This is the story of how the humble coffee becomes a world celebrity. It’s not about the Labrador named Coffee Beans attached to the Sheriff’s Department sniffing drugs and bombs. It’s about “the” coffee beans we are familiar with. It’s about the fragrant aroma that stimulates our senses in the morning. The tingling sensation we get when we take the first sip in the morning. How we manage to get an extra boost of energy whenever we feel tired and sleepy. Let us take some time to ponder the processes the coffee beans have to go through before it can be marketed.
Processing The Coffee Beans
After the coffee berries have been harvested, it needs to undergo a process where the flesh of the coffee berries is removed. The coffee berries are placed in special machines separating the flesh from the seed. This coffee seed is commonly called “coffee beans”. The coffee beans will now undergo a fermentation process for a period of time. This process is done in order to remove the slimy mucilage coating the coffee beans.
After the coffee beans have undergone the mandatory fermentation, they are thoroughly flushed with clean water. This process is to remove the foul smelling residue due to the fermentation process and the waste water is a main cause of pollutant.
The coffee beans are then dried under the sun or by machines, until the moisture level is about 10% before they can be packed for storage.
Another method of getting to the coffee beans without undergoing the fermentation process is to dry the whole berry in the sun. It normally takes about 10 to 14 days to complete the process with constant raking of the coffee beans to prevent mildew from forming. This method is popular and widely used by coffee producers where water is scarce. The dried flesh is then physically removed leaving only the coffee beans.
The dried coffee beans is then sorted and graded before they can be stored or shipped to buyers. At this stage, the coffee bean is called green coffee beans.
Sometimes the coffee beans will undergo an additional aging process. The reason for this is because when coffee was first introduced into Europe, the coffee beans have undergone a journey of about six months. Europeans have already developed a preference for this taste and therefore to simulate the taste, the coffee beans are further aged.
Roasting The Coffee Beans
Roasting is the final process the coffee beans have to undergo before they are commercially marketed. It is also possible to purchase un-roasted coffee beans that you can personally roast them yourself.
When the coffee beans are subjected to heat, there’s a chemical reaction happening within the coffee beans where the sugar and acid will begin to react releasing its aroma. The coffee beans will turn darker due to caramelised sucrose. When this happens, the coffee beans are quickly cooled to prevent damage to the coffee beans.
When roasting the green coffee beans, a lot of carbon dioxide is released as a by-product. The carbon dioxide helps to “seal” the coffee beans from loosing its flavour and aroma. Depending on how the coffee beans are stored, it may take some time before the optimum peak flavour. After reaching its peak, it will start loosing its flavour again.
If you are trying to roast your own coffee beans at home, be aware that you may not be successful during the first few times. You might over-burn your coffee beans during your first few tries. Never be discouraged, but try until you get the taste and flavour that appeals to you. Remember to process in small amounts to maintain freshness of your coffee.
Grinding The Coffee Beans
Before the roasted coffee beans can be used, you need to grind the coffee beans first. The coarseness of your coffee depends on your preference and the type of coffee-brewing method. It can range from coarse to very fine as in the Turkish grind. For example, if you’re using a percolator, a course coffee powder is suitable but if you are using an Espresso machines, an extra fine coffee powder is required.
The coffee beans have to undergo a string of processes before it can be consumed. The final flavour of the coffee depends on the journey the coffee beans take in order to reach its final form. Different methods and different techniques will give rise to a varied coffee flavour. This is the reason why there are so many flavours to the simple coffee bean.