Coffee is a popular beverage that, for many people, is essential to start the day. But, while many people drink coffee every day, not everyone knows its origins. How are coffee beans made, and where do they come from?
Coffee beans are made by roasting the green seeds of the Coffea plant or coffee tree. These seeds come from a coffee cherry that grows on a coffee plant and are extracted and roasted to create coffee beans. Before processing, the seeds can be planted to grow into a coffee tree.
The rest of this article will discuss:
- Where coffee beans come from.
- How they’re grown and harvested.
- The largest producer of coffee in the world.
- The step-by-step process of making coffee.
- Which country produces the best coffee.
- Tips on how to grow your own coffee tree.
Where Do Coffee Beans Come From?
If you’re like many people who drink coffee every day, you probably haven’t given much thought to where coffee beans come from and how they create your favorite coffee beverages.
Although coffee beans come from the same root source, they don’t always originate from the same area.
Coffee beans come from coffee trees, which are grown by planting unprocessed coffee seeds. Coffee cherries grow from the tree, which contains the seed that becomes a coffee bean. Most coffee trees are planted, and the seeds are exported from Brazil, one of the top coffee bean suppliers globally.
Which Country Is the Largest Producer of Coffee?
Brazil is the largest producer of coffee in 2020, according to Statista. They produce double the amount of Vietnam, which is second in coffee production worldwide. Brazil made 69 million 60 kg bags of coffee in 2020, while Vietnam had 29 million.
With Brazil being the leading coffee producer globally, the majority of the coffee beans they ship go to the United States and Germany, as the United States is the world’s largest coffee consumer.
Which Country Grows the Best Coffee Beans?
Although Brazil is the largest producer of coffee in the world, it’s not necessarily the best. Coffee is rated based on taste and quality, strongly determined by how the beans are harvested and processed.
Colombia is the world’s best-known coffee producer. They have many small, family-owned coffee farms across the country, which results in more care and attention toward the coffee beans. Therefore, the taste and overall quality are typically better than mass-produced coffee farms.
Colombia’s landscape is also another reason the coffee beans are considered the best. The landscape has a perfect natural environment that makes for the best tree growth conditions.
Although Colombia and Brazil share a border, their coffee production varies. Brazil contains coffee plantations that cover an endless amount of land to produce enough coffee to ship worldwide.
In contrast, Colombia sticks to having mostly family-owned coffee production, resulting in better quality, albeit less sold.
How Are Coffee Beans Grown?
Coffee beans are grown by planting a coffee seed in order to develop a coffee tree. This coffee tree will produce coffee cherries, which contain tiny coffee seeds, and after processing, will become coffee beans.
Coffee beans are unique in that they reside inside the small coffee cherries on a coffee tree. Therefore, although beans themselves aren’t specifically grown, and they’re actually produced, growing the seeds is the first step in the process of obtaining coffee beans.
Can Coffee Beans Be Grown At Home?
Coffee beans can be grown at home, as they’re capable of growing indoors and outdoors. To grow coffee beans at home, you’ll need freshly picked green coffee beans or cherries and a pot to plant them in. Growing coffee beans from an already roasted bean aren’t likely.
Along with having the right seeds, you need to ensure your plant has suitable soil and the right amount of water.
Coffee trees or shrubs should be grown in soil that’s kept moist at all times, with proper drainage provided. The soil should always be rich in nutrients, so your coffee tree grows strong and healthy.
Typically, if you want to grow your own coffee tree at home, you’ll want to buy fresh, unroasted coffee beans from a nearby farm or shop. However, if you’re a beginner, you can purchase easy kits online.
I recommend the Arabica Coffee Plant Growing Starter Kit from Amazon.com. This kit is easy to use, comes with everything you’ll need, and has complete instructions to get you started.
Therefore by ordering this, you’ll get instructions on how to grow healthy coffee plants, seeds to get you started, pots with trays, and even soil.
How Do I Know If My Coffee Plant is Dying?
You’ll know if your coffee plant is diseased or dying by looking at its leaves. The leaves will most likely change color, such as yellow or brown, and holes appear in them. In addition, some leaves may fall off the plant, and you’ll notice discoloration on the wood of the plant.
