Coffee is the seed of the cherry that grows on the coffee plant. When the fruit, called drupe, is ripe, it must be picked, and then the kernels extracted.
How is coffee harvested? What are the main methods?
Of course, each method has its merits and demerits, and all of this is reflected within the coffee cup, 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 in both size and color and is called a drupe.
The special feature is that for this fruit the pulp is removed, while the seed is preserved.
Like all fruits at some point they must be picked, otherwise they start over-fermenting and rot.
How then does the collection take place?
There are 3 main collection methods:
The former, the picking, is the most artisanal method and brings more quality to the cup . That’s why we at Ernani coffee always select coffees picked by this method.
Spoiler alert: it will also 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 in color depending on the variety, and unripe drupes, green in color.
This harvest consists precisely of hand-selecting only the berries that are ripe at the right point by the experienced growers. The still green fruits are left on the branch to reach full maturity and harvested later.
Needless to point out how qualitatively it brings the best results in the cup. Of course, as I anticipate, it is also the most expensive method, given the long time it takes to harvest.
The second method is the stripping . It is still done manually, but less precision is used. In fact, one hand is clamped around the base of the branch and pulled outward, dropping all the fruit.
Generally this method is most often used in the second or third beat after picking. Then there will be a first stage of careful selection, and a second stage in which the last cherries left to ripen on the branch are picked.
Finally, we have the method mechanical .
It is located at the opposite pole from the former, thus being cheaper but of significantly lower quality.
Basically, a large machine goes through the rows of the plantation shaking the plants and dropping all the fruit. After that they are picked up from the ground.
Low quality depends on several factors:
- first all drupes are harvested indiscriminately, both unripe drupes that will bring astringency and herbaceous hints to the cup, and overripe drupes that will instead bring hints of mold and alcohol;
- In addition, in the process of picking up from the ground, leaves, small wood, pebbles, soil, and much more also get trapped in the net, and as you can imagine, if not cleaned up carefully, all of this will go to make the green coffee sold contaminated.
It is critically important for the roaster to know these processes so that he can select coffees according to his goals: low quality and cheap or high quality but more expensive. Consequently, he will also know how to treat and present them to the client.