We see those more regularly in the local roasters and coffee shops. They are brown or dark brown and sometimes having an oily surface. When the beans are properly roasted, their taste and aroma become more pronounced.

There are three different types of coffee roast: medium, dark, and light. Each type has its own set of characteristics, and every bean has its own roasting time. The roasting time depends on how dry the bean is and how much caffeine it has. Some specialty coffee roasters roast all the beans at once, but most standard roasters simply roast the beans one at a time.

Light roast coffee has a more acidic flavor and is commonly used by people who like a more delicate cup of Joe. Medium roast coffees have a medium-blended taste and can be used for many different kinds of coffee. Dark roast coffees have a deeper, bolder flavor and are typically used for espresso.

Some people prefer dark roasts because they have a fuller and richer flavor that some find desirable. But many people choose a light roast because they want a milder flavor. There are many health benefits of drinking a full-bodied dark roast over a light roast. Darker roasts contain more antioxidants that help prevent cancer and dementia, and they also provide higher levels of acidity that can promote better dental health.

Check our recent guide on Coffee Roasting Process: The Stages at Which Coffees are Developed for more information.

Grinding: The Roasted Beans are Ground

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After roasting, the next process is grinding. Coffee grinding is basically the procedure of chopping up a whole freshly roasted coffee bean into fine or coarse particles.

But why grind the coffee beans? Like most other beverages, they are primarily rich in acidity and flavor, so when coffee is ground, it retains that aroma and flavor. Grinding the beans ensures the freshest and most aromatic beans possible.

Here’s the different grind size with its recommended brewing methods.

Large or Coarse Grind Size – having a size similar to sea salt. This size is recommended and indeed the best for French press, percolators, and coffee cupping.

Medium Coarse Grind Size -Having a size like regular sand. This grind size is the best grind for machine brewing and drip over coffee.

Fine or Extra-Fine Grind Size – having a size similar to table salt or flour.  But if it’s normally processed by a burr grinder, it’s a little more refined than table salt, making it best for espresso and Turkish coffee.

With these different grind sizes in mind, choose a grind size that fits your brew. It’s essential to pay attention to how fine you grind your coffee beans as the size matters to your coffee’s taste. Otherwise, you may get a coffee that doesn’t provide you with the taste that you like.

Having grounds that are too fine may result to over-extraction. You might extract too much flavor from your coffee. On the contrary, having grounds that are too coarse may result to under-extraction. Which means you might not extract the needed flavors from your coffee grounds.

After all, Once you’ve mastered this stage of making the perfect coffee, it will reflect in the taste.

Brewing: The Coffee Grounds are Brewed

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And lastly, the last step is brewing. There are different ways of brewing coffee such as French press, machine brewing, and so on. But having so many popular home-brewing methods involved is overwhelming.

Brewing coffee typically requires hot water and freshly ground coffee. The simplest brew method is pour-over, where hot water is poured over the coffee grounds, allowing the sediment from the coffee to settle at the bottom of the cup.

Again, there are many different ways to do this, including using a press, a drip machine, and a filter.

However, the type of coffee used is still important. That is because the brewing method depends mainly on many variables. In the end, all the brewing methods create a delicious coffee cup, but there are vast differences in the end product.

Check our posts on how to make a simple cold brew coffee. We also have a brewing guide on French Press and Pour Over Coffee.

Conclusion

There you have it—the journey of your coffee from seed to cup. In the end, learning how coffee is made can be enjoyable and straightforward for anyone who has just recently discovered it. But from origin to cup, there are many different processes and stages in which the coffee went through. And each will undoubtedly affect the flavor and quality of your beloved drink.

After all, we can all conclude that coffee isn’t just all about roasting, grinding, and brewing. Behind the delicious coffee you drink every day, its story starts from planting, proper care, harvesting, inspection, and so on. Knowing more about this exciting knowledge will surely make you more appreciative of your coffee.

Like tis Article? You Might Want to Read: 11 Profitable Things You can do with Used Coffee Grounds