Coffee plants commonly suffer from various bug infestations that can cause lasting damage to the plant, so it’s essential to look for any signs of pests.
If there is evidence of sickness, disease, or infestations, ensure that any cherries growing on the plant are not rotting, as this is a possibility.
To keep your coffee plant as healthy as possible, make sure you change the pot and soil often, as waterlogged soil can kill the plant’s roots.
While the soil should be kept moist, overwatering the coffee plant can cause just as much damage as underwatering, so you have to find the middle ground between the two.
How is Coffee Harvested?
Like many other fruits that grow on trees or shrubs, coffee is harvested the same way. Since it grows in a coffee cherry, it’s often gathered in the same manner.
Coffee is harvested from coffee cherries, which grow on coffee trees. Coffee cherries are picked when they’re ripe or a bright red color. Coffee cherries may be gathered from the same tree all at once or picked as each cherry ripens.
Harvesting coffee cherries is probably the step that takes the longest when it comes to obtaining coffee beans. After planting a coffee plant, the coffee cherries can take a long time to grow, and after that, a long time to ripen.
However, just because a coffee tree isn’t producing coffee cherries right away doesn’t mean it won’t. Some trees just take longer to produce fruit than others.
How Long Do Coffee Cherries Stay Good After Harvesting?
Coffee cherries spoil very quickly after harvesting. Therefore, after harvesting coffee cherries from a coffee tree, you want to start processing them immediately, which can be done with dry or wet methods.
Immediately after processing the cherries, they’re transported to fermentation tanks, where the process to make coffee beans continues. However, I’ll get more into that process later.
So, after harvesting, the coffee cherries are immediately processed. As they don’t stay suitable for long after ripening, it’s not a good idea to store them before beginning processing.
Is Coffee Made of Poop?
To some, making coffee from poop might sound atrocious, or maybe you’ve heard of it before. But, while it’s not the most common form of coffee, or really not everyone’s cup of tea (or coffee, in this case), it’s a practice in Asia.
Not all coffee is made of poop, but some unique coffee brands, such as Kopi Luwak or Black Ivory Coffee, consists of partially digested coffee cherries. The cherries are fermented as they pass through the digestive tract, and once defecated, they are collected for coffee.
Kopi Luwak, also known as Civet Coffee, is digested and defecated by the Asain palm civet, a small animal native to South and Southeast Asia. People often catch these animals to trade them throughout Asia just to make Kopi Luwak.
After the Asain palm civet defecates the coffee, the beans are picked from the fecal matter. Many people believe that this process makes coffee better for two reasons:
- The animals choose which coffee cherries are best, which helps with the sorting process.
- The digestive tract somehow alters the composition of the cherry, making it better.
Black Ivory Coffee is very similar to Kopi Luwak.
However, instead of collecting coffee beans from the Asian palm civet, the beans are collected from the fecal matter of elephants. Black Ivory Coffee is one of the most expensive coffees globally, priced at $2,000 per kilogram (2.2 lbs) due to the complicated process of making it.
Black Ivory Coffee is also considered the world’s rarest coffee, another reason for its high price.
How is Coffee Made Step-by-Step?
Coffee goes through many steps and stages before it’s given to the public as a delicious caffeinated drink. While it starts as a tiny seed and becomes the ground coffee we see many today, there are several steps in between.
Here are all the steps to make coffee:
- A coffee seed is planted.
- A coffee tree grows and produces coffee cherries.
- The coffee cherries are harvested and processed.
- The beans are milled and exported.
- The beans are roasted.
- The beans are ground.
- Coffee is brewed.
Below I will discuss the steps taken to make coffee and how each step is done to explain how coffee and coffee beans are manufactured and produced.
1. A Coffee Seed is Planted
The first step to making coffee is to plant a coffee seed to grow a coffee tree. Before a coffee seed is planted, the seed is germinated. To do this, they are soaked in water for at least 24 hours.
It’s recommended to use the seeds from ripe coffee cherries or fresh green coffee seeds. The fresher the seed is, the quicker it germinates. New seeds germinate for about two and a half months, while older seeds can take up to six months to germinate.
