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How Are Coffee Beans Harvested?

Before coffee gets into your cup, it is harvested and processed using different techniques. From seed to cup, there exist numerous processes that coffee beans undergo. One of these processes is harvesting. But how are coffee beans harvested? Read on to learn more.

harvesting coffee beans

Coffee Harvesting Methods

When coffee trees mature, they start producing fruits known as coffee cherries or berries. Coffee beans are the seeds inside coffee cherries. Coffee cherries are initially green and turn bright red when ripe. Once ripe, they are ready for harvesting and further processing. Harvesting coffee beans is done using two methods including hand picking and machine picking. Let us discuss them in detail.

1. Hand Picking

Just like its name suggests, hand-picking involves harvesting coffee cherries by hand. It is a time-consuming coffee harvesting technique. It is mainly used in specialty coffee-producing farms. Hand-picking is done by either selective harvesting or strip harvesting.

Selective Harvesting

Selective harvesting involves hand-picking ripe coffee cherries. Unripe cherries are not picked. They are left on the trees for reassessment after a couple of weeks. The process is repeated severally until all viable coffee cherries are picked.

However, selective harvesting is very labor intensive. Pickers fill baskets hung around their waist and empty the cherries into larger bags. Next, the cherries are spread out to remove overripe cherries and foreign debris.

Selective harvesting is also time-consuming. Coffee farms that rely on this harvesting method typically hire a large labor force. The laborers are often paid depending on the weight of the coffee cherries they have harvested at the end of the day. The large labor force and time required makes beans harvested by hand more expensive.

Some situations also necessitate selective harvesting, especially where coffee farms are found on steep slopes where machines cannot navigate. Regardless, coffee beans picked by hand using selective harvesting are considered of a higher quality. The reason behind this is that only viable cherries are harvested for further processing.

Strip Harvesting

Strip harvesting, on the other hand, is a method of picking all coffee cherries in one go. Strip picking results in harvests with varying levels of maturation, but is less labor intensive and less expensive than selective picking. It is done either by hand or mechanically.

When done by hand, the process involves harvesters placing canvas below the trees. All the cherries are knocked off the branches to collect on the canvas. Thereafter, the cherries are collected in bags for weighing.

2. Machine Picking 

Coffee beans are also harvested by machine picking. It is an economical method and is less labor intensive. Although the initial cost of coffee harvesting machines is high, the overall costs of harvesting are reduced. However, machine picking is only possible on flat land. The machines cannot run on sloped farms. Machine picking is popularly used in Brazil due to the vast, flat coffee farms.


How Are Coffee Beans Harvested- Summary

Each coffee harvesting method comes with a number of advantages and drawbacks. The method to choose is often determined by the desired quality of coffee beans, budget, availability of labor, and the topography of the land. Thus, each method is suitable for certain circumstances.