Saturday, 14 November 2015

How to harvest and process coffee from your home grown coffee tree!

 A few years ago I got a coffee tree for my birthday. it languished in a pot for a year or so before we planted it out in the garden and it decided that it liked it there and started growing and flowering! I'm not a coffee drinker but once those bright red coffee cherries started to appear, I wondered if I could make my own coffee. 
I looked around on the internet, reckoned it could be done and decided to give it a go and see what happened - Here's what I did...

First I waited until the vast majority of cherries were ready (the fruit of the coffee bean tree are called cherries - the beans are the seed inside). My tree is Coffea arabica (Arabica coffee). The other most common type is Coffea canephora (Robusta coffee). Arabica trees normally produce berries 8-15 mm in diameter, and Robusta produces berries a more consistent 10 mm in diameter. Commercially, Robusta isn't considered as good as Arabica coffee and is used mainly as a filler in instant coffee blends. 

I spent about 30 minutes picking the cherries off the tree and got about 3/4 of a two litre bucket from my single tree. My tree produces lovely bright red cherries - some species produce bright yellow cherries - that would be fun!

Once you have picked all your cherries you need to "pulp" the cherries - that is get the seed out from inside. Coffee processing is very labour intensive and although there is equipment available to do it, for a few tress, I'm not sure its worth it. You could get a piece of wood and squash each cherry in the bottom of the bucket and push the seed out or you could do what I did and squeeze each cherry individually and pop the seed out!

This is the first few beans popped out against the freshly picked cherries to give you an indication of the size difference.

The beans come out covered in a slimy mucus and are VERY slippery! If you do this outside around a group of hungry chickens they will gobble up each stray side shooting coffee bean. I don't know how good this is for them but it was reducing my chances of a cup of coffee so I moved operations inside!

I have no idea if the cherry outers are any good for chookies so I did what I do with all food scraps that don't go to into the chook pens and popped them in the compost!

It took me about 30 - 40 minutes to shell/squeeze all my beans out of their cherry. It took a few squeezes to work out the angle and strength needed to do it efficiently but once I got the hang of it, it was quite meditative (as most repetitive jobs can be!)

I used one bucket to store the cherries, one catch my beans, and one to discard the cherries. Its a sticky process and not something you should do in your best Sunday outfit! The next step is the fermentation. Simply put the beans into a bowl/bucket of water and leave them for 18-24 hours.  

The idea is that the fermentation will break down the mucilage around the bean and remove that layer without too much fuss. If you grab a handful of beans every few hours or so and rinse them under a tap. If they are "gritty" rather than slimy, you are done and can rinse the whole lot.

At this point, cull all the floating beans as they wont be any good for making coffee and only use the "sinkers" for the nest step in the process. You can see the slimy coating on these beans. You will need to rinse them 2-3 times. Put fresh water into the bowl and agitate them for a few minutes then rinse. Use a colander or cloth to stop them from disappearing down the drain hole!

The next step is the drying process. The beans have quite a high moisture content and this needs to be reduced before roasting or storing them. To dry my beans I used the great big very expensive one I have sitting in my driveway... My car!
I used a pizza tray with holes in the base and popped them up on a small block of wood to allow air flow and left them in the hot baking car in the sun each time I went to work. It was good from the point of view that I didn't need to worry about it raining and bugs, birds or chickens wouldn't be raiding them while I wasn't looking!
I carried them in their bucket and when I was settled for the day, tipped them out and stirred them around a bit to even them across the tray and to make sure they were all getting direct sun at different times. It took three days for them to be dried out enough. They have a light, dry, husky feel rather than a solid, damp, heavy feel - you'll know it when you see it. 
If they aren't dried out enough they may go mouldy...
There is another step that I found online called Hulling.
"Before roasting, remove the thin tough parchment layer from the beans. Place the beans, a small quantity at a time, in a food processor or similar type of blender. Use plastic blades to avoid breaking the coffee beans. Blend at low speed for approximately 30 seconds to remove the parchment from the beans. Then use a hair dryer or similar piece of equipment to blow away the unwanted lighter parchment from the beans. Another technique is to rub the dried beans on concrete under a hessian bag or similar.
The very thin membrane that may remain on the green bean is the silver skin. It is not considered necessary to remove this before or after roasting. However, it may detract from the visual appearance of the roasted beans and can be removed by gently rubbing the beans following roasting." Qld Gov. Dept of Agriculture and Fisheries.
I'm not sure if my beans have this as I don't seem to be able to remove it. I'm not sure if mine came off when I washed them or if mine is extra tough...!

My next step is to take them to a barista friend and get him to roast and grind them for me - Ill let you know what happens next!!

Hers a few good links with other information if you are thinking of making your own coffee that I found interesting or useful.
If you have done this and want to share your results - tell us about in in the comments section below!

Score card:
Green-ness: 5/5 for growing your own food!
Frugal-ness: 5/5 for using your own labour!
Time cost: A year or so to grow the tree, 30 minutes to pick, 45 minutes to squeeze each bean out, 24 hours to ferment, 10 minutes to rinse, 3 days to dry...
Skill level: Pretty easy so far - just time consuming!
Fun-ness: Great fun!!


Kathryn Ray said...

Now this is something we definitely don't do in North America. ;-) Very cool. Looking forward to the next step. :-)

Practical Frog said...

Ummmm... I'm guessing is too cold where you are?? We don't do snowmen here like you do!! We roasted the coffee today and we will grind it in the weekend. Should be a bit of fun!- K x

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