When to harvest the coffee cherries, the various harvesting methods and their impact on the coffee quality. Let’s go through this all together.

Beans: ripe, unripe and over-ripe.

As you can imagine the cherries containing coffee beans do not mature at the same time. The same plant could present at the same time ripe drupes ready for harvest and drupes that are not.

When to collect the cherries.

The drupes should be collected exactly when they reach the perfect state of ripening, i.e. when they are red. Observing this rule you get coffee with sweeter and more aromatic notes.

Conversely, picking unripe drupes, you get coffee with astringent typically herbaceous flavor while picking up over-ripe drupes, maybe from the ground, you get a fermented coffee with a musty smell.

For this reason, in addition to the type of coffee and to the processing method, the harvesting method also determines the quality of the coffee in the cup.

The Harvesting methods

Let’s go through the various methods and the effects of these harvesting methods on the quality of coffee in the cup:

  • Picking: picking is done by hand to pick up only the fruits at the right stage of ripeness. This method is normally used for very high quality coffee since they are more expensive.
  • Stripping: the cherries are stripped from the branches of the coffee plants; this method leads to a greater heterogeneity of the collected cherries, compatible with an average quality, which can, however, be increased by a subsequent selection.
  • Mechanical: where permitted by the territory, harvesting can be made through the use of special machines beating the branches. It does not allow a proper selection and therefore the coffee harvest will include drupes with different degrees of maturation.

Thanks to CIAT for the great picture

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