When sipping your tasty morning cup of coffee, have you ever wondered where it comes from? Many coffee enthusiasts know that coffee comes from a coffee plant. When brewing coffee, you are simply making coffee out of ground coffee beans. But what are coffee beans? Are coffee beans seeds? In this article, we will tell you what coffee beans are in detail.
The Coffee Plant
The coffee plant produces fruits known as coffee cherries. The coffee beans you roast, grind, and make coffee using your favorite brewing method are seeds of a coffee fruit (cherry). When coffee cherries are harvested and processed, you get seeds inside them, which are commonly known as coffee beans.
Growing coffee plants starts with planting coffee seeds in large beds prepared in shaded nurseries. The seedlings are watered frequently. They are grown under shade to protect them from direct sunlight until they become strong enough for transplanting into farms where they will grow permanently.
Coffee trees grow to a height of more than 30 feet. However, most coffee farmers/producers stump and prune the trees short to conserve their energy and make it easier to harvest the crop. Smaller trees produce more quality and better yield, especially where there is limited space.
A coffee tree takes about three to four years to produce coffee cherries. However, the exact period depends on the coffee variety. There are several factors that affect their characteristics, size, and disease resistance among others.
Harvesting Coffee Cherries
Getting coffee beans starts with planting the seeds, followed by harvesting coffee cherries. Coffee plants produce fruits when mature enough. At first, coffee cherries are green. They turn deep red when ripe. That is when they are ready for harvesting.
Most coffee-producing regions have one major harvest annually. In some coffee-growing countries such as Colombia, there are two harvests annually, including the main crop and secondary crop.
Picking coffee cherries is often done by hand, which is a very labor-intensive process. Picking coffee cherries is mechanized in coffee-growing countries where the landscape is flat with vast coffee fields, such as Brazil.
How to Get Coffee Seeds from Cherries
Are coffee beans seeds? To help you understand why coffee beans are seeds, we will take you through the process of obtaining the seeds (coffee beans) of a coffee fruit (cherry). Coffee cherries undergo processing to remove outer skins and reveal the seeds inside.
Processing commences as soon as harvesting is done to prevent the cherries from spoiling. Processing coffee beans is either done using the dry processing method or the wet processing method. Dry processing is mostly employed in coffee-growing countries with limited water resources.
In the dry method, freshly harvested cherries are spread out on large surfaces to dry under the sun. The cherries are raked and turned several times every day to prevent them from spoiling. They are covered at night and during rain to protect them from wetness.
In the wet method, the pulp is removed from the cherries after harvesting, such that the beans are dried with the parchment skin only. In this case, the cherries go through a pulping machine to remove the pulp.
As the beans pass through various water channels, they are separated by weight. Lighter beans float whereas heavier and riper beans sink. Next, they are separated by size as they pass through several rotating drums.
Once separated, the beans are transferred into fermentation tanks to remove the mucilage (parenchyma). Next, they are rinsed through other water channels and dried.
Milling and Grading Coffee Beans
After drying coffee cherries, they are milled to expose the seeds inside. The endocarp (parchment layer) is removed by a hulling machine. After milling, green coffee beans are exposed. These are the seeds of the coffee fruit. The green beans undergo grading and sorting by weight and size. Also, they are sorted depending on imperfections such as color flaws.
The green coffee seeds are packed in sisal bags or jute bags for shipment in shipping containers. They can also be packed in plastic-lined containers for bulk shipping.
So are coffee beans seeds? Yes. A coffee bean is a seed. When coffee cherries are picked and processed, you get green coffee beans. The green coffee beans are the seeds contained in a coffee fruit/cherry. Green coffee beans are roasted to turn them into aromatic brown beans. The brown beans are usually what you buy from your local grocery store or coffee roaster for grinding to brew coffee.
Also read: Are Coffee Beans Nuts?