Engineering Coffee

How does coffee get from a bean to my coffee cup? What exactly am I drinking? Read on to find out what it takes to create that rich delicious drink that gets us going each morning.

Coffee beans- from seed to cup!

Coffee seeds are processed into coffee beans, which then get roasted and brewed into your favorite caffeinated drink. But if an unprocessed seed is planted it will grow into a coffee tree. In just three to four years, the tree begins to produce coffee cherries. These are the fruit that are harvested into coffee beans. 100 pounds of coffee cherries will ultimately produce 10 pounds of coffee beans.

Ripe coffee cherries must be processed ASAP to prevent spoiling. They are processed using the wet or dry methods:

Wet: Coffee cherries go through a pulping machine to separate the skins and pulp from the bean. The pulp is weight and by size. Next the beans are stored in fermentation tanks for 12-48 hours so that the multi-cage layer from the beans can be removed so that the beans feel roughened (not slick). When the beans are properly “rough” to the touch they are washed with water and then sent to dry. At this point the beans follow the “Dry” processing method below.

Dry: Coffee cherries are dried in the sun until the moisture content reaches 11%. This can take up to several weeks depending on the weather.

Drying coffee beans in the sun.

In preparation for export after processing, coffee beans are hulled, polished, graded, and sorted.

Hulling refers to removing the dried husk of the coffee beans. Polishing is an additional/optional step that is taken for higher quality coffee to remove silver skin that remains after hulling. Polishing does not really affect the taste. Grading and sorting refers to further separating and storing the coffee by size and weight, picking out any imperfect beans (by color or other flaws such as over fermentation).

After going through the preparation stage for exportation, the beans are now referred to as green coffee and are ready to be shipped for cupping and roasting!

Cupping refers to the various tests the green coffee goes through before brewing. The beans are evaluated for quality of color, aroma, and taste. If the evaluation is passed the green coffee is then roasted into the brown beans we all know and love. The green coffee is roasted at 550 degrees F, coming to an internal temperature of 400 degrees F. Usually the roasting step takes place as close to the consumer as possible (for example, if importing from another country, the beans would be roasted when they get to the selling country, not before transportation).

The last step is to grind the coffee. The size of the grind will affect the brewing time of the coffee. Finer grinds need to be brewed more quickly than coarse grinds.

Different coffee grinds correspond to different brewing times.

You know the rest- brew your coffee and enjoy!

+Plus- Coffee was originally made into little “power bar” snacks by early East African tribes. They would mix in coffee cherries with animal fat.

Stay caffeinated!

P

Sources: http://science.howstuffworks.com/innovation/edible-innovations/coffee1.htmhttp://www.ncausa.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=69

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