After the seed is germinated, the seed is placed in soil and watered daily, keeping the ground moist at all times.
2. A Coffee Tree Grows and Produces Coffee Cherries
After the seed is germinated and planted, a coffee tree will begin to grow. However, even after a coffee tree has grown, it can take up to three to four years to start producing fruit.
However, when it starts producing fruit, it makes coffee cherries, typically around 2,000 coffee cherries a year (or 4,000 coffee beans), depending on the tree’s health.
3. The Coffee Cherries Are Harvested and Processed
After a coffee tree has grown and began producing coffee cherries, the cherries are harvested and processed. When the coffee cherries are ripe, they’re a bright red color.
They are usually picked from the tree at one time. However, sometimes they’re selectively picked as they individually ripen.
After the cherries are ripe and picked, they begin to get processed. Processing usually happens immediately, as the fruit will start to spoil quickly. There are a couple of different ways that coffee cherries will be processed:
- Wet method: This method involves removing the pulp from the cherry right after harvesting it. Therefore, the bean dries with only the parchment skin on the bean.
- Dry method: This method is commonly used in countries where water isn’t in abundance. It involves spreading the freshly picked cherries out to dry in the sun.
The different methods of processing may differ depending on the country and area. However, after either processing method, the result should be a green coffee bean covered in the parchment skin.
4. The Beans Are Milled and Exported
After being processed, coffee beans are milled and exported around the world. The process of milling the coffee beans has several steps, including:
- Cleaning and Sorting
Below I’ll discuss each step in the milling process, whether they’re required or optional, and how they’re done to create the best possible coffee beans.
Hulling involves removing any of the leftover fruit or skin from the coffee bean. Hulling is a process that’s done on both the dry method and the wet method, as both types of processing can leave remnants of the fruit or skin on the coffee bean.
Hulling is typically done with the help of machinery.
Polishing is an optional step in the milling process. This process is usually done using a polishing machine, and it’s done to remove the silver skin that often stays on the coffee bean after the hulling process.
Many believe not removing this skin can cause the taste of the coffee bean to change, so it’s still a popular part of the process.
Cleaning and Sorting
Cleaning and sorting involve cleaning the beans of any leftover debris that might have gotten mixed in with the coffee beans and sorting the coffee beans based on size and color.
The sorting also helps with identifying any defective coffee beans, which are removed from the process altogether.
Grading involves sorting the coffee beans based on many different aspects. For example, the sorting or grading can be categorized by the size of the coffee bean, how it was picked or prepared, the altitude it was grown, and its taste.
The coffee beans are graded based on their imperfections.
After the coffee beans are adequately milled, they’re exported to countries worldwide, especially the United States and Germany, which are popular coffee consumers.
5. The Beans Are Roasted
After the coffee beans are made and exported, they’re roasted to create the coffee beans that people are most commonly used to seeing. Roasting the coffee beans changes them from green to dark brown coffee beans.
The coffee beans are typically roasted at around 550℉ and kept in a continuous motion to keep them from burning.
6. The Beans Are Ground
After the roasting process, the coffee beans are ground to create a fine consistency. Ground coffee can come in various thicknesses, meaning some may be finer than others, depending on the method a person will use for the coffee.
Coffee made for espresso is much finer-textured than coffee made for drip coffee.
7. Coffee is Brewed
Finally, the coffee can be brewed. Whether you’re making an espresso or an americano, the coffee beans (or ground coffee, in this case) all come from the same thing: a coffee tree.
The process is longer than many people may realize. However, coffee stays in high demand with the copious amount of coffee trees out there.
Coffee beans are made by planting coffee seeds to grow coffee trees, therefore producing cherries containing coffee beans. While coffee beans start out green, the roasting process makes them the dark brown color many people are used to seeing with coffee beans.
The steps to making coffee seem a lot longer with all that goes into processing and milling coffee seeds to create the best-looking and tasting coffee beans.
However, since coffee beans are mass-produced, especially in Brazil, and over 4,000 coffee beans can come from one tree, there’s rarely a coffee shortage.