How Is Coffee Harvested

How Is Coffee Harvested

It is most likely that everyone looks at taking their coffee to kick off their day at a high note. But do you bother equipping yourself with knowledge about what you are drinking? From the planting to harvesting, and then processing? Most probably not, and it’s the case with all the other products we consume.

Even though one may assume the process is straightforward, there is a lot to it. Coffee will take between 4 and 7 years to mature. The period it takes varies depending on the type of coffee. The coffee fruit is usually green. Once it turns red, then it becomes ready for harvesting. In this guide, I will take you through the coffee harvesting process.

How Is Coffee Harvested?

The coffee harvesting method varies from state to state. The coffee harvesting technique will also depend on the processing method that is used. In most countries, they have one primary harvest throughout the year. One can harvest the ripe coffee fruits by hand, stripping, or using a machine. The process of handpicking coffee is known as selective harvesting. When using the machine, it is known as mechanical harvesting. And when you get both ripe and unripe beans from the tree, you’ll be doing strip harvesting.

Coffee Harvesting Methods

As mentioned above, there are various coffee harvesting methods, and they vary depending on the region. The main harvesting methods are strip harvesting and selective harvesting. This section will give you a more in-depth overview of what each process entails.

1. Selective Harvesting

Comparing this method with the rest, it is the most popular in most places. In most cases, the terrain in these areas cannot allow machine harvesting to take place. Here one has to handpick the cherries, selecting the ripe ones over the unripe. After some time, the unripe ones will mature, so you will go back to pick them, and the process continues.

The method requires many people to work on picking. Thus, it is tedious and repetitive because you are picking ripe berries and leaving the unripe. It may take a whole day to fill a 90kg bag and about ten harvests to harvest the trees’ cherries. After picking, you need to remove any debris from the cherries.

This method takes so much time to complete. But the final product is of high quality and will save so much time during processing.

2. Strip Harvesting

If you are looking for a quick method to harvest the coffee cherries, try strip harvesting. Typically, in this method, one clears out the whole coffee beans branch at once, whether they are ripe or unripe. The maturity level does not matter. Strip harvesting can take place through several means.

  • Manual Stripping – You handpick the berries, but this time brings the whole branch down. Knock off all the fruits into the harvesting bag and don’t select the ripe berries over the unripe.
  • Mechanical Stripping – The execution of this method is like that of manual stripping. But as the name suggests, you will be stripping the berries mechanically. You will be using a machine such as derricadeiras that have finger-like metal structures. It plucks the berries from the branch, both ripe and unripe. The machine, however, will only be effective in specific places.

Both manual and mechanical stripping are convenient to use because they are fast. But machine stripping is quicker. However, your harvest will comprise both ripe and unripe coffee beans. If the unripe cherries are not sorted out well before processing, they will bring issues. All in all, the method is not labor-intensive, and it is also inexpensive.

3. Machine Harvesting

Well, to employ a coffee machine harvester, the land terrain needs to be flat. Most places don’t use this method because the coffee mostly does well in hilly areas. But once the land is suitable to use this method, there is a guarantee of excellent harvesting efficiency.

The major drawback is that the machines are costly. However, you only need one person to operate the machine, so the labor costs are low.

Things That You Should Look Into as You Harvest Your Coffee

Don’t just go to the garden aiming to finish your plucking fast. Proper harvesting is essential to get excellent quality coffee in the end. Here are things you need to look out for when harvesting.

  1. Ensure you pick the red cherry. Hand-picking is most convenient if you want to get uniform coffee berries. When using the stripping harvesting method, the maturity level is not considered. So, you have to sort out the coffee before proceeding to process it. It is tedious, also keeping the unripe beans there may affect the quality of your coffee.
  2. Do not harvest overly or underly ripe berries, or even those that have an insect infection.
  3. As you harvest, ensure you protect your berries from much sunlight.
  4. If you are using a machine harvesting equipment, ensure it is clean.
  5. In case some of your berries fall during the harvest, do not mix them with the rest.
  6. Ensure you are careful during picking to avoid berries from falling on the ground.
  7. While using the stripping harvesting method, place a clothing material on the ground because some berries may fall on the ground.
  8. Pick your berries at an interval of 10 to 14 days after your last pick. It gives enough time for the unripe berries to mature.
  9. Ensure you pick all the ripe berries, do not wait till the next picking session.
  10. After harvesting, place the cherries in clean containers to avoid contamination as you transport it for processing.

Processing the Coffee

After harvesting the coffee, the next step should be processing it. The processing should take place as soon as possible; otherwise, the coffee may spoil. Like harvesting, coffee processing methods vary from location to location and the available resources. In this section, we will explore various coffee processing methods.

1. The Dry Method

This method has been in use for so long. People continue to use it too because it doesn’t need more resources to execute it. Its costs are also favorable. The dry method uses the sunlight to dry the coffee, and it is best to place it on a raised bed for proper drying. The process may ferment the bean because all the layers are in place.

2. Washed Method

When using this method, you will need to pass the coffee beans through a pulping machine. It will remove the pulp so that you have the bean. The beans will then pass through water, where the light ones separate from the heavy ones. After this, the beans will go to a fermentation tank where they stay for about 24 hours; this varies depending on the tank’s temperature.

3. The Honey Process

Every farmer will interpret this method differently as it depends on one’s aim. It also varies from state to state. This method requires less water to process coffee. In some places, it begins with the depulping of the cherries. The cherries will then need to dry. The depulping process is different in other locations and leaves a uniform amount of mucilage on the beans. It ensures that there are suitable flavors on the beans.

Which Is the Best Coffee Harvesting Method?

Looking at all the harvesting methods, one cannot conclude on the best to use because each has its advantages and drawbacks. But you should settle at selective picking. You will be able to get only the ripe cherries. Having the overripe and under ripe ones will bring issues to your coffee. Even as you sell coffee with such, it can be considered as defective. Therefore, it won’t qualify for the market. Strip and mechanical harvesting knock out both over and under-ripe cherries.

When Should I Harvest My Coffee?

The coffee harvesting period depends on different aspects. It will vary from the geographical location to continents and states. Moreover, the climate also affects this period. Even though all these affect the harvesting period, you should harvest when the cherries start being ripe. So, if in your region they ripen between November to April, that’s when you should harvest them during this time.

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