How is the coffee harvested?


Coffee is the seed of the cherry that grows on the coffee tree. When the fruit, called drupe, is ripe it must be harvested and then extracted from the grains.

How is the coffee harvested? What are the main methods?

Obviously, each method has its strengths and weaknesses and all this is reflected inside the cup of coffee, making it more valuable or not.

As mentioned earlier, the coffee bean is nothing more than the seed contained within the fruit of the coffee plant. This fruit is very similar to a cherry, both in size and in color and as already mentioned is called drupe.

The peculiarity is that for once the pulp is eliminated, while the seed is preserved.

Like all fruits at some point they must be harvested, otherwise they start over-fermentation and rot.

So how does the collection take place?

There are 3 main collection methods:

  1. Picking
  2. Stripping
  3. Mechanics

The first, picking, is the most artisanal method that brings greater quality to the cup.

Spoiler alert: it will also be the one that will cost the most.


As you can see in the photo, on the same branch of the plant there are both ripe drupes, orange or red depending on the variety, and unripe drupes, green in color.

This harvest consists precisely in the manual selection of only the ripe berries at the right point, by the expert growers. The still green fruits are left on the branch to reach full ripeness and harvested later.

It goes without saying that on a qualitative level it brings the best results in the cup. Obviously, as anticipated, it is also the most expensive method, given the long time required for collection.

The second method is stripping. It is always done manually, but less precision is used. In fact, a hand is tightened around the base of the branch and pulled outwards, causing all the fruits to fall.

This method is generally used more often in the second or third measure after picking. Then there will be a first phase of careful selection and a second phase in which the last cherries left to ripen on the branch are harvested.

Finally we have the mechanical method.

It resides at the opposite pole compared to the first, making it therefore cheaper, but of much lower quality.

Basically a large machine passes between the rows of the plantation shaking the plants and dropping all the fruits. After which they are collected from the ground. 


Low quality depends on several factors:

  • first of all, all drupes are harvested without distinction, both the unripe ones that will bring astringency and herbaceous hints in the cup, and those that are too ripe, which will instead bring hints of mold and alcohol;
  • moreover, during the harvesting phase from the ground also leaves, sticks, pebbles, earth and much more remain trapped in the net and as you can imagine, if it is not cleaned carefully, all this will make the green coffee sold contaminated.

It is of fundamental importance for the roaster to know these processes in order to select the coffees he was looking for: low quality and cheap or high quality, but more expensive. Consequently, he will also know how to treat them and present them to the client.

Obviously the harvesting method is not the only variant that affects the final quality; maybe it was that easy!

However, it is important to know every step and process undergone by the coffee purchased in order to fully understand it.

Martina Mazzoleni

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